The Best a Man Can Be

12 February 2019


**Preface. I recognize that many things that provide positive messages, also have many flaws. I understand that “green washing”, “white washing”, and other issues in that same category, are very real problems that need to be addressed and changed. But the point of this particular post is not to completely dissect the specific subject that I will be discussing down to all of its flaws, the point is merely to highlight the positives that are available to be gained from the specific subject. The point is not to be cynical, and think the worst of the source of the material, but to praise the material for what good it has the potential to do. We should not ignore the bad, but in turn, we should not ignore the good.

Gillette recently released an ad that received rather controversial responses. In the ad, Gillette targets the idea of toxic masculinity, with a call to action for men to hold each other accountable for their behaviors, and to help each other be better. The almost two minute long ad goes through imagery depicting bullying, physical aggression, sexual harassment and objectification, with a moment emphasizing the old cliché that “boys will be boys”. But half way through, the tone changes, and men are called to hold each other accountable for their actions. We see representations of men who stand up to defend others. Who intervene, and call each other out for inappropriate actions. We see a man, encouraging his young daughter, telling her that she is strong. The ad begins with the question “Is this the best a man can get?” and ends with the statement “It’s only by challenging ourselves to do more that we can get closer to our best.”

In the ad, Gillette puts a spotlight on many toxic actions that are overlooked or justified as “typical male behavior”, stating that “we cannot hide from it” and that “it has been going on far too long”. As a mostly male product focused company, this is important. Many male focused companies often depict imagery of toxic masculinity in their ads. These behaviors are too often portrayed as defining a manly man, with anything other being weak and worthy of ridicule. Gillette challenges that idea, making the statement that men need to hold other men accountable for these actions. It is emphasized that men are responsible for setting the examples of positive masculinity for the boys of today, to create better men for tomorrow.

Toxic masculinity, often shrouded under the guise that “boys will be boys”, is a problem. And targeting toxically masculine behaviors does not target traditional male roles, but asks males to evaluate who it is that they want to represent as a person. Being strong and being aggressive are not synonyms. Being a leader and being a bully do not go hand in hand. One does not need to sexualize, objectify, or harass another person in order to prove their place in society. Kindness and compassion for others is not a flaw. Being able to stand up for someone being oppressed, against an oppressor, is a key characteristic of a hero. Being able to do so with patience, compassion, mercy, and love, is even more powerful.

Let us not forget Gillette’s call to other brands and companies in their responsibility to portray positive representation of male behavior as well. It is brave for a company to so blatantly point out the flaws in mainstream marketing tactics. But they do not play the innocent, Gillette calls out that they had to look at their own company’s history, and make changes to reflect their message.

“It’s time we acknowledge that brands, like ours, play a role in influencing culture. And as a company that encourages men to be their best, we have a responsibility to make sure we are promoting positive, attainable, inclusive and healthy versions of what it means to be a man. With that in mind, we have spent the last few months taking a hard look at our past and coming communication and reflecting on the types of men and behaviors we want to celebrate. We’re inviting all men along this journey with us – to strive to be better, to make us better, and to help each other be better.”

“From today on, we pledge to actively challenge the stereotypes and expectations of what it means to be a man everywhere you see Gillette. In the ads we run, the images we publish to social media, the words we choose, and so much more.”

“Our tagline needs to continue to inspire us all to be better every day, and to help create a new standard for boys to admire and for men to achieve… Because the boys of today are the men of tomorrow.” – Gillette

I love this ad. I love the message that it conveys. I love the razors edge of controversy that it walks without, at least how I see it, going too far. I love the imagery and representations that they focused on. And I loved the call to action. Yes, this is an ad campaign designed and marketed by a company that sells a product that they want consumers to buy, but that was not the message that they shared. Not once did they upsell a product. Instead, the upsold an idea. An idea that comes free, but has so much value to it. An idea that anyone is capable of embodying and living up to. They upsold a choice. A choice “to be the best a man can be”.

Please, watch the ad, and critically evaluate the POSITIVE message that is being shared. Due to the controversy of this topic, I will not have comments enabled on this post, but I do encourage my readers to look into the topic more. Share it with friends, family, and coworkers. Have your own discussions about it, in a healthy, respectful manner. I understand that everyone has their own views and opinions on such hot button topics, but that does not give anyone permission to be a jerk about it. And if someone is being a jerk on the topic, be the better person and don’t lower yourself to their standards. Take a page out of this campaign, and be the positive representation. Be the best person you can be, no matter your gender identification. I encourage debate. Respectfully.