Gillette commercial addresses timely issue of toxic masculinity

Critics of the controversial Gillette razor commercial, which discusses toxic masculinity and the importance of teaching children empathy, equality and strength, claim the advertisement is anti-men.

The scenes depicted in the advertisement are everyday scenarios that include men stopping their sons from physically fighting and preventing other men from harassing women. Critics of the commercial, including conservative activist Ben Shapiro, say the Gillette ad attacks men and discourages masculinity entirely. But what does that mean for masculinity? Does such a criticism then define masculinity as aggression? He doesn’t seem to understand the point. The advertisement is not attacking men but is simply addressing the misconstrued idea of masculinity that our society has adopted.

Shapiro criticized Gillette’s tactics. “If you want to raise a generation of men who will treat women well… you need more masculinity, not less,” he said in the National Review. But here’s the thing: Gillette’s intent isn’t to limit masculinity or rid the world of fathers. The root of the campaign is, in fact, quite the opposite: that men, and fathers especially, should have a more positive influence on the young boys who look to them as an example.

Gillette recognizes that more present fathers and male role models are a method to destroy toxic masculinity. But that’s not always an option. Male role models aren’t always available for children.

In his article, Shapiro pointed out that the majority of teachers and social workers are women, so “more and more young boys lack male influence altogether.” But what does he suggest we do about that? Fire all of the hardworking female teachers and social workers? It seems he is blaming working women for toxic masculinity’s pervasiveness in society.

Regardless, toxic masculinity is not about an overwhelming presence of women or an underwhelming presence of men. Whoever takes issue with this advertisement, which is centered around treating people better, should educate themselves on what masculinity is.

Real masculinity is about strength. Having the strength to treat others equally and to raise children who also embody that strength is of utmost importance. Masculinity is not rooted in aggression. We have been conditioned to associate masculinity with aggression, violence and lack of emotion.

“Lack of masculine presence leads to toxic masculinity, deprived men acting out of hurt and anger,” Shapiro said. But he’s missing the point. Gillette doesn’t want fewer men in children’s lives. Gillette wants men to be better examples for those who look up to them.

Allowing aggressive behaviors in men to progress without consequences can be deadly. According to data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, 37.5 percent of female homicide victims were murdered by their husbands or boyfriends. In May of 2018, 17-year-old Dimitrios Pagourtzis shot and killed ten of his fellow students at Santa Fe High School, including Shana Fisher. Fisher had repeatedly rejected romantic advances from Pagourtzis and “finally stood up to him and embarrassed him,” her mother told the Associated Press. It seems obvious that Dimitrios Pagourtzis felt entitled to Shana Fisher. He couldn’t have her, so he killed her.

But women aren’t the only victims of toxic masculinity. In 2017, men died by suicide 3.54 times more often than women and 77.97 percent of suicides were white males, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. In a world where men are discouraged from expressing feeling, they are forced to suppress emotion, and it has deadly effects.

Critics of Gillette’s advertisement may not believe there is a need to address toxic masculinity. They may not even think it exists. But there is substantial evidence to the contrary. Campaigns such as Gillette’s aim to sell products, like razors, but also to stop the deadly cycle toxic masculinity allows for.

Ashley is a sophomore studying journalism. What are your reactions to the Gillette ad? Please send all comments to opinion@dailycardinal.com. 

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