Gillette’s “The Best A Man Can Get”

Josh Begler, Staff Writer

There’s no better place to experience masculinity too fragile to be challenged than public high school in America. That, or probably any gym. Now, I’m not trying to to put myself on a pedestal either: I have VERY fragile masculinity, but at least I’m able to recognize that and express my insecurities in unhealthy ways. The Me Too campaign has sparked a lot of discussion around masculine behaviors and the harm they may or may not cause.

As I’m sure many of you know, Gillette, the razor brand, launched an advertisement on January 13th revisiting their slogan, “The Best A Man Can Get.”  The intent was to address toxic masculinity and encouraging men to hold each other to a higher standard regarding issues such as bullying and sexual harassment prompted by the Me Too movement. Unsurprisingly, this received a large amount of backlash from consumers worldwide. The video currently has 1.3 million dislikes and plenty of adverse reactions on social media. I’ve seen many accusations online that YouTube is removing negative comments and dislikes, so I’m not sure how much credibility this number has. On the other hand, in an attempt to affirm this, the only source that I could find addressing this is Infowars and if you know Alex Jones, you understand my want to take his articles with a grain of salt. If you’re like me, you probably wondered why people viewed this as a negative message, and I wanted to take the time to try and understand that.

From what I’ve gathered through quite a few hours of research, opponents of Gillette’s campaign argue that men who are already being “the best they can be” are being marginalized, as masculinity is being portrayed as inherently negative. They see the term ‘toxic masculinity’ as a label replacing masculinity, rather than toxic being an adjective describing a separate concept from normal masculinity. I also see many comments along the lines of “bullying isn’t a gendered issue,” “Gillette just criticized its entire consumer base,” and “I’ve never heard anyone say boys will be boys.” There are many, many issues people see with this advert, and while I don’t want to leave out any aspect of opponents’ arguments, it’s impossible to address all of these in less than 700 words.

Regardless of whichever of these arguments you address, I believe that most stem from the idea that this advertisement is unnecessary because these aren’t relevant issues in masculinity. To put it bluntly, this viewpoint is narrow minded and only addresses the experience of the person making these claims and doesn’t apply to the actual state of our world and even Western culture.

Gillette’s products are sold in 200 countries and territories, with more than 60 percent of sales occurring outside of the United States. I feel that I’ve seen the majority of arguments against Gillette’s advert being made by people from the US, UK, and other more developed countries in which many reparations have been made regarding the issue of sexism in each country’s society. I think we can all agree that the blatant mistreatment of women in the US is largely frowned upon, such as the idea of women not being allowed to vote, not having equal opportunity in the workplace and education, or being property/a possession. Plus, after the amount of coverage the Me Too movement has gained, people who haven’t been victims or close with victims of sexual assault may feel that one campaign is enough; just going off of statistics in 2018 from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives, so I’d beg to differ.

Masculine behaviors factor into men’s mental health in a huge way; masculine and feminine brains are even structured differently. In the American Psychological Association’s “Guidelines for Boys and Men,” one of the guidelines is that “psychologists strive to reduce the high rates of problems boys and men face and act out in their lives such as aggression, violence, substance abuse, and suicide.” According to the United States Department of Justice, boys and men commit 90% of violent crimes in the country. Why is this, some may ask. Again, the American Psychological Association states that “for some men, perpetrating violence, including violence against gender-diverse people, serves to protect and enhance the perpetrator’s own masculinity. Therefore, aggression may serve as public behavior wherein men can prove their masculinity, either against a worthy rival or against those considered unworthy of the label man, in order to bolster confidence in their masculine identity.”

So how do we address this without marginalizing men who don’t need correcting. (Not) Surprisingly, it’s what the men do at the end of the Gillette commercial: correcting people’s harmful behavior. Yes, it’s dramaticized, but it’s a commercial. If you’re incredibly opposed to gendering harmful behaviors, consider the small things you can do in making people aware of the things they do and say, no matter what their gender is.