Does the new Gillette ad mean we’re winning?

Image by the excellent Stuart F Taylor

Are you looking for a hot take on the new Gillette ad? You’ve come to the right place, because I’ve got LOADS of them. Let’s explore whether Gillette highlighting – and fighting against – toxic masculinity is a) the greatest thing to ever have happened, b) the WORST THING EVER or c) something in between.

I have good feelings about the Gillette ad. I understand that there are elements which are worth criticising too, but overall I have good feelings about this ad. Mostly because the very fact that it exists tells me that maybe we lefty do-gooders, with our desire for equality and our ambition to teach our kids that they can treat each other with kindness – maybe we are winning.

Let’s watch the ad together now, shall we?

Pick your Gillette ad hot take

  • An advert for men’s razors that focuses on how compassionate men can be is a profoundly good thing. This message isn’t seen enough in the media, and we should wholeheartedly encourage it.
  • The responses to the advert from angry Men’s Rights Arseholes demonstrates perfectly the need for messaging like this.
  • It’s an advert! It’s very cynical for companies to use social justice issues in adverts just to try and flog us razors.
  • If Gillette really cared about inequality, perhaps they’d have more women on their board? And maybe they’d stop charging women twice the price for ‘women’s’ razors that are essentially exactly the same as the men’s ones?
  • The advert has angered Piers Morgan. Morgan’s Law states that if something angers Piers Morgan then, no matter how complex the underlying debate we may have about its relative merits and drawbacks, it is fundamentally a good thing.
  • The advert is absurdly simplistic – dividing ‘good’ men from ‘bad’ in a way that fails to reflect the way humans actually are. In reality men – like everyone – display a complex mix of different behaviours, and we need to recognise that ‘good’ men are also capable of doing harmful things.
  • Why would Gillette try to market to men by telling men how bad they are? It’s an absolute disgrace that Gillette thinks all men are bullies and sexual predators!

To be honest, I think you’d have a point on all of these arguments except the last one.

What difference does a Gillette ad make?

Ultimately, I don’t think many men are going to watch this advert and go ‘holy shit! I have just realised that although I aspire to be a good person, I rarely challenge bad behaviour from other men in my life, and I think I will have to start doing so!’ That’s rarely how this stuff works. I also don’t expect many men who have done bad things to read blog posts I’ve written about Brett Kavanaugh or the MeToo movement and suddenly decide they’ve been Doing Everything Wrong and must immediately re-evaluate their lives. This isn’t how people work, and this isn’t how cultural change happens.

But messages like this do make a difference. Let’s begin with the very basic fact that the money spent making this wasn’t spent on an ad with the message ‘shave your face, bench press a killer whale, punch six grizzly bears and never, ever cry.’

It adds another perspective on masculinity – one which, contrary to the angry YouTube commenters howling that ‘I love being told how bad of a person I am just because I am a male’ – actually shows a men in a powerfully positive light. A far more relatable perspective than I usually see in a razor ad. The men in this ad more closely resemble the men I know in real life: men who struggle with the way society tells them they have to be, and who want to do the right thing. I think that’s most of us, right? We fuck stuff up and we live within terrible systems, but most of us want to do the right thing.

Does this mean it’s perfect? Fuck no! As others have already explained very well, there are some serious problems with the way the ad presents the problem. The problem isn’t that ‘men do bad things and don’t stop other men doing bad things’, the broad problem is that we exist in a society that expects certain behaviour of men, and men who step outside those lines are often punished, while those who perform ‘masculinity’ in the ‘right’ way are often rewarded. As I’ve said a million times until I’m blue in the face, the problem is not ‘men’, it’s patriarchy. Patriarchy harms men, and it hates men – with a far greater zeal than a ranty feminist like me could ever muster.

Then you have all the problems with the fact that it’s cause marketing: something lots of people disagree with purely on the basis that companies should avoid touching on social justice issues, or because it’s cynical to sell razors by poking at someone’s social conscience.

All this is worth considering, and all of it’s important. But ultimately I keep coming back to the fact that the new Gillette ad simply wouldn’t have existed ten years ago. No one would have put forward the idea, let alone got sign off, on an advert that essentially said ‘our rigid and false notions of masculinity are causing serious harm, and we’re calling on men to help stop it.’ This message wouldn’t have made sense to people when I was young.

Fuck it – when I was young, you wouldn’t even have been able to convince me that this shit was a problem.

It takes years to change minds. Decades. It takes a sustained, intense effort to get people to recognise problems, then more sustained, intense effort to get them to agree on solutions and start making change. It takes people and charities and governments and human rights lawyers and protesters and parents quietly getting on with lives that inspire their children. It also takes magazines and newspapers and massive corporations and books and TV shows and adverts. Some of these things will change laws or minds, others might function simply as markers to show us how far we’ve come.

I’m not sure if the Gillette ad will succeed in changing minds, but it’s given me hope that we’re going in the right direction.


  • Golden Hare says:

    Well said.

  • SpaceCaptainSmith says:

    Yeah, the message is good, and the very fact the ad was made is significant and welcome. But this sort of thing – companies trying to piggyback on a social issue to sell you something – always rubs me up the wrong way. This isn’t so different from Iceland using endangered orangutans to sell groceries, or when Pepsi tried to use the ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests to sell cola. Wouldn’t it be nice if the next time we were talking about some inspiring viral video, it was one that wasn’t made by an international conglomerate and didn’t have a brand logo at the end of it?

  • Bob Hoskins says:

    It’s still all about men though isn’t it, and how only men can fix it, watch it through, check the number of women solving the problem, being equal, holding people up to better values. It’s a load of shite, its an advert that promotes a brand, it captures the feeling of today and puts Gillette front and centre, brilliant marketing but it’s only that.

    • Girl on the net says:

      Yeah, and as I say a couple of times in the post, I think those are valid concerns. But even with those concerns, I’m pleased that the ad shows we’re moving in broadly the right direction. I’d question, too, why you take issue with the fact that ‘it’s all about men.’ While I agree that it *is*, I don’t think it’s saying ‘all the world’s problems are caused by – and can only be solved by – men.’ It’s saying that men behaving in this particular way will make the world better for our kids, which is really hard to argue against to be honest. That ‘men: take action’ message is a welcome alternative to the ‘women: be prepared to get screwed over’ message that I, as a woman, hear a lot. I think my opinion on this ad is probably heavily influenced by the way I felt for most of 2018: powerless and like there was no hope, because no one was listening to women. So hearing men being asked to step up too is genuinely *different* to most of what I’ve heard over the last year.

      • Bob Hoskins says:

        It’s not a bad thing to market the brand from this perspective, lots of joy to be had but it is also to make money and as the marketing is towards males the advert pushes the male gaze as it were.

        If it was focused on gender equality, then I’d I’ve expected to see just that, I’d have liked to have seen that, from either way, females doing bad, and doing good, didn’t have to be all the way through, it’s marketing a male product to males after all.

        my point is not really about the ad, it stirs something within, essentially its that women have the power to change, it’s not just the men that can fix it. Women are shown as a bit weak or not even there, which isn’t my reality. For instance boys will be boys is uttered by both male and female in the world I reside in, it’s a catch all excuse that doesn’t correct a young males behavior, which skews a perspective for life. Everyone has a role to educate themselves, listen to themselves and just be a person rather than behave according to a gender, however it’s tricky to reflect when you’re following prebuilt/ learned traits, and you’re not even in secondary school, far better that you don’t have to reprogram yourself later on in life.

        It’s good that the ad is worked from a perspective of there is another way to behave and let me guide you young man, definitely we can help each other learn, just why can’t a woman just the once not be a cuddle giver but someone that guides, has experience, understands and has the level of intelligence to not just pull a face, give a disappointing look, whilst she strives off into the distance in her beautiful clothes, hair flowing, and her scent dancing in the air.

        It’s a start, and from first hand experience it would seem in America the average person and those in power behave and think very differently to those in the UK and Europe, their leader takes advantage of a young intern, our then leader has a consensual relationship with a normal (but intensely vile) colleague. Not to dismiss any instance of everyday assault from males to females or males, as a male that has been assulted by a male on the tube, and two males in a hair salon I know it happens, that in that moment everything feels different and your voice is lost, no matter how much bigger and stronger you are than those doing it. Being in a trapped environment lives with you long after, despite on further thought of it being on the scale of things only uncomfortable not harrowing folk have been through much worse than someone grabbing your crotch on the tube, or having two crotches rubbed into you whilst having a haircut. This was boys being boys, it happens far more to females and I’d imagine not many grown up males have had similar experiences but I know females will have had many similar and worse, I only present it to say it’s important that the right group is presented with the need to go the furthest, it is a predominately male issue, which is not due to class or power, it’s an everyday thing for females to put up with, be it having their hair smelt or flicked by a stranger or a co worker, being paid less than a male, overlooked for a job, undermined in a relationship all the way through to sexual assault, physical abuse and murder.

        so I get why it doesn’t go as far as I’d like it to, just think they could do a uk version that gives society a bit more credit, and more of a push forward, there is such a long way to go, it can be done quicker than it is, by both male and female, I’d bet if Mrs May got upskirted it wouldn’t take as long to have such a thing result in a prison sentence or the novel idea of the education of the perpetrator as to why it’s disgusting on a human level. In all seriousness it should be part of the curriculum in schools, colleges and universities, and if someone already understands ( before someone says well I don’t need to be taught not to be rapey) it they’ll know the importance of others understanding it.

        • Girl on the net says:

          “my point is not really about the ad, it stirs something within, essentially its that women have the power to change, it’s not just the men that can fix it.”
          You … think that women should be responsible for making men behave better?

          “why can’t a woman just the once not be a cuddle giver but someone that guides, has experience, understands and has the level of intelligence to not just pull a face, give a disappointing look, whilst she strives off into the distance in her beautiful clothes, hair flowing, and her scent dancing in the air.”
          I don’t understand this?

          Sorry, I’m really confused by your comment. It seems like you’re saying that there’s a problem, but equally you’re criticising the advert because it doesn’t show enough that women are also a problem? I honestly am just a bit baffled.

          • Bob Hoskins says:

            The ad only shows a woman giving a cuddle to a little boy, there wasn’t a role for a woman to be positive or even negative. The problem of anyone’s behavior is learned traits from birth whatever the influence Tv, parents, peers, etc, the ad perpetuates that it wishes to illicit change in male behavior- good, but it only focuses on the male proportion of the world population being able to help change other males, it does also imply tacitly that the reason for poor male behavior is due solely down to males which is incorrect, and belittles females – that a females behavior good or bad is not strong enough to be taken on board by a male child. I’d guess that some may say a female will only bring up a male child how male society expects her to, but the ad reinforces that a female doesn’t matter, males dictate how a male should behave good or bad.

            If it was really about change, empowerment etc I’d have liked to see a women in the ad doing something, anything other than walk down the street or give a cuddle. It’s not important to me if a male or a female says boys will be boys, its something plenty of people of any gender say, it’s part of the problem, and as behavior is learned / unlearned and education is seen in society as being given by the intelligent, the wise and this ad is about in part gender equality id have liked to have seen a female impart some wisdom, guidance to a young male so that there is a portrayal of a female being worth listening to, again on a basic level why would it only be a male that can tell another male what they are doing isn’t correct. Why wasn’t there a positive female influence.

            if a basic advert centered on equality can’t show a women giving even the basic advice to even a young male, what message does that engrain / back up ? That a women can’t have a perspective on a male, can’t tell him how to behave, that the boys are still in charge but we’ll make it more tolerable for the females and the weaker males, we’ll not bully the weak males, we won’t chase females down the street, we’ll not mansplain your ideas in the office, let the little males have a wrestle in front of you, girls don’t like that of course but likewise males are still in charge it’s our world hey everyone knows it but we are going to now kinda leave you alone.

            Naturally that would be moving on from the current ills in society, but it’s not equality.

            That is my perspective of the ad, everyone will have a different one. I don’t think society is as bad as it was, change is happening, if things like the ad help things on then great, I can’t see it is being wholly negative, it’s just not as positive as it could and should be.

            Hopefully that’s all a little clearer but it could just be more of a riddle. Just to further clarify… I hate Piers Morgan, and Katie Hopkins…. it’s sad that my phone knows both of these as full names and auto fills….

          • Girl on the net says:

            So… your issue with an ad about men is that it is *not about women*?

  • Ferns says:

    Thank you for this. I really appreciate it.

    I’m with SpaceCaptainSmith on how I feel about it: It always makes me conflicted.

    IF they were a brand who had been living these values publicly and proudly and then they did this, I’d be ‘hell yeah’ing’ about it.They aren’t.

    When big brands co-opt ‘the current popular cause’ for viral marketing, I feel like a sucker caught between ‘hey good message’ and I’m being manipulated so they can make another billion dollars.

    It’s smart marketing with a good message and it’s an important conversation to have. And look, maybe this is who we are now: Where a well-crafted marketing piece by an international conglomerate creates more discussion and visibility than all the activists and advocates who do a shit-ton of work on it.

    I’m still mad about it.


    • Girl on the net says:

      Yeah, I’m with you and I think they definitely deserve that kind of criticism – I’d hope that this ad is a step towards them doing better on other levels.

  • M says:

    It’s an ad, and anyone who forgets that ads exist for any reason other than ‘buy my stuff/like and subscribe/donate’ and so on, is being silly.
    That said, it is reflective of a bit of a shift, hopefully, in the right direction. It is well made, it is a strong positive message.
    It shows up the MRAs and other misogynist trashbags for what they are – scared, sad people who know how shit they really are.
    Made this.

  • Vek says:

    I’m standing on the more ‘moderated grounds’ when it comes to Gillette and claim that this ad is in no way helping anything or anyone. It is caricatural at most. I’ve rarely seen such a backlash from viewers in my life. It looks like one of those conspiracy agenda by some post-marxism dude on chill pills. As a man, I would never approach men’s masculinity in everyday life as they did, especially with their palpable arrogance to parents raising their sons as normal boys. I’ve never abused a woman nor do I think anybody in my circle did. I once had a sexual abuser in my company, harassing EVERY women. I fired him once I got told. I try to do my best and be ethical.

    So fuck off Gillette, go back to selling razors and let people speak for themselves. I’m the man I want to be. I live well with my masculinity and the least thing I need in my life is your damn personal insecurity. This discussion must absolutely be approached by men living extremely well with their own masculinity otherwise it’s time wasted.

    • Girl on the net says:

      Could you point me to the part of the advert you’re referring to when you say Gillette displays arrogance towards ‘parents raising their sons as normal boys’? Which scene do you think represents this?

  • fuzzy says:

    Whatever else you said in this post that has merit, for me the best two are these: “But ultimately I keep coming back to the fact that the new Gillette ad simply wouldn’t have existed ten years ago.” and “It takes years to change minds. Decades…”


  • jwbenn78 says:

    As a divorced father of two children, a boy and a girl, I find myself both fascinated and conflicted on this matter.
    On the one hand I find the ad very emotive, quite a powerful message in fact, one that I would be proud of my son to follow, and the kind of man I hope my daughter looks for.
    However, also as a divorced man I find that it is not only men who need to change their views, but also women as well.
    Without turning this into a one man sob story, and without wearing the ‘nice guy’ label (I read your post on that, and it was a well needed kick up the ass for me GOTN, for which I am thankful for), it is… if I may say without being lynched… quite a difficult time to be a single man, especially at my age.
    A few years ago, every girl wanted a man that was a rugged 50 shades of Grey type; now, something different, in quite a short space of time.
    A man must not only judge his own character very carefully before approaching a potential date; but also what women want in a man in general.
    Nowadays society overall needs to adjust its attitudes to both sexes; men should not be pressured to act a certain way as they have been raised to by their peers and fathers; just as mothers no longer impress on their daughters that they should marry, stay at home and have kids.
    As I say, society has become quite fickle when it comes to gender… and as morality shifts and lines blur… a more considered approach is needed in what we teach our kids, behave ourselves, and portray in society.

    • Girl on the net says:

      Your comment is fascinating because while I’m sure you mean well, it seems to get more wrong with every line. I think the problem is that you’re believing stereotypes, then when people challenge those stereotypes you’re saying ‘it’s so hard to know exactly what men/women should be!’ The answer is: not stereotypes. I’ll try and write a longer reply later, if you’re up for me using your comment as the basis for a blog post? It will be critical, but I think your questions are common ones, and I’d like to give a fuller answer.

      • jwbenn78 says:

        Hi GOTN,
        If it is my comment you are commenting on then yes I would welcome this.
        TBH I had an opinion, and then lost it half way through whilst typing.
        I started to read your blog some time ago out of horniness if I’m honest, but have found it useful in not only getting a sense of ‘what women want’ (I know, I’m cringing at using that), but also in analyzing my own behavior and mind set towards sex and relationships in general.
        Maybe it’s more difficult than I realized to portray an opinion or viewpoint without letting ones own experiences, and if I’m honest personal failures, skew that viewpoint.
        But you are right in your reply; stereotypes must be shed, and individuality should take point.

  • Vida says:

    Oh – you’ve probably seen this, but it looks like we are winning.

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