Here at BritMums we love good ads — ones that make us laugh, ones that make us cry. We’re not above spending leisure time watching our favourite advertisements on YouTube.
The latest one to hit our playlist is the new Gillette ad, entitled We Believe: The Best Men Can Be, about the role of men in these #MeToo times.
Before you do anything, watch it.
What’s astounding is that there is now a backlash against this ad. Men are angry, saying they will no longer buy from Gillette or P&G, its parent company. Piers Morgan, never one to let pass an opportunity to spout utter rubbish, has said he will boycott Gillette. ‘Men these days don’t know what the hell they’re doing…all the qualities that were good in men are being portrayed as evil.’
Right. All those good qualities like talking over women in the office, harrassing them on the street. All those wonderful childhood moments for boys when they gang up on other kids, use their fists or social media to make others feel terrible about themselves.
It all has us stroking our chins at BritMums with the idea that somehow this ad — they’re calling it a short film — is against ‘masculine’ men because it advocates men stepping up to call out bullying and sexism and be role models. This certainly would have surprised our own dads, who even in the generation before ours would not have countenanced their children or their friends menacing other kids, catcalling women or using physical force whenever they got angry.
We love that the ad shows men in a range of ages, a range of ethnicities, and is affirming caring masculinity. It references the #MeToo movement. It features the actor and former NFL player Terry Crews, himself an outspoken victim of sexual harassment and, you better believe, a masculine man.
We love that ‘Gillette has partnered with the Building A Better Man project, which seeks to reduce violent behaviour in men, and The Boys and Girls Club of America, which helps young men develop better social and communication skills. It’s also donating $1m (around £778,000) a year for the next three years to US charities aimed at supporting men,’ as the BBC reports. That’s real positive action.
No wonder men are angry, says Rebecca Reid, writing in the Telegraph. They’re suddenly being told what advertisements have been saying to women for ages: you have to change. We’re not advocating that men should be talked down tor lectured the way that women have for decades about their body hair, their weight, their personal hygiene. But we do believe it’s a positive step that one of the world’s mega-brands is talking to its consumers and asking them as a group what kind of people they want to be. (Or be with — Gillette can’t have overlooked the fact that a lot of the people buying the razors and replacement blades during the weekly shop are women.)
Reid wonders: ‘Why are men so unwilling to engage with a discussion about toxic masculinity? Why are some men so unwilling to understand that the expression ‘toxic masculinity’ doesn’t mean that all masculinity is toxic, rather than some aspects of masculinity – such as repressing your feelings and expressing anger through violence – are oppressive to both men and women?’
We agree with Reid that the moment for point-scoring is over. Change is difficult and it’s hard to have your beliefs — like ‘boys will be boys’ — challenged. (We still hear this phrase from fellow parents, who use it as an explanation for everything from a boy’s desire to play outside to ‘roughhousing’ to a taste for playing with trucks. Even while our ideas about what girls can do, wear and be has expanded, expectations for boys have lagged. There is still great pressure for them to act, dress and live certain ways.)
This isn’t merely about preferring a certain type of toy. It’s an opportunity to show our children what a real man is. One who loves and protects. One who provides and shares. One who respects himself and others. One who is strong and caring. ‘Because the boys of today will be the men of tomorrow’, as the Gillette ad says.
That’s a great message to promote, no matter how you slice it.