The other day Gillette decided to get ‘woke’ and hop on the social justice parade float. It was first noticed by many on Twitter following an obligatory hashtag campaign.
The tweet showcased a rather preachy commercial aimed at men, highlighting everything wrong with them. In order to avoid the ire of professional racial-grievance hustlers, all the negative male behavior shown was performed by white males and the corrections to this negative behavior were made by non-white males. As you might expect, this tweet garnered nearly 8,000 comments in just a few hours. They were overwhelmingly negative:
“Just sell some damn razors and keep your social justice stupidity out of it. Looks like it’s
@DollarShaveClub from now on.”
“Now I’m glad I switched to wet shaving two years ago…way to attack your customers Gillette. You fools….”
“Its the over-saturation and misandry. The portrayal of men as this. We already do respect women and each other. This add [sic] seems to imply this is the norm. It’s NOT.”
Men as a group could be forgiven for being a bit sensitive, even as they are accused of being insensitive louts. There is a lot in the media right now about how “toxic” traditional masculinity is and how “white men” are at fault for everything in society. Even the American Psychiatric Association recently came out saying traditional masculinity was some kind of mental disorder that needed to be treated by a shrink. When the traditionally masculine blasted them, the APA retreated into bizarre excuse-making about how they were misunderstood by thousands of people who all read the words wrong the exact same way. Which could happen, I guess. In a parallel universe.
Anyway, before I too got angry and set off with my horde in our Viking longship to pillage Gillette, I tried to give them the benefit of the doubt. I clicked the link and went to the website where they tried to mansplain the rest of this to knuckle-draggers like me. Here is the explanatory text without edits for the sake of full context. Not that it matters in this case, because there is no context you can create for this word soup.
Thirty years ago, we launched our The Best A Man Can Get tagline.
Since then, it has been an aspirational statement, reflecting standards that many men strive to achieve.
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. And when the changes needed seem so monumental, it can feel daunting to begin. So, let’s do it together.
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.
As part of The Best Men Can Be campaign, Gillette is committing to donate $1 million per year for the next three years to non-profit organizations executing programs in the United States designed to inspire, educate and help men of all ages achieve their personal “best” and become role models for the next generation.
If you are sharp-eyed like me, the missing context jumps right into your face. What is the positive model of manhood Gillette is trying to promote and aspire others to emulate? Don’t bother going back to look, it isn’t there. This is where Gillette made its fatal error. Instead of staking out what a positive, attainable, inclusive and healthy version of manliness is for its customers, it scolded and preached at them about how bad they are. The negative is a very hard sell in advertising. The funeral home doesn’t tell you you’re a selfish jerk not to have pre-paid arrangements made, it tells you how kind and considerate you are to make those arrangements.
Gillette went on to compound this unforced error. That last sentence said as a company it was making a major commitment to non-profits that “inspire, educate and help men of all ages” and then they partnered with the Boys and Girls Club of America. Isn’t it counter-intuitive to say you are going to help men of all ages and then partner up with a club that also works with girls? Not if your company thinks gender is defined by personal preference rather than biology. Which I think is the actual message we are supposed to be getting here.
I actually like Gillette’s products and won’t be participating in any boycotts of the company. I don’t know how deep a hole the company has dug for itself or how they will even get out of it. I just want a good razor that shaves clean for a fair price, and hold the preaching and SJW pandering, please.
And enjoy the old Gillette ad, below. If you can read the text and not bust out laughing, you have more self-control than I do.