It was only yesterday that I watched the Gillette ad that’s stirred up so much controversy. I’ve seen a lot of angst around social media about it, both from men and women. But I have to say, mostly from men. When I’ve seen women talk about it, it’s mostly to share in positive terms.
It’s made around Gillette’s slogan ‘The best a man can get.’ It turns the slogan around a bit, and focuses on ‘The best men can be.’ Now, clearly, in the long term, it’s an advertisement, which advertises a company. However, although the company’s name is front and centre at the beginning, what follows is much more than razor blades.
Like the #metoo campaign, and other related campaigns, this ad talks about inappropriate behaviour by men. Rather than alluding to ‘boys will be boys’ it calls out the kind of behaviour that has, in the past, been dismissed as simply ‘something boys just do.’
I don’t think this is a bad thing. I do think the overreaction in some circles is. Mens’ rights activists have caned the ad, one even going so far as to say he ‘would possibly stop using Gillette,’ while another suggested the message boiled down to ‘men are horrible.’
It’s a common theme from MRAs. If a man is called out on his behaviour, or the media comments on it, then it’s ‘man hating feminists’ who believe all men are bad pursuing their agenda and influencing the media.
And of course it isn’t. It’s an ongoing comment that some men do the wrong thing. Some, not all. And in many cases, the behaviour they dish out to women has been let go multiple times in the past, so that they actually believe they’re entitled to treat a woman in that way, because that’s what men do. Or should do.
Of course, men and women are equal human beings, both entitled to jobs, view points, pay, and treatment, equally. As a woman, I expect to be respected, and paid as well as my male counterparts for doing the same job. I expect to be able to pursue education, and health care, and to be able to pursue any kind of career that I might be capable of and qualified for.
I also want to be able to walk down the street feeling safe. I want my daughter to be able to do so. I want my son to respect women, and treat them as he would like to be treated, and to value women as much as he values himself – as his father does. I am fortunate to have married such a man. So many women haven’t.
You see, male entitlement is still a thing. I wrote a post some years ago about the sexual harassment our daughter had experienced while at university. I was astounded that it seemed even worse than when I was the equivalent age. It really bothered me. Why, in the twenty-first century are women still being viewed as body parts that some men feel entitled to touch/comment upon/ogle without permission?
The last post I wrote was about swimwear. I was gobsmacked that a large chunk of women would wear obviously uncomfortable, impossible to swim in swimwear, while the men were still wandering around in boardies.
There are reasons, of course. And in the end, it’s about male gaze, even when we sometimes don’t think it is. Maybe we think it’s empowering to ‘dress as we wish.’ And for many, perhaps it is. But if you’re constantly attempting to pick your swimwear out of your butt crack, I doubt that ’empowerment’ is the thing at the forefront of your mind.
But getting back to the ad. The most positive aspect for me, was the images of men stopping men and boys from doing the ‘boys will be boys’ behaviour that so often ends in disaster for women and girls. It was the images of men speaking out that spoke most strongly to me.
Yes, it’s an ad. Yes, it’ll possibly make the company some money. But in the end, if it helps one man look at his own behaviour and make a change for the better, it goes beyond being just an ad, and on towards being an agent for social change. And that’s a good thing.
If some men get upset, well, they’re probably the ones who need to take a good long look at themselves. Or perhaps just put themselves in a woman’s shoes for a day or two – ask themselves questions like:
Why would I need to walk to the car quickly, with my keys held between my fingers?
Will my gender stop me from getting this job?
Will someone comment on my appearance in these clothes?
Will someone comment on the size of my testicles?
What will I do if someone tries to grab my undies as I stand in the train?
I know these clothes are uncomfortable, and my feet hurt, but this is what my boss expects me to wear, so I’d better just do it.
I could go on. But I won’t. I will leave you with this image.