The Gillette Ad: Corporate PR, But With A Needed Message

Gillette's Campaign Holds A Higher Purpose Other Than PR

While motives for creating the new ad campaign are up for debate, it's a plea for men to reflect on the way they live and treat each other that came at a critical time in modern society.

HASmith
HASmith
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Gillette's recent commercial sends a strong message: men need to take a long look in the mirror and reassess how they perceive masculinity and respond to sexism. For some viewers, however, this message is lost on them due to the corporate nature and profit motives of the ad. That's a shame.

"We Believe: The Best Men Can Be," as the advertisement is titled, has caused a storm of controversy since its online debut last Sunday. The ad shows how many men have used the "boys will be boys" attitude towards masculinity to justify being bystanders to acts of bullying and sexual harassment by males before calling on those men to be better and to teach other men and boys to take an active stand against the toxic aspects of outdated perceptions of masculinity. The ad has since angered many people on the Internet, with some going as far as to boycott Gillette for what they perceive as an assault on masculinity. Many pieces have already addressed this and I'm aware that this opinion is not new.

However, there is another reason some viewers denounce the ad: Gillette is simply exploiting the #MeToo movement for its own financial gain and is not sincere in its supposed desire for change. And to an extent, they're not entirely wrong.

According to a recent NBC News article, the rise of competitors in the shaving products industry has caused Gillette's share of the industry to shrink from 70% in 2010 to 54% in 2016. Obviously, Gillette had to find some way to boost its profile in order to fight the trend; by directly addressing the more toxic effects of outdated perceptions of masculinity and igniting such a controversy online, it has done just that. The axiom "any attention is good attention" comes to mind.

This is not the first time that big brands have tried to piggyback off sometimes controversial activist messages to boost their products' profiles. Nike's "Just Do It" ad line in 2018 - which featured former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick and his decision to kneel during the National Anthem at football games to protest racial injustice - is the most well-known advertising campaign of this type. Other companies have made similar moves, such as Pepsi when it not-so-discreetly referenced the Black Lives Matter movement in a notorious 2017 ad featuring Kendall Jenner.

And Proctor & Gamble - Gillette's parent company since 2007 - has a history of producing ads that address gender stereotypes; when advertising its line of Always tampons in 2014, for example, the company asked teenage participants to characterize what it meant to "run like a girl."

These sorts of advertisements have become commonplace enough to warrant their own term: commodity activism. Coined in 2012 by Roopali Mukherjee and Sarah Banet-Weiser, professors at the City University of New York and the London School of Economics respectively, commodity activism refers to the employment of rising political or activist sentiments to garner support or attention for a particular brand. As Banet-Weiser put it in a 2018 Vox article, "The use of brands to "sell" dissent is not a new business strategy. Individual consumers act politically by purchasing particular brands over others in a competitive marketplace, where specific brands are attached to political aims and goals."

In the era of the #MeToo movement, when large portions of American society are actively speaking out against sexual assault, harassment, violence against women, and the "boys will be boys" attitude, the Gillette ad is clearly the latest example of commodity activism. Profit motives are indeed driving the creation of this ad.

And yet, it would be a shame to let Gillette's behind-the-scenes motives negate from the powerful message of the ad.

Regardless of its corporate nature, the ad still unequivocally tells male viewers that using masculinity as justification for permitting sexism, bullying, and harassment is unacceptable. It tries to show that being a good man is about building other people up, not using one's gender to put other people down. In a time when so many core institutions in American society ranging from the media and entertainment industry to the Supreme Court of the United States are shaken by serious findings and allegations of sex-related abuses by some of the men in their ranks, the message of the ad very much needs to be heard.

In some ways, the fact that the message is coming from a brand as well-known and respected as Gillette is what makes the ad special. Having served as a leading provider of men's products for over a century, the Gillette has a special connection the male consumers that other brands do not. In other words, it means a lot when the product that has called itself "the best a man can get" for so long calls on men themselves to be better. Doing so was risky, and the brand has faced online backlash from many men that are part of its customer base for choosing to run the ad. Yet, millions of men heard the message because of Gillette's unique position.

So yes, the Gillette ad is corporate PR. But that is no excuse for ignoring a valuable message that men, and society as a whole, need to hear: neither one's gender one's sex gives them permission to hurt or demean other people that are not like them. We would do better to heed such advice.

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47 Things All Female Athletes Have Said

Yes, I know I am sweating a lot. No, I do not enjoy practices. Yes, I have said all 47 of these.
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Whether you're a collegiate athlete, or a high school one, you have probably found yourself saying most of these phrases. Us athletes know that the athlete life isn't for everyone, and we often find ourselves questioning if it's still for us. So, this is for all my fellow athletes.

All my fellow athletes who know the struggle is undoubtedly real, and who find themselves saying these 47 phrases almost as often as I do.

* * *

1. Do you have an extra hair tie?

2. What if we just said no? What if we just didn't run when the whistle is blown?

3. I, like, really, am not feeling practice today.

4. Do these pants make my quads look big?

5. Are you going to eat before or after practice?

6. I'm so sore.

7. Want to get McDonald's after practice?

8. Did you see that she wore makeup to a preseason practice?

9. I actually looked like a girl today.

10. I wonder what college would be like if I wasn't an athlete.

11. We're up before the sun way too often.

12. Is it gross if I don't shower after weights?

13. How hard do you think practice will be today?

14. Coach is literally crazy.

15. I ate like 20 minutes ago, so there's a 50% chance I puke during this practice.

16. I'm not going to drink the protein shake they gave us because it's going to make me gain weight.

17. I think my legs are bigger than his, so I can't date him.

18. I think my arms are bigger than his, so I can't date him.

19. Today in class a non-athlete was talking about how busy her schedule is. It was so annoying.

20. Thinking about preseason makes me want to cry.

21. Is it even healthy for us to have this many practices in one day?

22. I'll be right back, I'm having PGD (pre-game dumps).

23. I think I'm going to throw up.

24. I should have worked out more on my own.

25. How do other girls have the energy to put makeup on for class every day?

26. My legs are dead.

27. Why did we think being a college athlete was a good idea?

28. Do you think coach will be mad if I have to go pee?

29. I think I peed my pants a little bit during conditioning.

30. Should I wear my hair in a pony-tail, or in a bun?

31. I should probably start eating healthy soon.

32. Only six more practices until the weekend, we can do this.

33. I'd rather be sore for a week straight than climb into this ice bath.

34. They might have beat us, but at least we're still pretty.

35. I can't wait to celebrate our win this weekend.

36. How many hours of sleep did you get? I got 6, it was crazy, I feel so refreshed.

37. I look like such a boy right now.

38. Will you braid my hair?

39. That referee totally rigged the game. We should have won.

40. I think I'd hate being a reg (regular student).

41. It's OK if I eat this since we had conditioning this morning, right?

42. If you're not doing homework, get off the bus Wi-Fi, everybody.

43. These pants fit my legs perfectly but are huge on my waist.

44. I smell so bad right now that I can smell myself.

45. I bet my grades would be so much better if I wasn't an athlete.

46. Coach only gave us, like, one water break during practice. It was horrible.

47. I am so happy that I'm an athlete.

Cover Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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'Grey's Anatomy' Taught Me Just How Important Gay Rights Are

This episode opened my eyes and heart.

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Attending a Catholic high school made it very clear in my mind that LGBTQ individuals did not fit in with society. I watched as our principle refused to allow students to invite their same-sex partners to dances. I remember our administration fighting against letting a boy on our dance team because they thought it would ruin the reputation of being a Catholic school. The way they were treated in front of me every day became the way I thought the world should treat them too. But I couldn't have been more wrong.

In season seven, episode 12 of "Grey's Anatomy," Meredith Grey encounters a patient who was trampled by horses after his partner set up a carriage ride to take them to sign their domestic partnership papers. His partner explains to Meredith that he had just wanted the day to be special because straight people get to have the most special day of their lives on their wedding day. They get the flowers, the ceremony, the reception, the gifts. At this point in time, all members of the LGBTQ got was their signature on a piece of paper.

I remember something inside of me being moved at the thought of someone simply being in love and not being able to celebrate it because people thought it was "weird" or "unnatural." I put myself in the reverse situation and thought about how much it would break my heart if society did not accept the fact that I want to marry my wonderful boyfriend some day. I cried during the scene in the show because even though it was acting, I could see just how important these two people were to each other and all of the unnecessary barriers they had to cross just to prove that their love was the same as anyone else's.

Maybe this moment was extremely late in my life to have the realization of how hard it must be for LGBTQ people to find happiness in our society, but I am glad I had that realization at all.

Certain religions crucify the LGBTQ community, saying they will go to hell for sexuality because it is a sin. Personally, I have a hard time believing that God could condemn anyone for showing another human being unconditional love.

It scares me how poisonous our society can be at times. 10 years ago, if you asked me how I felt about people in the LGBTQ community, I would probably (wrongfully) say that they freaked me out. These days, while you won't necessarily see me at a Pride parade, you will see me hyping up and supporting my awesome gay best friend to go after his crush. You will see me taking girls hitting on me as a compliment rather than something weird. You will see me openly supporting gay rights because it is the right things to do, human to human.

The saying "love is love" is so simple, yet so incredibly true.

I can't help how much I love my boyfriend and I would never in a million years expect someone to tell me to stop. Who are we to tell members of the LGBTQ community to stay in some box society and religion have built? We aren't. Love is love and you can never and will never be able to put rules and restrictions on a feeling.

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