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Was the Gillette advertisement necessary? The short answer is yes. The long answer is much more complicated. As a woman, this advert wasn't targeting me, that doesn't mean that the message it was sending wasn't aimed at people like me also. But let's break the advert down into sections.
What it Did Well:
1. Different Kinds of Men
Within the first few seconds of the beginning of the advert we have seen men of colour, white men, young men and old men. This to me suggests that the people behind the advert were hoping to target all men with this message, regardless of race or age.
2. The acknowledgement of past behaviour.
The advert acknowledges that in the past the way men have treated women was horrible and often laughed off, but that is no longer the case. The message is clear that we can't change how women were treated in the past, but we sure as hell can decide how they'll be treated in the future.
3. 'What I think she's trying to say.'
Yes. I don't think all men truly understand what it's like to be dismissed over your gender (that's not to say that it doesn't happen to men too) and this is something that has happened to me in some of the places I have worked. 'What I think she's trying to say' might not sound like an insult, but it undermines women's opinions completely. We know what we're trying to say, let us say it.
4. 'Boys will be boys.'
Another phrase that I've heard many times in my life and I'm frankly sick of. "Boys will be boys" is how shitty boys turn into shitty men, because we let them get away with awful behaviour for so long that at some point it becomes too late for them to learn how to behave properly. Sometimes we allow boys too much leeway that girls very rarely get because it is unlady-like and it shows when they grow into "men" (or maybe they just stay boys forever).
5. Terry Crews
Terry Crews is a man of immense bravery. A man who has spoken publicly about his experiences of sexual assault, he's truly inspirational. In the short clip of him used, he urges society to hold men accountable for their actions, ensure that they know when their behaviour crosses the line, because the sad truth is, many of them don't know when they have.
6. Showing Men How to Take Action
We see men breaking up fights, defending women and urging their friends not to cat-call. This is how men can take action, by calling out other men's horrible behaviour and urging them to respect other human beings. That is what being a good person is about.
7. Men of Tomorrow
I like the slogan "the boys of today are the men of tomorrow." I think it grasps how important it is that our children (not just boys) be raised to respect and defend others.
8. Strong Anti-Bullying Message
Underlying this message of anti-sexism and fighting against toxic masculinity is an anti-bullying message. The creators behind the advert are clear on their dislike of violence and bullying and it's often childhood bullies who grow into adult bullies so it's nice to see an advert encouraging people to be respectful of others.
What it Didn't Do Well:
1. I can see how men would feel targeted or called out.
It is a very intense advert that is completely aimed at the male gender and hopes to teach them how to be a "man" in the modern world. However, it does seem to denote masculinity as something negative. So I can see how some men would feel offended by the message.
2. Does Seem to Generalise Men
I hate the term "not all men" but that's only because it's usually involved in a half thought-out argument to excuse shitty behaviour. However this advert does make pretty much all men look like monsters and that is far from the truth. This is the one time I'm happy to advocate that "not all men" are like this. Plus, as a woman I know that women can be shitty people too. We need to be calling out everyone regardless of their gender.
3. Slightly Condescending
These are all lessons that are pretty easy to learn. Don't be sexist. Don't be a bully. Treat people the way you want to be treated. The truth is that the situation isn't always black or white and that's why this advertisement can come across as condescending. It treats men as if they're stupid, which isn't true.
4. The focus was on the bad.
There were very few positive portrayals of men in the advertisement. Towards the end we got to see men breaking up fights and defending other people, but up until that point all we've been hit with are "men are bad" and "they must change." I think, had the advertisement focused slightly more on the positives, then it wouldn't have received the backlash that it did.
Overall, I think the advert had a good message and dropped some truth bombs. Nonetheless, the execution of the advert could have been more positive instead of shaming all men and sticking them in the one category.