Gillette’s New Ad is a Message Men Need to Hear


Photo courtesy of Gillette

Gillette’s new ad has prompted discussion and led to controversy over the role of men in society.

Nima Ashtari , Community & World News Editor

The practice of shaving is a routine most men are familiar with, a ritual that oozes with masculinity and is synonymous with “manliness.” On Jan. 13, Gillette, a popular shaving company, challenged this stereotype with a new short film they released on social media called We Believe: The Best Men Can Be. The roughly two-minute ad challenges men to rise to higher standards in regards to sexual harassment and encourages them to get up off the sidelines and join women in the fight for greater gender equality. Rather than rejecting the message and starting a boycott of Gillette’s products, as many men have, we should instead carefully heed the content. In the era of the #MeToo movement, the ideas Gillette is presenting will help solve the underlying issues of gender inequality — men should listen carefully and act accordingly.

As I began watching the film, I was first struck at how it appears to vilify men in not one, but several aspects of society, from the way we’ve treated women to the way we raise children. The more I watched, the more I realized that reality isn’t too far off. The first half of the ad is a montage of male misogyny, featuring a bleak and cynical voiceover coupled with visuals of “toxic masculinity,” the idea that men are too masculine to know their societal bounds. Once it has established these unspeakable tragedies about how men treat women, the ad addresses how this cycle will continue indefinitely if men don’t change. As two boys wrestle violently in the grass, the fathers supervising lament that “boys will be boys,” a hackneyed phrase that the film is highly critical of. Although we may dismiss play-fighting as “something boys just do,” it becomes an issue when this kind of behavior evolves into something with further-reaching repercussions. This was one of the most important points that Gillette managed to make, a point that new fathers should especially consider when raising their boys.

With new allegations concerning the mistreatment of women surfacing nearly every week, the #MeToo movement is on a long road with no end in sight — that is, until we can redefine what it means to be a man. The “new man” doesn’t have to exude masculinity from every pore in his body. Gillette shows that power, masculinity, and boldness can exist hand-in-hand with respect and good judgment. As the film enters into its second half, the tone swings from doomed to hopeful. Clips of men making better choices in regard to their treatment of not just women but of all people are played, and Gillette drives home its main message: “the boys watching today will be the men of tomorrow.”

Many critics of the advertisement — particularly males — feel insulted by the premise of the video that paints all men as coarse and abusive. As a young man myself, I caution other men from this sort of view. Don’t be quick to dismiss the message as “anti-male.” Instead, view it as pro-humanity. Gillette did not create the clip to reprimand and paint all men as sexual predators. Instead of feeling insulted, we should realize that we have a choice, a choice to continue the traditional viewing of our masculinity as leverage to get what we want, or a choice to be better.

Others say that Gillette and other large companies have no place debating social issues, which holds merit to a certain extent. As a profit-driven company, Gillette’s priorities will always revolve around selling razors. Pankaj Bhalla, Gillette’s North America brand director, issued a sharp rebuke to this sentiment. “We expected debate. Actually a discussion is necessary. If we don’t discuss and don’t talk about it, I don’t think real change will happen,” Bhalla told CNN business. Regardless, the theme of the ad remains, and we only harm ourselves by shunning its lesson. “The best a man can get” has long been the shaving supplier’s tagline, but maybe by striving for “the best a man can be” we can finally achieve greater gender equality.