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Gillette #Metoo: Do not let brands steal the debate from victims

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The shaving product brand Gillette has sparked intense controversy by releasing a new campaign that condemns toxic masculinity.

“Is this the best a man can get? We can’t hide from it, it’s been going on far too long.” These are the starting words of their commercial. Gillette revisits their flagship slogan and directly targets sexual harassment, bullying, and more general aspects of the culture surrounding toxic masculinity, which have been exposed over the last 18 months, particularly in the wake of the #MeToo scandal.

Admittedly, it always is a great feeling to see the whole of the alt-right political sphere in absolute meltdown – I’ve rarely encountered such fragile people:

I wanted to tackle something slightly larger than this, which most traditional media seem to have forgotten. I experienced some déjà vu with this campaign – Nike’s Colin Kaepernick ad. Of course, the conservatives who would boycott Nike and burn their shoes are now somehow trying to break their Gillette razors, but both messages that these ads convey are strangely progressive, almost spot-on in their understanding of intersectional resistance to racism, sexism, harassment. However, let’s not forget that corporate ads are NEVER made for free; they exist for financial profit.

Gillette simply cannot be the leading actor of this debate: they have seen how lucrative controversial ads are, and their own moral record is far from being pristine.

The act itself of shaving has been carrying gendered stereotypes for decades. Brands like Gillette have pioneered the use of women’s razors more than a century ago, and have been since them selling promises of smooth legs, stubble-free and kissable faces: systematically sexualised female bodies that “won’t embarrass”. On the other side of the locker room, men needed to look respectable and strong, and of course to please women around them.

Image Credit: The Literary Digest Volume 31, 1905. Wikimedia Commons

Researchers define Toxic Masculinity as “the need to aggressively compete and dominate others... encompasses the most problematic proclivities in men” – see what Gillette did there? As an institution that has defined masculinity and has embedded into the minds of boys and girls, over generations, toxic ideal bodies and physical stereotypes, it is way too easy to clear themselves of any cultural responsibility for sexual harassment and bullying in Europe and North America.

It’s not as if they were even trying to not be linked with sexist figures or institutions: to this day, the Fox News star journalist Tucker Carlson (who for instance blames women for sexism in politics, or called the New York Mayor’s spokesperson a “self-righteous bitch” with a “labia face”) is still sponsored by Gillette when other advertisers have boycotted him.

Let us all remember, before praising this advert as a ‘cultural shift’, that BP presents itself as a sustainability champion while triggering international environmental disasters, and that Nike makes money out of anti-racist campaigns when they still break labour rights. The fight against toxic masculinity is and will always be about grassroots movements and politics, and not about branding.

 As Gil-Scott Heron beautifully says it:

“The revolution will not be brought to you by Xerox

In 4 parts without commercial interruption

The revolution will not show you pictures of Nixon

Blowing a bugle and leading a charge by John Mitchell

General Abrams and Spiro Agnew to eat

Hog maws confiscated from a Harlem sanctuary

The revolution will not be televised”

 Lead Image Credit: Pixabay

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