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Gillette Takes on Toxic Masculinity in a Powerful New Ad

It’s been 30 years since the razor brand Gillette introduced their slogan “The Best a Man Can Get,” and in a new ad campaign, they’re reexamining at what those words mean today.

The ad, titled, “We Believe,” calls out bullying, violence, harassment, and assault as aspects of toxic masculinity men need to be fighting against. It shows a series of men and boys engaging in those toxic behaviors, followed by men stepping up to challenge them. There are men breaking up fights among younger boys and a man calling out his catcalling friend.

There’s also footage of real-life heroes like that viral video of a father leading his young daughter through a morning pep talk, and Terry Crews testifying in front of the Senate about the Sexual Assault Survivor’s Bill of Rights, speaking about male accountability. The ad specifically takes on the idea that “boys will be boys” is a tired, outdated excuse for unacceptable behavior and cites the #MeToo movement as a societal turning point requiring real change.

Obviously, this is an ad–and one from a massive corporation. (Gillette is owned by Procter & Gamble.) So you might be taking all of this with a grain of corporate salt. But the company is backing up the ideologies put forward in the ad with action as well as cash. At their campaign website thebestmencanbe.org, they write about the need for change.

Their slogan, they write, has always been an “aspirational statement. […] But turn on the news today and it’s easy to believe that men are not at their best. Many find themselves at a crossroads, caught between the past and a new era of masculinity. While it is clear that changes are needed, where and how we can start to effect that change is less obvious for many.”

As for why a razor brand is weighing in on these issues, they write,

It’s time we acknowledge that brands, like ours, play a role in influencing culture. And as a company that encourages men to be their best, we have a responsibility to make sure we are promoting positive, attainable, inclusive and healthy versions of what it means to be a man. With that in mind, we have spent the last few months taking a hard look at our past and coming communication and reflecting on the types of men and behaviors we want to celebrate. We’re inviting all men along this journey with us – to strive to be better, to make us better, and to help each other be better.

From today on, we pledge to actively challenge the stereotypes and expectations of what it means to be a man everywhere you see Gillette. In the ads we run, the images we publish to social media, the words we choose, and so much more.

So Gillette will donate $1 million a year for three years to nonprofits in the U.S. that “inspire, educate and help men of all ages achieve their personal “best” and become role models for the next generation.” Their first partner is the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. (While we’re talking cash, I hope they’ve also compensated the men whose viral videos they used in the ad.)

As you might expect, the ad has been met with a lot of toxic responses, and as of Monday night, has been downvoted on YouTube more than 100k times. But through all that noise, there are tons of people responding positively and thanking the company for sending such a strong message to men and boys.

“Our tagline needs to continue to inspire us all to be better every day,” the company writes, “and to help create a new standard for boys to admire and for men to achieve… Because the boys of today are the men of tomorrow.”

(image: screencap)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) has a lot of opinions about a lot of things. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband Brock Wilbur and too many cats.