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For anyone who has been living under a rock, Gillette released an ad that comments on the state of toxic masculinity and encourages men to “do more”.
This ad landed in people’s feeds and a small but vocal group of men that I’m going to call “the manosphere” got really angry.
Manosphere isn’t my neologism. It’s been around for a while: In her book “Kill All Normies” Angela Nagle defines the manosphere as a group of people with “anti-feminist masculinist” politics that “developed in the context of evermore radical liberal gender politics and increasingly common anti-male rhetoric…”. You will find them in: Pick up forums, the men’s rights movement, the Men Going Their Own Way movement, incel forums and other smelly corners of the internet.
So the manosphere calls for a boycott.
A reminder: The manosphere is distinct from the alt-right. Although they do intersect on the venn diagram of creepy conservative politics, the manosphere is smaller. While both groups have bought into a “decline of western civilisation” narrative, the thing that differentiates the manosphere from the broader alt-right is this cringeworthy, sincere “heart on the sleeve” approach to how they espouse their values. There is very little irony and no humor in someone like Piers Morgan when he says:
Let boys be damn boys.
Let men be damn men.”
This is the kind of dude who unironically bases his masculine identity on some sort of mix of Dirty Harry and Winston Churchill. The reaction to our Woke New World is heartfelt, fist waving outrage. While this sort of outdated mindset isn’t benign, it is ultimately ineffective against the razor sharp, educated 2019 social justice movement and its vast cultural cachet.
The reason it’s important to point the limits of the manosphere is that everyone seems to be operating under the assumption that behind the social media outrage there is a large and dangerous group of men who fundamentally disagree with the idea that men can do better. Under that paradigm the Gillette ad is a critical battle ground for the future of feminism... Not just your opportunity to become an unpaid Gillette spokesperson.
You know when I’d be worried? If it were the broader alt-right that was launching an attack. You’d be able to tell because unlike the whiny man babies calling for a boycott, the alt-right proper have appropriated the left’s most powerful cultural weapon: Subversion. The commentary would be far more sardonic.
It wouldn’t be a stogie TV host leading the charge it would be someone like that MAGA kid who mocked a Native American elder in a recent viral video.
They wouldn’t be flushing Gillette razors down the toilet, they’d be going into stores and spray painting them pink. They’d be on 4Chan making memes or plotting to make Gillette crash on the stock market. Subversion is a lot harder to laugh at and counter.
The fact that everyone is laughing is proof that this whole thing is a storm in a teacup. It’s proof that anyone defending Gillette right now is also attacking a straw *cough* man. Look at the media’s lazy reporting. The browser title of the SBS’ article is “Men are missing the point of the new Gillette ad”.
Morning Consult probably got the best publicity win from this campaign outside of GIllette by running an opinion poll the day after the ad launched. And it shows that men and women are loving the message behind the ad.
It also shows that differences in opinion are larger across party lines than gender.
Men on the whole don’t have an issue with this ad. Even 48% of Republicans responded positively to the ad.
Marketing professionals all have their own hot take on whether Gillette has a good strategy on their hands. So here’s mine: Of course they do... *dur*. The only criticism I can leverage against it is the execution: For something claiming to be a “short film” it sure is cheesy and ham-fisted.
But strategically we know that the best way to increase the impact of your marketing spend is to generate fame and Gillette is all that people have been talking about this week. On top of that Gillette now have a refreshed brand positioning: “The Best That Men Can Be” is a lot more creatively fertile and relevant than “The Best A Man Can Get”.
But does that make any of this a good thing? Isn’t it sort of predatory to appropriate the struggle against white male dominance by creating a false uproar in the media?
By letting an ad for disposable razors rule the public discourse for a week we’ve been teleported into a bizarro world where the left defends global corporations against the right in the name of identity politics. Except “the right” in this case is just five guys on Twitter with a copy of Iron John on their bookshelves.
Here’s what the consumer watchdog The Green Star Project has to say about Gillette:
They make razors that are completely disposable as well as disposable heads to go on a reusable handle (...) Many of their products are over-engineered and have excessive packaging but interestingly their 2-blade head from 1993, the Gillette Sensor Excel, has a following who believe they are as good as or better than the newer 4 or 5-blade heads. They’ve phased out PVC for their razor trays but the fact that they used it until recently is concerning. Gillette is owned by P&G, who have a poor record on animal testing. Gillette was among several companies (Unilever, P&G, Colgate-Palmolive, L’Oreal) collectively fined almost $1 billion in 2014 for price-fixing. Commercial directors and other sales officials from the companies involved met “regularly and in secret” to co-ordinate price hikes.
Gillette controls around 70% of the global disposable razor market. What they should be famous for is selling a built-to-break product that pollutes the environment on an epic scale. But much like Dove they have decided to slide into your subconscious more easily by greasing their bad product with a thin film of wokeness.
Forget Toxic Masculinity, I think we have a case of Toxic Corporatism on our hands!