I watch significantly more YouTube videos than I should. In the heaps of media that I consume on a daily basis, very seldom do I pay attention to advertisements. More often than not, I see adverts as an obstacle; if I am not watching the yellow line creep right toward my next video, I watch ads with the skepticism? [reservation has weird connotations]  of a jaded consumer. It is only when an advertisement oversteps its role as a distant annoyance that I lean in to show even a minor amount of interest. Perhaps, in this sense, Gillette had the right idea. However, the commercial spearheading the fight against toxic masculinity for our times, "We Believe: The Best Men Can Be," has drawn considerable flack from all sides. The ad depicts headlines from the #MeToo movement and male apathy towards female hypersexualization, and asserts that “boys will be boys” diffuses the responsibility men have to raise sensitive and aware male citizens. There are so many different, conflicting opinions about the still smoldering issue of #MeToo that this ad may be difficult to decipher in the context of today’s sociopolitical climate. This article is a discussion of the validity of the various arguments put forward by an outraged audience on social media.

Post-Super Bowl, the bold message might have been expected in the  melodramatic environment of the commercial breaks. However, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer, Gillette’s parent company, Procter & Gamble, will not air the commercial simply because it is too long. “[Procter & Gamble] officials say the reason is not male or conservative blowback, but the cost.” It certainly would have been less of a shock to viewers as one of many controversial Super Bowl ads. The placement of such a heavy ad preceding such things as Vine compilations and Cardi B music videos was a conclusively odd decision for Gillette. Yanked out of a typical relaxing YouTube escape, disgruntled user “ghhn” remarked in the ad’s comments section, “Dear Diary: today I got lectured by a shaving commercial.” Similar skepticism at Gillette’s position to lecture its consumers came from Late Night host Stephen Colbert, who said, “Are our public institutions so weak that we need to be taught moral lessons by razor companies?” many opponents of the ad have adopted even more radical stances. Reddit’s r/The_Donald conflagarated with talk that Gillette was deleting comments and dislikes and discussion that dismisses the ad as “feminist poison.” This degree of confusion is warranted; however, this is not the first time Gillette has tried to change the social sphere of gender. 

Though it was significantly less virtuous, Vox cites a 1917 ad the company ran, which reads: “Milady Decolette is the dainty little Gillette used by the well-groomed woman to keep the underarm white and smooth.” The article concludes that it is impossible to tell whether Gillette facilitated the villainization of women’s body hair for the sake of profit, but it certainly helped perpetuate the message and particular gender roles that are contributing to the problem the company is  trying to address with this ad. Many are rightly calling Gillette hypocritical for other reasons, too. “Thanks for the moral advice, multi-national company that was recently caught profiting off forced child labour and price fixing,” asserts  the user “Peanut” in the YouTube comment section. This comment has over 35,000 upvotes as a repost, because it is believed that Gillette deleted the original comment along with many others. These claims are unsubstantiated. Although the negative reaction to hypocrisy is valid, one is pressed to find any definitive evidence of any of these phenomena from reputable news sources.

The most informed perspective on this issue comes from the New York Times interview of Dean Crutchfield. “Dean Crutchfield [is], the chief executive of the brand advisory firm Crutchfield & Partners. ‘If this is just a quick campaign to get some attention, not something they’re weaving into the fabric of their company going forward, it’s going to blow up in their face.’” According to this logic, all the counterarguments against Gillette effectively evaporate. It does not matter that Gillette lacks the moral credibility to mention this issue because any help is better than none. It might even be beneficial for a company so entangled in gender image to set the record straight. In the same way, any company as big as Procter & Gamble is likely to have significant and inexcusable shortcomings like the aforementioned child labor and price fixing scandal. Whether or not this advertisement is a way to misdirect the consumer’s attention, it is irrelevant in the context of the problems many Americans face. Gillette is not taking a hard stance on either of these issues and will pay for it. This does not disqualify them from taking a strong stance in another field of play and doing some good. If Gillette is making a good-faith effort to fight toxic masculinity, its only crime would be flippancy toward the issue, as  Crutchfield mentioned. If this stance/issue? melts away from Gillette’s message after the controversy blows over, one may judge it a rotten company using the wave of #MeToo for profit. For now, this social upheaval is necessary, and we need all hands on deck.