Is this really the worst controversy a reactionary can muster? On Tuesday, Gillette Razors published their latest advertisement which focuses not on expected marketing cliches of shaving beards and capitalization on personal hygiene, but rather served as a sharp indictment of the harmful excesses of male culture. The overinflated outrage surrounding the ad shows why it’s a necessary message being sorely overlooked for partisan politics.
Presenting itself as a two minute long short film titled “WE BELIEVE: THE BEST A MAN CAN GET”, the popular male razor company encourages men to change any behaviour generally discouraged by our wider society such as “sexual harassment”, “bullying,” and other forms of “toxic masculinity” cited throughout the video, all the while posing their famed marketing slogan as a new moral question: “Is this the best a man can get?” Set to play during the Super Bowl in three weeks time, Gillette certainly succeeded if their intent was to get people non-stop talking about their brand.
“We expected a debate,” said Pankaj Bhalla, Gillette’s North America brand director, speaking to CNN. “Actually, a discussion is necessary. If we don’t discuss and don’t talk about it, I don’t think real change will happen. The ad is not [just] about toxic masculinity. It is about men taking more action every day to set the best example for the next generation. This was intended to simply say that the enemy for all of us is inaction.”
The message is universal, though its debut has resulted in major fallout such as their garnering majority dislikes on YouTube and heavy criticisms among comment sections, online threads and leading figures of the reactionary right who took the message not as a call for personal improvement, but instead a declaration of a “war on all men” which will lead to the “pussification of America”. It sparked the recent hashtag campaign #BoycottGillette where commentators such as Piers Morgan, Paul Joseph Watson, Ben Shapiro, Matt Walsh, Jordan Peterson, Roaming Millenial, Candace Owens and countless more can be found demanding customer sanctions for collectivist blasphemy the company never intended in the first place.
In the advertisement, hostile teenagers are seen chasing their bullied prey across town, fake sitcoms stars are shown needlessly objectifying their spouses and housemaids, catcallers and stalkers being caught prowling on woman crossing the street, all of which are filed under “the same old excuses” of “boys will be boys” narrated repeatedly throughout the video. It’s safe to say the targeted men aren’t exactly the best and brightest of the societal litter, playing the villainous faces of the #MeToo movement. In saying these predatory actions are decisions, not inherently inevitable by nature, the brand is quite literally making the case for personal responsibility among the sexes, even as critics collectively scream feminist bloody murder.
“Gillette is kowtowing to leftist social priorities, knowing that conservatives generally don’t threaten boycotts while leftist activists are happy to do so at the drop of a hat,” Shapiro argued on The Daily Wire, the largest conservative podcast in the United States. “We’ve maligned masculinity as a society because men are likely to do the greatest harm to others. The vast majority of violent criminality comes from males; the vast majority of sexual misconduct comes from males. But we’ve made a mistake in blaming the presence of males for that issue… If you want to raise a generation of men who will treat women well, act as protectors rather than victimizers, and become the bedrock for a stable society, you need more masculinity, not less.”
Before our readers decide to create their cringe compilations of Ben Shapiro DESTROYING Gillette with his laser eyes of facts, understand these complaints are built upon a strawman misinterpretation where some possibly fictional leftists believe masculinity is a collective sin. The term toxic masculinity has certainly been misused to malign comic books, video games and artistic expression against feminist dogma, though the video is hardly a condemnation of all males for immutable characteristics. In fact, the video specifically frames their villains as Harvey Weinstein, the serial abuser of Hollywood turned #MeToo catalyst, who can be seen being reported on by journalist Ana Kasparian of The Young Turks. Is it controversial to say Weinstein isn’t the best a man can be? Of course not, which is why the video goes to great lengths to show #NotAll guys fit this archetype.
These everyday male heroes are showcased as those pushing back against the bullies, the catcallers, the stalkers, the outright predators and as loving fathers leading their daughters’ mantra of “I am strong” in the mirror. For Gillette — as well as any person in their right mind — that is the best a man can get and the ad acknowledges men already embody these aspirations in ways “big and small”, providing the footnote of “some just isn’t enough”. One could read these words as far too generalist, echoing President Trump in his infamous 2015 comments of only “some” Mexicans being good people compared to his vision of rapists and murderers invaders, though the right only granting leniency to their own, even despite the comparably worse implications, isn’t something new.
To Shapiro’s dismay, the case isn’t for less masculinity, it’s for better masculinity that, through willful choices made by the individual, undoubtedly results in a moral society for all. It’s not controversial to say individuals act in different ways. That’s the whole basis of individualism, now corrupted by Shapiro, Owens and their anti-government ilk who use these values as political whips. It’d be unfair to attribute motive to their misunderstanding of “toxic masculinity” given it’s so easily lost in translation, though to automatically frame leftists to the worst stereotype of the college campus social justice warriors is deceptive.
As asked by libertarian journalist Robby Soave, is the desire for less bullying, less harassment and less violence truly “leftist social priorities”? If so, who needs a neo-liberal like Weinstein if you have such a predatory conservatism to worry about? Sure, they’ll admit men do commit these violent actions more, which is no doubt the very reason a male brand is giving focus to male violence, though won’t engage why the trend is occurring outside of a collectivist blame of women.
This isn’t some leftist hyperbole given Shapiro’s articles have cited multiple statistics about how 23% of American children are living with a single mother, how 55% of black children and 31% of Hispanic children are living with a single parent (predominantly the mother), how 76% of teachers are majority female in the United States and how over 80% of social workers are overwhelmingly female. These could all very well be true, yet wouldn’t refute Gillette since a fatherless home remains a toxically masculine home by his very absence. There’s no call to purge men from the home, but instead to purge the excess behavior the individual can choose to commit. Why defend those who chose to be monsters against someone’s liberty outside of blind partisanship, reactionary stupidity and clickbait?
“This is an important conversation happening, and as a company that encourages men to be their best, we feel compelled to both address it and take action of our own,” Pankaj Bhalla, Gilette’s brand director further explained within an emailed statement sent to the Wall Street Journal. “We are taking a realistic look at what’s happening today, and aiming to inspire change by acknowledging that the old saying ‘Boys Will Be Boys’ is not an excuse.” The email also contained a statement from Gary Coombe, the current president of the Gillette parent company Procter & Gamble‘s, writing to reassure that “Gillette believes in the best in men — that by holding each other accountable, eliminating excuses for bad behavior, and supporting a new generation working toward their personal ‘best,’ we can deliver positive change that will matter for years to come.”