Recently, a commercial campaign was launched that set social media on fire. The angry kind, not the good kind. It wasn’t about drugs or alcohol. It wasn’t about Trump. It wasn’t about the LGBTQ community or police violence or any of the hot-button topics that sends people into such a lather.
It was about razors.
The Gillette Company launched a campaign called “The Best Men Can Be” and which focuses on the changing meaning of masculinity and how men should inspire other men to be better versions of themselves. It identifies many of the negative stereotypical male behaviour of fighting, bullying, and sexually harassing and objectifying women. Then it reminds viewers that today’s boys who are watching this will be the grown men of tomorrow who repeat the behaviour.
Unfortunately, it’s not inspiring a lot of men. Men’s rights activists have announced a boycott of Gillette’s products. Many, including British TV host, Piers Morgan, and actor, James Woods, think that the message is simply that “men are horrible.”
It’s easy to think that. The ad does show men at their worst. But it also shows men what their “best” would look like: Terry Crews telling the Senate that men should hold other men accountable; a man breaking up a fight; a man speaking out in support of a woman on the street. Those are pretty positive images.
Yet, according to Piers Morgan, Gillette should “Let boys be damn boys. Let men be damn men.”
Even some women have joined the diatribe against the campaign, suggesting that it’s just another version of #MeToo once again attacking men. In fact, one New York Post reporter wrote that she’s “tired of the boy-bashing that has become all too common on our screens … We can’t elevate women by knocking men down.”
Absolutely. Knocking men down doesn’t make women any taller. It just makes the ground a lot more lumpy and difficult for walking.
But I have to wonder, when did suggesting “We can do better” turn into “We suck”? You don’t tell a child who comes home with a report card full of B’s that he’s great as is and shouldn’t continue studying. You honour the effort and then give him the tools to aim for an A+.
After the initial furor of the #MeToo movement that had men singled out for things they barely remembered doing to women decades before, many woman (and men) started asking “Where do we go from here?” Decades of attitudes and behaviours are hard to change. Specific, concrete tools are needed. But first, you need inspiration.
With the exception of Helen of Troy – and few of us could pull off that haircut – women rarely inspire an entire generation of men. We can nag, threaten, blackmail, and condemn. We can’t truly inspire them.
But men can. Regardless of whether or not they succeed, that’s what Gillette is trying to do: inspire their own to be “The Best Men Can Be.”
And really, what’s wrong with that?