The Gillette Ad Tells Men Not to Hurt People. Why Is This Offensive?

"Toxic masculinity" is sometimes a scapegoat for the left, but this particular commercial makes no grand anti-male claims.


Screenshot via Youtube

Gillette, the shaving company, debuted a new commercial this week that assails "toxic masculinity" and challenges men to behave better toward women and each other. But since modern cultural discourse involves two constantly outraged tribes careening wildly from one controversy to the next, this perfectly inoffensive message has somehow been rendered bad by team red.

"The Gillette commercial is the product of mainstream radicalized feminism—and emblematic of Cultural Marxism," wrote Turning Point USA's Candace Owen, a conservative pundit. Right-leaning author Michael Knowles accused Gillette of "granting the premises of SJW jackals." And over at National Review, Ben Shapiro claimed that the company was "kowtowing to leftist social priorities" in order to "inoculate [itself] from the woke scolds of the Left." (If that was the goal, the ad will certainly fail—woke scolding is a condition for which there is no reliable vaccine.)

These strong claims—cultural Marxism! SJW jackals! Leftist social priorities!—should strike anyone who actually watches the ad as fairly ridiculous. Here it is:

Yes, the ad invokes "toxic masculinity," an ill-defined concept sometimes deployed by the campus left in overbroad ways. But most of the ad depicts men deciding not to bully each other, harass women, or commit violence. Are these really "leftist social priorities"? Do conservatives really wish to portray them as such?

Shapiro's catchphrase is "facts don't care about your feelings," which he deploys—often correctly—to chide the left for having rendered unsayable something that is true: There are generally some differences between men and women, for instance. But this seems to be a case where the right's feelings are getting in the way of facts. Men commit a lot more violence than women, sexual harassment is undeniably a problem in many workplaces, and boys should be raised not to attack each other.

It's true that not all men engage in violence, sexual harassment, and bullying—and on the flip side, plenty of women are abusers. Collectivist assumptions are obnoxious—and anathema to libertarian principles—whether they are deployed against men, women, white people, black people, etc. Certainly, some on the left are guilty of going this route (as are many who claim to speak for the right). But the ad never said that all men are bad. It never argued that masculinity is always and everywhere a dangerous ideal. It made a very modest statement—treat people better—in hopes of selling more razors to people who agree. Again, why is this bad?

To his credit, Shapiro makes perfectly legitimate points in the rest of his column about the importance of young men having strong male role models in their lives:

If you want to raise a generation of men who will treat women well, act as protectors rather than victimizers, and become the bedrock for a stable society, you need more masculinity, not less. In fact, a recent study from Stanford, Harvard, and the Census Bureau found that high levels of father presence in local communities may matter even more than having a father in the home directly; the study explained, "black boys who grow up in areas with high father presence are also significantly less likely to be incarcerated."

Exactly right: Young guys need to learn from men who treat women well and act as protectors rather than victimizers, which…is exactly what the Gillette ad called on men to do.

People are free to associate with whatever brand they want, so if Gillette's so-called virtue signaling bothers someone that much, that person may go ahead and buy razors elsewhere. But it would be a shame if the right started boycotting companies for taking the position that maybe hurting people is bad. Is owning the libs really that important?