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OPINION: A Close Shave

Updated: Dec 2, 2019

by THOMAS PUGH - Is this the best people can get?

In Jan. 2019, Gillette, the razor company, published an advertisement titled “We Believe: The Best Men Can Be.” This one minute and forty-eight second long ad stirred up a whole lot of controversy. The video, seen here, has about twice as many dislikes than likes on Youtube, and the channel’s viewership since the release has spiked. While Gillette may have made an extremely risky marketing decision, calling men--their main demographic--to action, it did not warrant the unsettlingly negative response from that same demographic.

To get the gist of it, you probably need to know the context of the video. The video, in short, introduces the idea of toxic masculinity being a current issue, coupling images of bullying, fighting, sexual harassment, misogyny and innuendos to the careless phrase of “boys will be boys.” The ad questions the viewer: “is this the best a man can get?" The ad then shows that change is possible by displaying men helping others to break up fights and avoid harassment, but it then states, “some is not enough,” and calls to set an example to the youth to grow up with moral character. This is the best, unbiased summary I can give for such a heavily-opinionated piece, but if you’d rather form your own opinions first, I recommend watching the video first.

While there was much positive response to the video, a more notable negative response took the spotlight. Aside from the pointless name-calling and insults, many comments called to boycott the razor company, claims of “[s]exism, racism, misandry and stereotyping all in under two minutes” and “Love [for] watching people stand up to this social engineering.” And while Gillette may have made a few risks and mistakes, the response from people was outright devastating and tragic. It’s safe to say that people should be held to a higher standard than this.

Just to make this argument a little more fair, I included a few of the mistakes, as some might perceive, on Gillette’s part. Gillette made the mistake of making such a “woke,” as people have claimed, statement to their main consumers: men. The argument is kind of self-redeeming. Toxic masculinity is a stereotype, and not all men have it, but it is a prevailing gender norm lately, and Gillette wanted to make money off the problem. However, from the idea of toxic masculinity stems that a man has to stand up for himself or he’ll feel like a “sissy,” and likewise when an ad calls a man to go against those beliefs, he would react poorly, as predicted by toxic masculinity. That is my view on the matter, and Gillette lit a fire right under their feet in this case--a fire that needed to be lit, but burned themselves up as well.

Now it’s time to talk about the core of the matter: the viewers’ responses. And boy, was it nasty. The people freaking out that their personality was endangered was ridiculous. Gillette has no power over their life. None. They’re not a dictator and can’t enforce anything they recommend. Nobody is obligated to listen to an advertisement. If anything, Gillette got the publicity they wanted from the uproar, even if it was negative. People can’t keep their mouths shut. I can’t keep my mouth shut. It’s a lose-lose situation; am I wrong? Not only that, people reacting this way only proves Gillette’s point. If people say they refuse to change, then they are just proving that there is something to change. Society, in its current state, clearly is built on a foundation of misogyny and this toxic masculinity, and people seem to think that it’s working fine. News flash: it’s not. Gillette isn’t being sexist to men for pointing out that some men still are sexist to women; they’re calling for a change of mindset. Finally, the content of the video was not something to respond against like an opinion. Gillette was taking a snapshot of the world we live in, not one they think we live in. There were aggravators, problem-solvers and a whole lot of neutral parties, just like the real world. People can’t argue for the non-existence of fighting and sexism in our culture because it exists there, as a fact. And based on those who responded so negatively, it seems like we have a long road ahead of us.

Gillette had a close shave by making such a risky ad, but there’s still a lot to learn that we can take away from it. First, we all need to be more humble. The world wasn’t made just for you--it was made so we can live in harmony together fighting against major problems like segregation, stereotypes and social norms. We should empower each other to build up, not take down. Not only that, but we also need to see the bigger picture. There’s more going on in the outside world than you or I could ever imagine. Prejudice, hatred and pain may be commonplace, and we’re just overlooking it. To top it all off, we should fight against harm. To be the best we can be, as Gillette’s slogan says. We should try to realize that our subconscious is subject to implicit bias and ideas, so try to acknowledge them so we can make better decisions. Lack of this builds a world of harbored hatred and suffering. Tell yourself those biases are wrong, that we as people could never know how another is struggling, and move on. Lift up your neighbor, don’t leave them for dead.

We make poor decisions. We always have. This world isn’t perfect, and it hasn’t been from the dawn of time. We as people need to raise ourselves above hate to raise up others with us. Make the world a better place, as Mr. Bruns always says. Realizing our flaws is the first way to fight them, the first way to cut off our internalized hate. Gillette just proved to us what we really are and why we are called to fight against it.

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