Gillette's Newest Campaign Steps Up Against Toxic Masculinity

In its new commercial, Gillette addresses bullying, sexual harassment and toxic masculinity. The ad, titled “We Believe,” has been both praised and derided. Many view the spot as a show of solidarity with women in light of the #MeToo movement, while some are offended by its political correctness and supposed attack on men.

The ad follows the trend of multinational companies making a statement that is seen by some as political. A few months ago, Nike was criticized by some groups after they released a campaign that featured Colin Kaepernick. The football player-turned-activist, who lost his NFL career after refusing to stand for the national anthem, has been critical of police brutality and racial profiling. Despite the predictable backlash with many threatening to boycott the sneaker company, Nike sales surged 31% in the days after the Colin Kaepernick ad was released.

The Gillette ad, which questions if misogynistic behavior is “the best a man can get,” juxtaposes traditional sexist behavior with a more modern defense of women’s rights. The clip, produced with advertising giant WPP’s Grey unit, was directed by Australian filmmaker Kim Gehrig.

"As a company that encourages men to be their best, we have a responsibility to make sure we are promoting positive, attainable, inclusive and healthy versions of what it means to be a man," Gillette said in a statement.

The commercial, which shows some men disrespecting and dismissing women, also shows other men standing up for women. The ad’s ultimate message is intended to illustrate how men can lead by example and influence a whole generation of boys to do better by women.

Gillette has announced that it will donate $1 million per year for the next three years to non-profits that develop programs in the US, such as the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, that encourage men to become role models for the next generation by promoting respect and responsibility.

"We expected debate — discussion is necessary. For every negative reaction, we've seen many positive reactions, people calling the effort courageous, timely, smart, and much-needed," the company said. "At the end of the day, sparking conversation is what matters. This gets people to pay attention to the topic and encourages them to consider taking action to make a difference."

Gillette, which has reportedly seen sales decline with the growing popularity of beards and shaving subscription services, like Harry’s, may ultimately benefit from the campaign, like Nike did, though it will take some time for the furor from those who feel slighted to die down.

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“This commercial isn’t anti-male. It’s pro-humanity,” wrote Bernice King, daughter of the civil rights leader Martin Luther King. “And it demonstrates that character can step up to change conditions.”

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