The country has found yet another issue to become divided over, but this time it’s caused by … a razor commercial?
The recent #MeToo commercial, released on YouTube, Jan. 13, 2019, from the razor brand company Gillette, sparked controversy for consumers, particularly in men. The razor ad challenges toxic masculinity and calls out sexual harassment and bullying, asking the question: “Is this the best a man can get?” The campaign asked men to be more accountable for other men and their behavior.
In the video description on YouTube for the razor ad, called “We Believe: The Best Men Can Be,” Gillette states, “Bullying. Harassment. Is this the best a man can get? It’s only by challenging ourselves to do more, that we can get closer to our best. To say the right thing, to act the right way. We are taking action at http://www.thebestmencanbe.org. Join us. This Gillette commercial is about our belief in the best in men.”
So far, so good, right? Wrong. Angry consumers commented all over the online ad posting that the commercial missed the mark. Greg Gutfeld, an opinion writer for Fox News, noted that Gillette isn’t as enlightened as they claim to be: “But how enlightened is Gillette, really? Look at these razors. The blue is for males … the pink, females. Talk about enforcing gender stereotypes,” Gutfeld wrote.
Others thought the commercial influenced positive change. “This commercial isn’t anti-male. It’s pro-humanity,” wrote Bernice King, daughter of the late civil rights legend Martin Luther King. “And it demonstrates that character can step up to change conditions.”
With over 28 million YouTube views, the recent commercial raises a few questions. What exactly is toxic masculinity? “Generally, the term toxic masculinity is the extreme expression of gender traits seen mostly in males such as aggression and appetite for sexual conquest. Often, the user applies it to any male behavior they dislike,” Georgann Willis, UCC associate professor of Social Science, said in an email interview. “In psychology we often add in the inability to be in touch with and/or express feelings due to early social learning that males are not meant to show weak emotions such as crying or talking about feelings with others.”
The commercial has left some viewers wondering how American currently defines the difference between a “real man’and a “good man.” Willis responded: “‘Real men’ are supposed to follow the stereotype of ‘strong’ and are always needing to prove this and lash out at anything that threatens their status. A ‘good’ man is supposed to follow the stereotype of protecting and generous and is not necessarily a good person. Just loyal and caring.” These social constructs can be confusing. “Young males are caught between these ideals and inundated with media images that twist and confuse the concept of masculinity,” Willis wrote.
The term “toxic femininity” has also gained more public attention since the release of the commercial. What is toxic femininity? “Toxic femininity is not as widely recognized and is often used against females by conservative groups as a payback for the prevalence of toxic masculinity. Used that way it means women who are coddling and manipulative. Another way it is used is to paint women as mentally less strong than males and given to psychological disorders. Some groups use it to cover aggression in women which is more covert than physical aggression typically seen in males. Psychology refers to this as ‘relational aggression.’ It usually takes the form of ruining the reputation of another female, withdrawing friendship and getting others to withdraw friendship from this female,” stated Willis.