Gillette backlash: When men being good is a bar too high

When men being good is a bar too high, the problem is clear

For a fleeting naïve moment after watching that ad I felt nothing but hope. Like many others my immediate reaction to Gillette’s ‘The Best Men Can Be’ video was emotional. It literally gave me goose-bumps.

And then I came crashing back to earth as I remembered that not everyone shares my belief that men being good is not a bar too high for humanity to conquer.

To me, a global mainstream consumer brand embracing a narrative encouraging men to pursue a different type of masculinity in a major advertising campaign is not just clever and timely marketing. It’s powerful and helpful. It moves a critical conversation about reframing what it means to be a man from the fringes to the frontline.

But for some (many if you look at social media or the comments below any of the think pieces on the ad) this idea is threatening. It’s emasculating, toxic and a reason to boycott Gillette. It’s proof of ‘virtue-signalling’ and a greater conspiracy in which women and companies are eagerly propagating the message that all men are evil.

The need for the ad has been reinforced powerfully by the reaction it has sparked and there is nothing new or surprising about this.

Lynx faced some backlash in 2017 when it released an ad promoting a more progressive version of masculinity.

When gains are made, the backlash inevitably grows.

As Jane Caro observed to us last year, “The more strides we make, the more resistance we face.”

The fact one short video, that notched up four million views in 48 hours, has sent hundreds and thousands of men and women around the world into such a tailspin bemoaning the future of all men is proof of this.

In some ways the angry reactions to the ad are disheartening given they reveal the extent to which misogyny thrives, but at least the resentment is not hidden. It’s plain to see.

One short advertisement won’t change the world but the power of the medium given its sheer reach in this realm cannot be underestimated. In the wake of the rampant sexual harassment revealed by #MeToo men and women are at a crisis point of sorts.

Anything that helps untangle the mess and promotes an achievable and positive solution like fostering respect for women early and empowering men and boys to enjoy different versions of masculinity is welcome.

The backlash is proof that change is coming.

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