In a new ad campaign, the razor company Gillette is asking men to commit to kindness, solidarity, and common decency. Predictably, men’s-rights activists and affiliated groups are rejecting this out of hand.
On Monday, the brand, which is owned by Procter & Gamble, released a new short film called “We Believe: The Best Men Can Be.” Directed by Kim Gehrig, the ad takes stock of harmful behaviors that have been coded as “masculine.” It references bullying, sexual harassment, mansplaining, and the sexual-misconduct allegations that started in 2017 with Harvey Weinstein. It also challenges the notion that “boys will be boys,” and concedes that its past ads often told a one-note story about masculinity.
“We believe in the best in men, to say the right thing, to act the right way,” the voiceover proclaims. “Some already are, in ways big and small. But some is not enough, because the boys watching today will be the men of tomorrow.”
The clip has sparked major discussion online; the YouTube video has been downvoted over 300,000 times in comparison to its 65,000 upvotes. On Twitter, the brand’s post containing the video has been retweeted over 46,000 times, and generated over 23,000 replies.
Among the replies is a fair amount of backlash: “Well that’s pretty insulting … does Gillette honestly think that real men have to be told what to teach their sons. May be time to look for a new razor,” Bernard Kerik, the former New York City Police Chief who served three years in prison on fraud charges, wrote. A Voice for Men, the men’s-rights group that was listed as a hate group in 2018 by the Southern Poverty Law Center, is urging followers to boycott the brand. Piers Morgan also chimed in, in a very Piers Morgan way:
Others don’t see the harm in a video that asks men to hold one another accountable, and serve as positive role models.
As Pankaj Bhalla, Gillette’s North America brand director, told CNN Business, “We expected debate. Actually a discussion is necessary. If we don’t discuss and don’t talk about it, I don’t think real change will happen.” He also clarified that the video “is not about toxic masculinity. It is about men taking more action every day to set the best example for the next generation. This was intended to simply say that the enemy for all of us is inaction.”
The brand is also pledging $1 million a year for the next three years to nonprofits aimed at supporting and helping boys and men be the best versions of themselves; their first partner will be the Boys & Girls Club of America. It’s still an ad, of course, so it references the brand’s “The Best a Man Can Get” slogan heavily: “Our tagline needs to continue to inspire us all to be better every day, and to help create a new standard for boys to admire and for men to achieve.”