Gillette: The Best a Man Can Get?

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Gillette recently released an advertising campaign title "We Believe." There are two versions of this commercial up on YouTube - a 30 second TV spot and a 2 minute short film. If you have not seen either of these videos, I would recommend watching the longer version as it does a better job of getting the point of the commercial across. You can watch the video below.

What exactly is the point of this video? That is where the videos controversy lies; at the time of writing this, both videos had a combined 312k upvotes and 758k downvotes on YouTube. There were those who were praising this commercial and those who were condemning this commercial.

The three most popular sides of the controversy seem to be :

  1. Gillette is telling men to step up and be positive role models for the next generation of men instead of allowing the caricatures of men a generation had seen in media, which lead to the normalizing of these awful behaviors, to set the standard for what it means to be a man; using "boys will be boys" is not an acceptable reason for sexual harassment, bullying, and fighting.
  2. Gillette is insulting the men who do not have to step up, because they are already being positive role models for the next generation of men, by grouping them together with those who have acted in a manner contrary to what it truly means to be a man; there were men before the #MeToo movement who were positive role models and who did not believe that sexual harassment and bullying were acceptable.
  3. Gillette is overstepping their boundaries as a razor company by giving us an advertisement which does not sell a razor but attempts to enter the realm of socially aware advertising.

All sides would agree that Gillette is attempting to address what it means to be a man and hopes to inspire men to act like men.

Plenty of digital ink has been spilled either praising or condemning this ad, so I will not try to take up any of these previous arguments but rather offer three of the thoughts I have had regarding this ad.

First, Gillette called out the media (kinda). While the words of the ad were directed towards men, they acknowledged in their "its been going on for far too long" montage that sexual harassment was portrayed as normal male behavior in movies, television shows, and music. The responsibility to raise the next generation of men and women should not come from the media, but from positive role models around them. Hollywood usually portrays itself as the hero, often forgetting the role that it played in creating and enabling this problem.

Second, from most of the arguments I have seen from either side - they both agree that sexual harassment and bullying are bad. With the rise of social media we have had numerous changes in the way we interact with people; one of those changes is that we now listen to react verses listening to understand - I read something on social media and I am immediately given the option to respond. Do I like this? Do I have a comment? Instead of sitting and pondering what you have read, you need to have an immediate reaction so you can move on to the next item and not fall behind on the latest trends.

Third, regardless of your thoughts on whether or not Gillette did a noble thing in this ad, I think we could all agree on the importance of positive role models. For Christians, this realization should not come primarily from culture but from reading the Bible. The Bible has an incredibly high view of humanity: we have been created in the image of God (Gen 1:27) and crowned with glory and honor (Ps 8:5). Throughout Scripture we see the elevating of women in a culture which did not view them as important (Ruth, Esther, Prov 31, Luke 24:9-10), we see a call for men to respect and love their wives like Christ loves the Church (Eph 5:25), we see a call to do away with, among other sins, sexual immorality, slander, and filthy language (Col 3:5-10), and to treat others as we would want to be treated (Matt 7:12); in their ad Gillette says that something changed with the #MeToo movement - Gillette is right that something changed in culture, but the Scripture's standards for a person's character was already there (the #ChurchToo movement shed light on the fact that terrible evils have happened in the church as well; if you experienced this evil, I hate that something so heinous was done in what should have been a safe place and I pray for God's justice to be done).

The Bible calls Christians to a high character standard, as their character is to bring God glory (1 Cor 10:31, Matt 5:16, 1 Pet 1:14-15); the Bible is honest that we are unable to do this without being saved through the blood of the Lamb and empowered through the Holy Spirit (Rom 8:11-14, 1 Cor 6:11, Eph 2:1-10). Christian, whether you rejoiced when you saw this commercial or were outraged we can all agree that your standard for how you live and treat other people should not come from a convicting commercial or a trending hashtag; it does not come from culture, it comes from Christ.

Whether you viewed the Gillette commercial and were inspired or offended or indifferent, may you follow the Holy Spirit's leading and guiding as He conforms you into the image of Christ (Rom 8:29, 2 Cor 3:28); it is His voice, not the voice of culture, which leads us closer to Christ. There may be times when we hear the faint echo of the Spirit in culture, but let us be wary of equating the two.

Do not be a positive role model just because an ad tells us we should be, but because of who Christ calls us to be.

It is Christ, not Gillette, that is the best a man can get.

This post originally appeared on "When I Have a Second"

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Community Builder

Thanks for posting this article Philip. Assessing the culture of which we are a part is so very challenging, because it's so much a part of us. Questions about how much the culture outside the Church affects the culture inside the Church, and where exactly our values and ways of thinking come from, are difficult to decipher.  This includes our thinking about what it means to be a man or a woman. Listening carefully to others who are different from us, who bring other cultural perspectives can be very valuable.  

 

I think one of the main points of the video segments Gillette has created is to emphasize what's also known as bystander intervention. Most men do not harass or abuse women, yet the silence of men in general serves to condone and normalize these behaviors. Kudos to Gillette for speaking up! And we, as Christians, who value all people created in the very image of God, must also not remain silent, but speak up against whatever devalues and harms people. The messages we send, whether they be in word or deed, show up in the generations that follow us. It's good to ask and carefully consider, what are we teaching our boys about what it means to be a man? What messages are they getting from the Church? I applaud using Jesus Christ himself as our example.

 

Community Builder

Caricaturing (or stereotyping) any group of people is problematic.  Nevertheless, it's a popular thing to to.  We caricature men, women, black people, white people, rich people, poor people, immigrants, citizens, thin people, fat people, Dutch, Italian, Chinese, Christian, Buddist, the list goes on forever.

I think that we generally do better when we challenge or oppose the bad acts of people rather than try to correlate a certain kind of bad act with a certain group of people (with the possible exception of the group of people who actually did the bad acts, e.g., rapists, as in those who actually rape).

This Gillette commercial communicates an association between men, generally, with a variety of bad acts.  And only men.  In truth, women assault too, even rape.  And women raise children (boys and girls) badly too.  So should we oppose men or should we oppose assault and rape and raising children badly?  I'd generally choose the latter. 

This commercial suggests that men are the problem, not people who assault and rape and teach their children badly; and that men need to fix the problem, not people.

It is intellectually easier to stereotype.  It allows us to skip being nuanced, of dealing with the messier reality.  It also creates oppressor/victim categories that, these days especially, can be used to leverage power.  Still, we do well to avoid it.

 

Guide

I get that stereotyping a group is not always helpful - I often feel at a loss with the great and unfortunate divisions of our current society. Yet at the same time, in my opinion, when there is need for cultural change, shining a bit of light on an empirical generalization with a statistical basis - is necessary. 

I do agree with our article here that violence against women should no longer be seen as a "women's issue." We need a paradigm shift to it being seen as a "men's issue." 

Community Builder

I agree that violence against women should not be seen as a "women's issue" but I don't think it ever has been.  I've been practicing law for 40 years.  In this decades, I've not seen the sheriff, nor city police, nor DA consider violence against women as a "women's issue."  Indeed, if there is a problem that I've seen, it is that law enforcement, because of internal rules, is not allowed to use their usual discretion when a woman reports an abuse.  In all other cases, law enforcement is allowed to "not make an arrest" or the DA can dismiss when the woman says she wants it dismissed.  But not here.

Real world example: In my last criminal trial, my client, the husband, was accused of assaulting his wife.  In truth, the accusation was a lie told by the wife (in a very short marriage) because she was attempting to extort money from her husband (they were near divorce).  The deputy sheriff arrested my client (husband, and not the wife) because, the deputy said, "he was bigger than she was."  Listening to the 911 tape records (which the deputy could have but declined) would have provided plenty of evidence that my client (husband) did not assault his wife, and that the wife had in fact assaulted the husband (she said so in the 911 conversation after being questioned by the 911 operator, both that he did not hit her and that she hit him).  But did that make a difference in terms of who was arrested and then who was -- believe it or not -- put on trial by the DA?  Nope.  (Fortunately, it did to the judge, who dismissed the case without requiring us to even put on our evidence).  And, sadly, this case was not anomalous.  The arrest and prosecution in this case reflected standard protocol.  

And this was several years before the MeToo movement.  It wasn't a MeToo movement pendulum swing.  Law enforcement prejudice AGAINST men in domestic cases, as illustrated in this actual case, has existed for decades now -- at least in my part of the country.  This assertion is probably contrary to most political narratives these days, but it is simply true, contrary narratives notwithstanding.

Understand I'm not wanting or intending to excuse male on female violence.  Not at all.  But I am trying to explain the reality that much of the "paradigm shift" many think is needed actually happened quite a long time ago, and in some cases resulted in a too-far pendulum swing.  By the way, the wife in my case, having admitted her assault in a 911 recording, was never arrested, let alone prosecuted.  The sheriff department rules that required an arrest in all domestic violence complaints (which the rules did) apparently only applied to one gender, or it applied to both genders but the department chose to ignore the rule in when the perpetrator was the wife.

And this is probably why many, men especially, are a bit ticked by the Gillette commercial.  They've been told for years that their masculinity is toxic, that men are rapists, that men assault women, that men are perpetrators and women victims.  Yes, some men do these things (but some women do too), but the accusations and charges have become much too generalized (which this commercial does), much too caricatured (which this commercial does), and much too sterotyped (which this commercial does).   That's probably why, as this article reports, the thumbs down responses badly outnumbered the thumbs up responses.

Guide

From what I understand, there was some good paradigm shifting legislation in 1994, [VAWA] Violence Against Women Act which was drafted by Biden and passed with bipartisan support. However.... due to government shutdown, that act has now expired..... 

And, yes, any person can be a victim of violence, no matter their gender. There are always so many stories that are difficult to understand and quantify. However, we also need to step back out of our own personal experiences and understand greater cultural narratives and norms. 

These stats are indicative of that:

• 72% of all murder-suicides involve an intimate partner; 94% of the victims of these crimes are female." (NCADV Michigan)

• 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men experience severe intimate partner physical violence, (ncadv.org/statistics)

• 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men in the United States has been raped in their lifetime. (ncadv.org/statistics)

After hearing Julie Owen's Story in person, (you can view her bio here) and knowing there are so many other women who have also been victimized, we can still do more to create healthy systemic cultural change. I don't see why we should  push the pendulum back... and inevitable, even if indirectly, create spaces in which more is at risk for women - who, throughout most of human history, and many still today, did not have the necessary power to remove themselves from horrible situations. 

 

Community Builder

I'm not arguing that most assaults between men and women aren't men against women, but rather that it has not heretofore been a "women's issue" such that we need to change that now and regard it as a "men's issue."

Perhaps I don't know what you mean when you say it has been a "women's issue," but I just haven't seen, in my adult life, that people or institutions have blamed the women when they are victims of men's assault or abuse.  I know that is the charge, but I've not seen that.  My account of how law enforcement in my area has regarded domestic abuse allegations was to illustrate that they have so much  considered domestic assault to be a "men's issue" that they simply assume that domestic assault is always and only caused my men, and never by women.  They've turned the statistical reality into a specific methodology for ascertaining truth.  

So if if was statistically the case that blacks commit crimes more than whites (and it is in the US), we shouldn't  say we need to stop looking at crime as a "white issue" but instead look at it as a "black issue."  Or should we?

I think we should look at assault/abuse and crime generally as a "criminal issue" and stay away from trying to point fingers (even if with some ambiguity) as an "issue" of men or women or blacks or whites, etc.  Doing otherwise tends to result in stereotyping in a counterproductive way.

Participant

Mr. Vande Griend

I have been reading this conversation in interest, and because of you, I now have a better understanding of how law enforcement and legal institutions handle domestic abuse situations. Thank you.

I do want to respond to your comment that you “just haven't seen, in my adult life, that people or institutions have blamed the women when they are victims of men's assault or abuse.” I will argue that you have seen it, but have not recognized it nor its pervasiveness. I personally know it and how pervasive it is; EVERY time I tell of my experiences, the first question I ALWAYS get it why doesn’t she leave? Maybe you have asked the same question yourself? Until I was personally involved, I did not know it was the wrong question to ask. Dr. Jackson Katz* points out how this is victim blaming. He and I argue that that is the wrong question; instead we have to ask a different question. The question is not about Mary, it’s about John; why does John abuse Mary?

Dr. Katz pioneered the “bystander” approach to the gender violence prevention (a topic for another blog post). I urge you to view his TED talk, “Violence Against Women-it’s a Men’s Issue.” In it, he points out that these are intrinsically men's issues - and shows how these violent behaviors are tied to definitions of manhood; he looks for all of us, women and men, to call out unacceptable behavior and be leaders of change. It has been viewed millions of times. I think his TED talk has been offered before on this blog, and it is well worth the 17 minutes it takes to view it. Dr. Katz talks about dominant groups, power and privilege, leadership, and victim blaming, but he also challenges us to ask the right questions like “what is the role of religious belief systems, the sports culture, the pornography culture, etc? How we can be transformative?” How can we change the practices that will lead to different outcomes? His illustration of victim blaming, near the three-minute mark, is eye-opening.

I could go on, and summarize Dr. Katz’s TED talk, but instead will, again, urge you and others to view it. Though, I will end with a quote from the end of his talk (16:28-minute mark): “... there's an awful lot of men who care deeply about these issues. I know this, I work with men, and I've been working with tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of men for many decades now.  ... but caring deeply is not enough. We need more men with the guts, with the courage, with the strength, with the moral integrity to break our complicit silence and challenge each other, and stand with women and not against them. By the way, we owe it to women. There's no question about it. But we also owe it to our sons. We also owe it to young men who are growing up all over the world in situations where they didn't make the choice to be a man in a culture that tells them that manhood is a certain way. They didn't make the choice. We that have a choice, have an opportunity and a responsibility to them as well.”

Shalom

Guide

​Thanks for posting, Phil! Definitely a lot of reactions people had to this ad... And in the end, I think Gillette got what they were going for: a needed a publicity boost as all these other razor companies are starting up. And I think they received their publicity. 

 

In my opinion, it appears to me as some good ole common grace in action. The spirit is always at work, bringing the kingdom to his creation... Great to see commercials so different from the past. I think its generally a good thing that these corporations deem it beneficial to challenge problematic sexual harassment norms. I don't mind if it comes from my personal favorite razor company, either! :) 

 

I do do hope though, that we who have the fullness of Jesus make an even bigger splash than Gillette...  It's just that Jesus' people often do their work under the radar, in the margins, without all the cameras, and $.

When the secular society takes steps to address social issues in a positive way, we should embrace this behavior even if the motive is different from ours! Showing what good behaviors look like is always positive!  

  I don’t think the ad is Stereotyping but a attempt to show what a man should strive for to be a better human! Thx

Community Builder

I agree that embracing what's positive and justice-building is a good place to be. Linda Crockett, a person I admire a lot, who is working to build a movement to end child sexual abuse, talks about different streams joining to form a movement. One of the streams is the faith community - with different tributaries, like Christianity, and even smaller tributaries like the CRC. When this justice stream joins other streams, all moving toward a better humanity - in this instance moving to end violence against women - that's a good thing.

Participant

Amen, sister, amen!

I agree Bonnie, Amen!

I agree Bonnie, Amen!

Hmmm...it's almost like men should teach their sons to cherish and protect the women in their lives. To honor those women. To hold the door open for them. To speak to women respectfully, and not like they would to "another guy." To practice modesty and act in a chivalrous manner. To treat women better. In other words, to act like a real man.

And then to expect the same honorable behavior from their brothers, friends, and fathers.

Hi Dan, I agree with some of your statement with a few exceptions. We should treat everyone with honor, respect and love as we want to be treated! We should expect that from everyone, women included. We should teach all our family included the women in our life this too. This is what God calls us to do! We all fail at this at times. I am glad Jesus provides grace to us sinners who believe in him! 

Ken, you are absolutely correct. I should have put the word "more" in front of those actions. More honor. More respect. I definitely don't mean that men should treat the men in their lives in an un-Biblical way. Or that women have free reign to be disrespectful. That's a good call on your part.

Part of the negative reaction may be related to the fact that the American Psychological Association has just issued guidelines declaring that what they call toxic masculinity is harmful:

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/10/science/apa-traditional-masculinity-h...

Toxic masculinity is defined by: “anti-femininity, achievement, eschewal of the appearance of weakness, and adventure, risk, and violence.”

But other than the first, do we really want to teach boys to avoid achievement and adventure and risk and the rest. Even violence, within proper limits, has a place. Almost any trait, taken to an extreme, is harmful. But many hear an attempt at emasculating men in the current culture.