Toxic Masculinity And The Gillette Razor Ad

by Jan 29, 2019

The best a man can get doesn’t include toxic masculinity


You would think with the woes that people face in the world today, they wouldn’t have the time to be publicly angry about Gillette trying to tackle toxic masculinity. Well, think again.


The latest campaign from Gillette attempts to address the fallout from the #MeToo movement by showing clips depicting sexual harassment, bullying and mansplaining. It has kicked off an internet storm. The narrator tells us “It’s been going on far too long.” The advert plays on the brand’s 30-year tagline, “The best a man can get” by using the phrase “The best men can be.” The ad shows the good guys role modelling and intervening to protect others from being the target of inappropriate behaviour which they openly call toxic masculinity.

Seems OK right? Nope –  try again. There has been more of a tsunami than a wave of backlash. Some of it valid. Some of it incomprehensible.


Masculinity under threat

The campaign has triggered outrage in all kinds of quarters. In particular it has enraged men’s rights activists, referred less affectionately by others as “broflakes.”  U.K. rent-a-protester and “Broflake-in-Chief,” Piers Morgan, fumes in the Daily Mail that he is tired of his “masculinity” being under threat. Any brand must think they’ve hit pay dirt when he rages on social media with his gripes about… pretty much everything. Last week it was vegan sausage rolls that got his boxers in a bunch.


Others suggest that “What makes this ad so offensive is that Gillette doesn’t just condemn bad behaviour, something most men do as well. It implies that the vulgar behaviour represents the norm among men and, in doing so, it smears an entire gender. Substitute another gender, or ethnic group, in place of men, and you start getting a sense how of outlandish this insight is.”


But does it? The fact that there are men willing to step up and be upstanders would suggest that is not the case! The other issue is that frequently men do stand by and allow bad stuff to happen. Sometimes they even endorse this type of behaviour. This is what the #MeToo movement was all about.


toxic masculinity

Vox pops

3Plus ran a vox pops with the men in our lives on social media. The overall feeling is that toxic masculinity is indeed alive and well. There is a segment of men in most cultures who behave in a loutish misogynist way, which needs to be called out to raise awareness raised around the problem.


Mike said “Not sure how anyone could be upset by this ad. It’s demonstrating how men should behave.”


Jamie: “I don’t see how telling men to uphold strong values and honest principles challenges masculinity or “thrashes” men. It’s exactly how men should act and behave. Those who complain about the #GilletteAd are often fragile, insecure or miss the point of the ad completely”

McCando said: ”A company that has products mainly aimed at men, asking men to think about how they act towards people (not just women) and be role models for the younger generation. That’s what I took from the #GilletteAd.”


Jack: I am seriously, hilariously, confused and amused. The Gillette ad encourages men to be their best selves; the modern humble hero (white knight/Superman/protector) who sees injustice, abuse, bullying, etc & acts to stop it. Yet men are upset?! They won’t be heroes. They prefer toxicity”

Sign up for our event on 05 March to learn how to speak out – How to Stage a Bystander Intervention.


Women respond

The response from women is that they have been bombarded since forever with commercials to change their appearance, behaviour and bodies to fit in and to make themselves more acceptable to male dominated societies. They have been defined and moulded by men through advertising campaigns, entertainment, magazines, fashion, movies, television and radio for decades. There is a constant reminder of their rightful place as they are demeaned, coerced, threatened or reprimanded for daring to overstep the boundaries. They are criticised when they behave badly and even when they behave correctly.

And now it seems that there has been something of a turn around. Men are being targeted by advertisers with external notions and pre-determined ideals of a preferred way they should be and behave. It’s the very suggestion that some male behaviour comes under the microscope that seems to be the problem. The reality is that toxic masculinity has been at the centre of many scandals. It was this that was highlighted by the #MeToo and other movements. This is the behaviour that is the root cause of sexism, sexual harassment and bullying.


Make your workplace a more inclusive place. For tips, listen to our podcast on How to Cultivate Empathy in the Workplace.


Woke capitalism

The other element for contention is the motives of “woke capitalism,”  which are always questionable. Comments about corporates not paying tax have also flooded social media. P & G are about making money after all. Perhaps they could reduce the price of women’s razors by taking  the “Pink Tax” off their Venus’ range for women. It includes dubious brand names such as Passion and Embrace and cost more than the men’s ranges for identical products. They could appoint more women to their board. The campaign is clearly tapping into a historical moment and movement for financial gain. In doing this it is increasing an apparently declining market share. That happens all the time so why the outcry now? The fact that the commercial was made by a woman also seems to have rubbed salt into the wound! Will men change their behaviour because of one challenging and contentious commercial? I doubt it.

But better an organisation increases its bottom line with a message that creates awareness around toxic masculinity, than a campaign that endorses poor behaviour. Set against an incident where five women were shot in the head execution style in a Florida bank, it suggests that there are issues that need addressing. Next time a woman gets harassed, cat-called or mansplained, at least the guy might be well-groomed.


“Toxic masculinity” surely doesn’t mean masculinity is by default toxic. Nor does it mean that all men and their behaviour is toxic. It suggests that certain aspects and cultural expectations about masculinity are harmful to both men and women.


It is important to tackle toxic masculinity in the workplace. Contact 3Plus for more information on our Unconscious Bias Workshops.

If you feel passionate about gender balance and topical issues impacting women in the workplace 3Plus would be delighted to publish your work. Don't wait - send it in

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