In 2017, the #MeToo movement spread virally across the nation. This is a movement against sexual harassment and sexual assault. It encourages victims to share their stories using the hashtag #MeToo to give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem: Did you know that every 98 seconds an American is assaulted? Many celebrities also used the hashtag on various social media platforms to share their own experience. This year, Gillette aired a commercial that references the movement and a man’s part in sexual assault.
Gillette’s commercial focuses on the toxic masculinity that provokes sexual assault in the first place. Research Associate Professor and author Sherry Hamby from Psychology Today says “too often, traditional masculine gender roles encourage men to disconnect from their bodies and their emotions, harming their mental and physical health and damaging their relationships.” She goes on to explain how the pressures of masculinity make it hard to be a “good” man, as being dominant and violent is viewed as a more “manly” path. Gillette, addressing this dark definition, makes powerful use of the line “boys will be boys” and urges men to go against traditional norms of manliness. The commercial states: “We believe in the best in men” and that men “need to hold other men accountable” for things like sexual assault and rape.
Gillette documents on their website that the campaign appeals to men who “find themselves caught between the past and a new era of masculinity”. In the commercial, a voiceover says that “We can’t hide from it -- it’s been going on far too long. We can’t laugh it off, making the same old excuses.” The company has added layers to their slogan “The Best a Man Can Get” through the 2019 commercial as it pushes for societal change in the gender roles of men. Gillette documents on their website that “it’s only by challenging ourselves to do more that we can get closer to our best. To say the right thing, to act the right way.” The Best Men Can Be campaign is committing to donate $1 million per year to non-profit organizations in the United States designed to inspire and educate men to achieve their personal “best” and become role models for the next generations.
Despite the positivity and goal to push for improvement, the commercial did spark some backlash. Kirsten Powers, journalist for USA Today, says that the commercial portrays men as bullies. Another journalist Charlotte Allen for USA Today states that “it’s blithe assumption that other males routinely let them get away with [sexual assault].” Allen writes that men deserve more credit than Gillette is giving them and that the company should focus on advertisement “instead of tarring men in general as violence-enablers in need of re-education and their very masculinity as a kind of poison.” Along with these journalists, many individuals voice their annoyance through YouTube comments and tweets. Some viewers are denouncing Gillette’s products and asking if the company has taken feminism as a marketing strategy too far.
The Gillette commercial was viewed by various people on the campus of Saint Ursula. Junior and Senior counselor and mom of three boys Mrs. Williams shares her thoughts that “society has expectations of what it means to ‘be a man’. Society defines that very narrowly and with it comes a lot of ‘unwritten’ rules that create pressures for males.” Williams believes that these expectations are unhealthy and repress a man’s freedom to make his own life choices. The guidance counselor mentions that being a traditional man means never crying or being overly emotional; it is being athletic, and showing anger over sadness. Junior Grace Heyob says “this video gives us a good point of view of how good men can stand up for women against other men.” Heyob, however, notes that the commercial is not necessarily implying that all men are bad. Mr. Porter, science teacher at SUA, also reacted to the commercial and was surprised to find it was controversial. When asked if masculinity has a negative connotation in our society, Porter says that it “really depends on an individual’s idea of what being a man is. My perspective is always standing up for what is right and protecting those that are unable to protect themselves.” Mr. Porter believes that the biggest reason for rape and sexual assault is anger, added to a desire for dominance and control over others. “To intentionally want to hurt someone shows hate towards that individual.” To Mr. Porter, the most powerful line in the commercial is “boys watching today will be the men of tomorrow.” The phrase recognizes the evil in our current society, but provides a sense of hope and improvement for the future.
If you want to learn more about the campaign or the #MeToo movement, follow the links below.
Gillette’s Campaign: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=koPmuEyP3a0
#MeToo Movement: https://metoomvmt.org/