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Traditionally, shaving as a male has always been a rite of passage, the first step towards manhood. I remember, as a young lad myself, wanting to be able to shave so I could tell myself and others that I was a man. Raised in the early 90s by working class parents this young lad was brash, liked the colour blue, played contact sports and fancied girls. We were also told that we didn't necessarily have to work hard for what we wanted—as men. In We Believe: The Best a Man Can Get, the company providing us the tools to become men were telling us we simply get the best. Even though Gillette sells men's and women's products it was clear who their target audience were.
Times have changed since then and there is a worldwide debate on what a "man" is and should be. On the 30th anniversary of their iconic slogan, Gillette unveiled their new campaign featuring a new slogan, 'The Best Men Can Be.' With 594,000 dislikes (thus far) on their advert promoting the campaign, its fair to say Gillette has caused a little controversy.
"Gillette, the best a cisgender soy boy can get."
"This is so empowering! I love my non-binary gender-fluid Gillette razor!"
"I have used Gillette razors for 15 years. Not anymore!"
Those were just a few examples of the anger fueling the comments section for the new advert.
The We Believe short film is clearly a response to the #MeToo movement's rise in society, with the film featuring images of bullying and sexism alongside news clips of reporting on the #MeToo movement. It challenges their own slogan of 30 years. Is toxic masculinity the best a man can get? "It's been going on for far too long," the voice-over tells us.
"But something finally changed ... and there will be no going back".
The world constantly changes. Our ideas and societies change, overall for the better (as bleak as the world can seem). Most of the arguments we see stem from a simple fact; people don't like change. People won't accept change. It is a human behaviour. Is it excusable? Absolutely not, especially when this change is combating sexism and gender equality.
Much like Idris Elba says about #MeToo, if you feel personally attacked by this video then you clearly have something to hide about your attitude.
As much as people claim the campaign attacks men, Gillette tells us, "We believe in the best in men." The advert leads into images of positive masculinity—not standing by but taking action when needed, supporting our young ones both male and female, not shaming other males but putting them on the right path towards positive thinking. Gillette explicitly tells us not all men are like this but, "... some is not enough."
We must remember though, Gillette is a company that has a brand worth of $18 billion. Did Gillette whole-heartedly make this advert to create change? Of course not, at the end of the day they want to sell as many products as possible. They were just clever enough to recognise the power of their brand, their male dominated audience and the rise of the #MeToo movement. I believe they could have been a lot smarter however.
To me, it is short-sighted of Gillette to focus on purely men and not create a campaign about gender-equality where they could feature all genders and attract a much wider audience. Maybe with a more inclusive campaign they could have avoided the controversy while advocating positive change. (Who am I kidding of course it would anger some, but I still think it would have been a smarter move.) For years they've catered towards males, but even though they sell products for all genders they still haven't changed their target audience.
We can be cynical and say Gillette is only using the campaign to sell razors, but it has caused a debate, whether it wanted to or not. The fact the campaign promotes positive masculinity and positive change is admirable for a brand rooted in traditional thinking. The We Believe film is a well-made short film with a powerful message and the more positive comments out there shows that it did, in the end, succeed. I don't think Gillette or the makers of the film care about the angry mobs. You can't make a campaign like this and not expect a reaction. The advert doesn't care about the past and men rooted in traditional thinking. It cares about the boys on the cusp of manhood, like me all those years ago, who will become "...the men of tomorrow."
In our ever-changing society, Gillette could have been a lot smarter and inclusive with their campaign, but it is a campaign of much needed positive change. It's not the best it can be, but it's a small step towards that goal.