The Best Any of Us Can Be
Four days ago a close friend included me in a group text with the topic of the chat a new Gillette commercial slated to hit TV soon if not already there. Now let me say that I don’t watch TV, so often times I find myself behind on certain cultural stirrings. Everyone in on the chat, a total of four people myself included, are all very important people in my life which I mention because I feel it is important to understand the conflict I was about to feel upon watching said commercial.
So I watched the linked ad.
My immediate first feeling of it was uncomfortable. I had a few ideas why I felt this way but I like to take my time coming to conclusions about complex things because they merit careful introspection.
My friend wanted to know everyone’s thoughts on the commercial which often happens as everyone in the chat holds different views on a wide range of topics. We often like to converse in-depth about different political and social issues. This friend thought it was a beautifully done commercial that was long overdue. However, they mentioned that the comments the commercial was generating online were making her lose her faith in humanity. Which, to her defense, I feel is a sentiment many people feel when browsing almost any comment section now a day. A second friend agreed with the first, this commercial was saying something profound.
I could already anticipate where this chat was about to go.
The third friend thought the message was good but took some issue with the delivery of it. This third friend was slightly baffled at the ad's message of holding others accountable for their poor actions. If one doesn’t associate with people who make such poor decisions then how should they be held morally responsible for correcting the actions of these others? This third friend also took issue with the negative aspects of the message specifically aimed at men.
The debate then progressed to freedom of speech, censorship, the sexism behind some of the censorship, double standards, and the denial that certain things were double standards, click-baiting, feminism, and patriarchy. It was a night at the opera, nothing but drama. It was all going back and forth so fast it was hard to keep up with. My phone was just a buzzing, notification conniption.
I didn’t want to even get into the debate because it was so polarizing. I made a few comments about supporting freedom of speech and being against sexism but I said little and I mentioned nothing about the commercial. Since that first text on the evening of January 15, 2019, the Internet has exploded over this divisive ad. Everyone seems to be talking about it (just look at the views on it) and most people fall into one of two camps: love or hate.
Those that love it can’t see how anyone could take issue with the central message of the ad, which is to strive to be a better person. How could anyone take issue with that they wonder?
Those that hate it say that it is targeting men, telling them that they are despicable people, and they are the root of all evil. How could anyone not see that the ad is biased against men?
So, what do I think about the ad?
Firstly, it’s an ad. Advertising is designed to make people spend their money in new ways the company wants; it is always self-interested by design. People are either flocking to buy Gillette razors now to show support or swearing off buying them all together. I’m interested to see what the polarizing campaign does to their sales, probably good things because since the dawn of the Mach 3, I can't say the company has stood out in my mind for years.
Or am I to just speak to the social altruism Gillette is trying to cash in on as other businesses have recently?
Let's have that social-based answer then:
My short answer is that while the heart of the message is a positive one, the delivery and wording of the message was inefficient and biased if the goal is to make this world a better place for everyone in it.
The ad displays and mentions what has been coined as toxic masculinity, I hate the term but I’ll use it for the sake of this conversation, but that isn’t the full problem. The problem is toxic behavior and everyone does it. EVERYONE. Calling it toxic masculinity is at best only addressing half of the issue and at worst placing the blame on a particular group of people, whether offending or not, and making them understandably defensive about it.
Gillette makes razors for women so why are they being excluded so completely from this ad? Surely women could see the benefit of working towards being the best version of themselves also. If this ad is actually the very positive thing that some argue it is then why don't we want to see the same done for women? Shouldn’t we see this exclusion as sexist? Should we possibly perceive this as Gillette saying that there isn’t also something that could be irritatingly coined as toxic femininity? Are there not female toxic traits that are evident just as there are toxic male ones? Of course, there are. It’s all just toxic behavior, a general term, and that is a term I can get behind.
I’m writing this because I can’t stop thinking about it, I can’t leave it alone. I can’t stop thinking about how our media and culture is doing us all the disservice of playing the social 'hero' and pointing out the faults of particular groups of people which only serves to divide us.
Everything these days in the media is alt-left verses alt-right, women versus men, black versus white, oppressed versus oppressors, socialists versus capitalists, atheism versus religion when really we all have so much more in common than we have differences. We see this common ground, our shared sorrows, and struggles when we talk to each other as human beings with dignity. When we get to know each other beyond the superficial small talk, hear one another’s opinion, and get to know what has to lead a person to feel the way that they do, that is when we realize we’re all just trying to do the same things. We all want the same things in general, to prosper. But all too easily do we judge one sentence from a person, like their view on a razor commercial, and decide we know all there is to know about that person and how they feel on all other topics.
It’s not ok. Do not put people in boxes. These are not definitions of people. This is toxic. And if someone does exhibit some toxic quality it is not because they are a woman or a man or an atheist or of a certain culture, they are just being human and seeing the world through their lense of experience. Everyone feels the way that they do for a reason, try to understand their reasons. And more importantly, humans can change.
The media: reporters, tv shows, movies, social media, comment sections, and newspapers are fracking our communities, our unity, and it is only through our unity that we can ever hope to overcome our biggest obstacles. Be pro-everyone.
The pro-Gillette people are often only looking one way before crossing the street as are the anti-Gillette people. They're looking only in opposite directions of the same street and assuming they have all the knowledge they need to safely cross it. One needs to look both ways, assess the danger from both directions because those dangers are both real.
Can’t we all agree on that?
All I know is that this Gillette commercial will not have it's desired effect on me. It will not make me spend my money any differently then I was before.