Reflections on the Gillette “The Best Men Can Be” Ad

By now, you have probably seen the Gillette television ad, “The Best Men Can Be.”

If not, watch it before you read this Blog.

I have hesitated to comment on the controversial so-called Gillette “Toxic Masculinity” commercial for a couple of reasons — not least among them, the prospect of being labelled a “toxic male.”

But it’s time to weigh in, so let’s get started…

First, the use of the term “Toxic Masculinity” is, for me, a “red flag” or “buzz word” in that it demonizes all males with one wide brush stroke.

Masculinity, as defined by the Urban Dictionary, is: “…an aspirational and normative style of being and living as a natural-born man that a critical mass of the members of that population applaud.”

Toxic is: “used to describe a person who is tainted by a subconscious malevolence or psychosis that affects the lives of those who come into contact with them.”

Put them together and you end up with: “A social science term that describes narrow repressive type of ideas about the male gender role, that defines masculinity as exaggerated masculine traits like being violent, unemotional, sexually aggressive, and so forth.”

Now, I support the underpinnings and goals of the modern #MeToo movement as much as the next person. But, to have the term “toxic masculinity” thrown in my face if I tell an off-colour joke, watch an afternoon of football on TV, or use the phrase “Be a man” off -the-cuff is a bit much.

To use the term in a corporate ad to boost sales of a sagging product smacks of capitalist opportunism.

Second, as much as I don’t like them, I have grown accustomed to ads that portray men as stereotypical “lovable, clueless oafs or the alpha male who gets the girl.”

Now, I know that the cosmetics industry has traditionally inundated women with ads suggesting that they are inadequate and in need of betterment, usually regarding their physical appearance. Just think of the endless ads for moisturizers and creams to fix wrinkles, hair colouring to hide the gray, concealer for under-eye bags and endless diets to shed that fat.

Personally, I find these types of ads offensive and an affront to my female friends and relatives.

Frankly, I find Gillette’s attempt to tell me that something’s broken and I need to work to fix it just as offensive.

Yes, I am very aware that there are some bad hombres out there. But is it my job to show them the error of their ways and set them on a different path?

As a former high school teacher and football coach, I always felt that I was a role model to my male students and players, whether I wanted the job or not.

Without preaching, I was quick to point out and correct what I thought was inappropriate behaviour on the part of my male students and players towards their female counterparts, but to refer to any of them as toxic?

Nope.

And I don’t need Gillette or any other corporations telling me what to do in their pursuit of higher profits.

And, third, at the risk of being called a “Snowflake,” I am miffed at being called “part of the problem” and told I need to “get my head checked” if I dare question the contents and motives behind the Gillette ad.

Gillette representatives, themselves, say, “the controversy was not the intended goal of the ad, which is part of a larger campaign that takes a look at redefining Gillette’s longtime tagline The Best a Man Can Get.”

In short, if the ad ends up hurting the company’s sales, you can bet it will be pulled regardless of its positive underlying message.

I welcome your Comments.

Rick Young, January 16, 2019

2 thoughts on “Reflections on the Gillette “The Best Men Can Be” Ad

  1. Actually, Rick, I think it IS “your” job to tell other men that their behavior is inappropriate, the same as it’s anyone’s job to speak up when a racist joke is being told. But I don’t think you’re a snowflake or any of those other things, including a toxic male. The #metoo movement showed just how widespread the problem is, though. And like the feminist movement itself, men are needed to speak up and do the right thing when they witness bad behavior. If it doesn’t apply to you (you in the sense of whoever is watching) then just go on with your life!

    Liked by 2 people

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