Toxic masculinity tackled in Gillette commercial



Gillette’s commercial had a strong emphasis in reaching out to young boys, like the child above. Through education from a young age, perhaps advertisements and media messages such as these will prove to be poignant and impactful.

PJ Sills and Grace Humphries

Last January, Gillette aired an advertisement called “We Believe: The Best Men Can Be”. The video immediately went viral with more than four million views on YouTube in 48 hours and generated both lavish praise and angry criticism. The ad addresses many political/social topics such as feminism, toxic masculinity, sexual harassment, and cyber-bullying. The video went viral with over 29.4 million views on YouTube, and was widely talked about on social media.

“I do agree with the commercial, I think ultimately it’s important for people to take responsibility for their actions and to have discussions in regards to large philosophical, social justice issue”, language arts teacher Katy Nuttman said. “The message behind it rings with truth, but I think it’s important to remember that it’s still a commercial, and when companies use social acts to promote their products, they’re ultimately trying to make money”.

Topics discussed in the commercial are important to talk about, but it is still quite important to identify bias.

“I have a fairly cynical approach to advertisers using social justice movements for the promotion of their product”, Nuttman added. However, despite the bias, it’s important to remember the message still has genuine legitimacy. Nuttman addressed this by saying, “it’s a step forward in terms of directly targeting their advertised group of people in trying to make social change. [Gillette is] trying to make a group that they have access to aware of a variety of issues”.

If the message rings true, and the only difficulty is in the bias, this commercial has the potential to ignite unbiased, independent individuals to come out and spread awareness.

“If they were simply a group of independent people trying to promote this and put the money together and made an independent film, or were working towards representation, that’d be less problematic”, Nuttman said.

Nuttman went on to say that the overall message of the commercial is valuable, and that feminism essentially is the equality of all genders; That equality is one of the founding principles of our nation, despite the fact that we have yet to achieve equality, it’s something our country was built on. Therefore, we should strive to achieve it.

Women aren’t the only ones who feel this way, many men have similar opinions about the topics addressed in the advertisement. “I think the discussion due to the commercial is valuable, it creates the opportunity for people to talk”, assistant principal Mr. Frank Ramirez said. “People are more complex than characters in commercials or movies”.

If nothing else, this commercial creates conversation, albeit controversial. Without stirring the pot, without starting the conversation, there can be no progress, no courage to have difficult conversations.

Ramirez however did notice the unfair representations of men in the commercial.

“I feel like when they showed the men behind the grills it was a stereotype that all men are uncaring”, he said. “I would’ve liked to have seen growth from the characters in the commercial, they’re only portrayed to be good guys or bad guys”.

But how valuable would it be to portray growth or a perfect world if the objective of the promotion (besides making money) is to create change? When there’s a problem, the most sensible course of action should be to attack the problem, which can be portrayed as unequal representation, when in fact it’s just justice.

“With anything, if you repeat a message over and over again to get it public on various formats, that’s the way you get change to happen”, Ramirez said. “It’s challenging to have true conversations about controversial topics, there’s this concept that we need to teach one another, to have these conversations with each other with differing opinions and at minimum at least understand each other”.

Tackling the idea of social justice is not a task one person, one company, or even one country could accomplish single-handedly. Gillette made their commercial because they knew there would be appeal, there would be money gained, there would be notoriety. But, perhaps a selfish step with selfish intent is the first step of many as a nation for the United States. Ultimately, we the people hold the key to the future and all of its changes.