The Things that Should Offend Us. Hint: It’s Not a Razor Commercial

Gillette’s advertisement that condemns toxic masculinity is not for sensitive skin. Although the ad debuted several weeks ago, its concepts and challenges are timeless, especially in today’s society. Therefore, we must not forget nor ignore the message presented to us.

The ad, which challenges men to be the best they can be, received severe backlash from those who felt offended. As men threw razors into garbage bins and “#ToxicFemininity” swirled throughout Twitter, one couldn’t help but wonder which part of the advertisement offended these people.

Was it the part that tells men not to grope women in the workplace? Was it the part that tells men to teach their sons not to bully? One thing that those offended failed to realize is that fighting toxic masculinity is not declaring war on men.

Actually, it does quite the opposite.

Toxic masculinity affects both men and women negatively. An Australian study commissioned by Jesuit Social Services’ Men’s Project surveyed one thousand young men and revealed that toxic masculinity is bad for men’s health and the health of those around them. Men who conform to ideals of toxic masculinity are “more likely to consider suicide, drink excessively, take risks at work, and drive dangerously.” Not only does toxic masculinity create danger for the individual, it can create a dangerous environment for men and women around them.

The ad features Terry Crews, who testified that he was sexually assaulted by a Hollywood agent, telling us that “men need to hold other men accountable.” The ideals of toxic masculinity in this case, one being that the man felt he had the right to sexually assault Crews, and two being that people questioned why Crews, a muscular and large man, didn’t fight back, demonstrate how this tox- icity can directly hurt men; even the most masculine men we can think of.

It is not offensive to ask men to hold each other accountable, including themselves. What should offend us is that Harvey Weinstein preyed on women for decades without affecting his career. What should offend us is that Brock Turner is just one of thousands of men to receive little to no punishment for sexual assault because his future has more value than the life of the victim he destroyed. What should offend us is that the women who do come forward must face years of trial where lawyers rip their reputations apart more than the clothes they wore on the night of their assault.

Were the clothes revealing, by the way?

Maybe those offended have a point. After all, does Gillette even have the right to propose such drastic action after body-shaming women by advertising body hair as an “embarrassing problem” in the past? Some Twitter users even posted a picture of women wearing Gillette body suits (which they dug up from 2011 in the Netherlands from a racing event), calling the company’s mes- sage a “hypocrisy.” Interestingly enough, these people didn’t have an issue with the outfits until just now. The problem with this argument is that hypocrisy and recognition of past mistakes are separate.

On their website, Gillette states, “We have spent the last few months tak- ing a hard look at our past and coming communication and reflecting on the types of men and behaviors we want to celebrate.” A recent Gillette commer- cial, which was directed by women, points out that “things have changed” for women of today in this industry. Gillette will also donate $1 million per year for the next three years to non-profit organizations that “educate and inspire members to be role models for the future.”

Therefore, not only is Gillette analyzing their own past behaviors, the com- pany is also making deliberate steps to promote a future that denounces toxic masculinity. So yes, they have every right to create an ad that asks men to do the same.

The cure for toxic masculinity requires men to thoughtfully reflect on their behaviors and attitudes. It involves questioning why some resort to solving problems with their fists instead of words. It demands us to be critical of our- selves and those around us. This is not a war against men, this is a treaty for humanity.
There are a lot of things in this world that should offend us. A commercial that encourages men to be better human beings is not one of them.

Kelly Hunt, Communication and Media 2020