Trolls who can't handle the new Gillette ad are exactly why we need such ads

Its critics are furious at what they see as an attack on masculinity, but strangely silent about the good guys in the ad

  • Published 17.01.19, 9:25 PM
  • Updated 18.01.19, 10:48 AM
  • 3 mins read
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This still from the ad shows one example of a man intervening when he sees abusive behaviour

Everybody loves a smooth skin — and a world that feels just as smooth. But, unfortunately, the world today has an annoying stubble that no razor — Gillette or not — can get rid of easily. The past year was particularly hair-raising, with the #MeToo movement sprouting up here, there, everywhere, to prick our collective conscience.

A new Gillette ad calls attention to this very movement and urges men to shave off toxic masculinity. Snapshots of abusive behaviour are followed by a montage of a few men standing up against bullying and harassment.

The ad shows men responding to bullying by chanting,
The ad shows men responding to bullying by chanting, "Boys will be boys" before it cuts to news broadcasts about allegations of sexual harassment

Soon after the ad dropped on Sunday, it had a battalion of men up in arms — not to pick up a Gillette razor from a shop shelf, but to accuse the company of murdering the notion of masculinity and painting all men as monsters.

The ad shows a man touching a woman inappropriately in the workplace, another man ogling a woman on the road, and a young boy pinning another one down to the ground while a bunch of male adults say with a smirk, "Boys will be boys". Now, which of these actions, dear trolls, do you not find deplorable? What could possibly be your problem with it? Oh wait, you are the problem.

Piers Morgan — journalist, writer, former talent show judge who is apparently a talented Twitter troll himself — blasted the company for trying to "fuel the current pathetic global assault on masculinity". Now, where I have heard that before? Oh yes, all over my Twitter and Facebook timelines, succinctly encapsulated in the hashtag #NotAllMen, which rears its ugly head every time #MeToo is trending. But isn’t that precisely the point the Gillette ad is trying to make? Not all men are harassers, but all need to work towards a world where there is none.

Morgan adds: “Let boys be damn boys. Let men be damn men.” And do what? Look the other way when a boy or a man is harassing another person? I would like to give him the benefit of doubt and not assume that he is suggesting boys will be boys and behave inappropriately.

Perhaps he is not aware that "toxic" was one of the most searched words in 2018, which prompted Oxford Dictionaries to select it as the word of the year, apart from the fact that it reflects "the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of the passing year, and have lasting potential as a term of cultural significance". And one of the words it was most often paired with was "masculinity".

According to Oxford Dictionaries, the word "toxic" originates in the Greek term "toxikon pharmakon", which referred to a "lethal poison used by the ancient Greeks for smearing on the points of their arrows". Applied to masculinity, the poison has taken various forms of physical and psychological abuse aimed at people of diverse genders and sexual orientations.

One Twitter user has a problem with the Gillette ad calling out only men, and points out that women, too, can be rapists, paedophiles, murderers, serial killers, and sexual predators.

A Twitter user who goes by the name "voice of reason" reasons that the ad is "awful" because it should have shown men who build roads and rescue children from burning buildings instead.

John LeFevre's tweet is in the same vein. He thinks the "war on man and masculinity" takes a breather only when there's "a fire, a hurricane, or some kids get stuck in a cave".

The last time I checked, a man can do all these "manly" things and still find time to be human and prevent other men and boys from engaging in abusive behaviour (and yes, @Karl_Downey, I hear you — women can do all these things, too). No one's stopping men from rescuing children from caves, but then there’s everyday life, too.

The backlash didn't only come from men, though. Some women, too, jumped on the ranting bandwagon to defend their "father, husband, sons, and all of the many good men in my life”.

No, dear Ruthie, Gillette has not insulted the men in your life, unless they are the type of person who harasses people.

The backlash against the ad has me wondering why its critics are so focused on the perpetrators of the abuse depicted in the ad, and have nothing to say about "the many good men" who are shown resisting toxic behaviour. There are two sides to the narrative that unfolds in the ad, so why do the haters say it casts all men as monsters? Why are they unwilling or unable to identify with the men in the second half of a film that is less than two minutes long?

On its website, Gillette says the ad is meant to "take a fresh look" at what it means to be "the best"—their tagline is "The Best A Man Can Get" — and recognise that the "actions of the few can taint the reputation of many". Looks like the ad has nicked the male ego of many.

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