The real worry about ‘that Gillette ad’ and what we need to do next

The real worry about ‘that Gillette ad’ and what we need to do next

I have to admit that while I found ‘that Gillette ad’ moving and saw that it ticked a lot of boxes from a behaviour change perspective (highlighting desired behaviours, saying ‘we believe in the best in men’ etc.), I felt slightly ill at the ease in which multinational Procter & Gamble had seemingly ‘jumped aboard’ the #metoo movement (a movement which has always been about victims of sexual violence, mainly women, speaking out) to somehow appeal to men, build their brand and of course, sell razors.

But, what has disturbed me far more than the ad itself, is the highly charged backlash it has received, and the fact that so many people seem to have heard and seen completely different things when watching it.

Men (mainly but not exclusively) have howled that it is an attack on all men. That the ad ‘bashes men’. That ‘there’s nothing wrong with masculinity’ in its current form.

Others (women mainly, but many men too) have hailed the ad as brilliant; viewing it as a straightforward call to be ‘a decent human being’.

It is this outrage and seemingly intractable divide, which makes me deeply concerned. Particularly because as the mother of a 14-year-old boy, who has grown up in a non-stereotypical family where Dad does most of the cooking and Mum has often been the major breadwinner, I know that even he is not immune from what is increasingly beginning to feel like a gender war.

I know he has watched videos on YouTube which seek to justify the actions of 22 year old Elliot Rodger, who killed 6 people and injured 14 in California in 2014, on the basis that he had a dysfunctional relationship with his father, unaddressed mental health issues and because society/women had denied him sex and love.

Fortunately, my son mostly seems to talk to me about these things, but how many other boys do not talk or do not have anyone to talk to?

My fear is that without more cool-headed, two-way discussions about this issue, the divisions and tempers will get worse.

As the indomitable Jessica Valenti wrote in Medium on Friday, “While it’s easy to mock the strange and transparent response from the right to the Gillette ad, we need to remember that it’s part of something bigger: Donald Trump’s election, the obsession with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the battle over #MeToo and Brett Kavanaugh — they’re all part of a frenzied backlash to a changing world. A backlash that’s getting more dangerous by the day.”

This is why I have taken the time to write these words, when it already seems too many words have been written on one ad. I believe it is critical that we come together and talk about these issues. I am convinced that we need to open up discussion rather than shutting it down and that we need to listen to those across the divide and hear them out. Previous social change movements, such as marriage equality, have demonstrated that it is only then that positive change will start to take hold.



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