A Feminist’s Response to the Gillette Commercial

Remember me, the wildly opinionated girl from your second favourite column in the paper? Does feminism ring a tiny, little bell in the back of your mind? I’m back – and with even more zeal. They gave me way too much power for their own good, and before we know it, the paper will engulf itself in hard-hitting and opinionated vocabulary. Before you even get a whiff of the paper’s doings, the paper will be calling itself self-sufficient and driving itself home from the printer’s.

I am Samridhi, your new Editor-in-Chief. I am a chemical engineering student with the dream of making it big as a journalist. Why, you may ask? Why would anyone want to be a journalist when you could be sitting at an oil refinery in Alberta? Well, first of all, I tried, and second of all, one of my first memories as a kid is sitting in the back of the car with my dad driving, busy in conversation with my mum. “She could be a journalist,” he told her. I didn’t even know what a journalist meant. They explained it to me as someone who writes for newspapers, and I just thought about the stacks of newspapers that we had delivered to our home – at least five different subscriptions, two of them in Hindi. I thought about how every morning my granddad – who has also been a journalist – would browse through the papers with his tea. I just knew, journalism was my calling. True story!

Thence began the constant writing, scribbling on any paper that I could find, keeping a blog, and numerous failed attempts at keeping a journal. I was never behind the idea of keeping a journal, but my granddad insisted, saying “What if someone needs to write your biography someday?” Honestly, he has more faith in me than I ever did, so this one goes out to him. He proofread my poems, while I got mesmerized by his poetry, published in fancy books that had already lost their hardcovers.

Now that you know me in a way only two other people do, i.e. my parents, let’s talk about some drama that has forsaken the world in the form of that Gillette advertisement. You know the one – a bunch of men keeping other men from doing some stupid things. Well, here’s my opinion on it – bravo! I know, you must be surprised. I, a feminist, believe that feminist men exist and should be commended.

For those of you who haven’t watched the video, please do. It is on YouTube. Just search for the Gillette commercial about toxic masculinity. It is only a couple minutes long and definitely worth the watch. It comprises of tiny video clips where men are choosing to be decent human beings. There are dads breaking up fights between their sons, telling them, “This is not how you treat people.” There are men stopping each other from harassing women. My favourite clip, however, is of a dad standing in front of a mirror with his toddler saying, “I am strong!” as he encourages his daughter to repeat after him. These are the kinds of men we need in this world – those who empower women, those who stand up for what is wrong, and those who encourage other men to be “the best a man can get”.

Honestly, I am so disappointed in how people are responding to the video. Having watched the video about an hour ago, there were sixty thousand likes and eighty thousand dislikes. Just having browsed through ten comments, it is so sad to see that more than half of the people are threatening to shift to another razor brand, and why? I have a couple of theories.

I think that these people are insecure. They see someone like themselves being mirrored on television or other broadcast media, and they think to themselves, “Wait, I do this too. Are they implying that I’m a bad person.” You know what, TV-Watcher, I think you must be because this commercial stands for everything good in this world and if you can’t see that, if you are blinded by your perspective. If you can’t have an open mind, maybe you are the type of person to be targeted by this video.

Which brings me to my next theory. These people have a bias towards how they think men should be. They think that men should be strong. Which is fine, people should be strong. But the problem is that these negative-commenters on YouTube believe that to be strong, you need to never cry, you need to impose your strength on other people by suppressing their strengths, you need to fight each other in order to physically overpower your opponent, and you need to put out this perpetually angry energy into the world so that others are intimidated by you. But we know that is wrong, right?

This brings me to my final theory. People are hiding behind the “men will be men” mentality. I believe this just stems from stubbornness. How dare they tell us to change? How dare they tell us we aren’t good enough the way that we are? How dare they promote positive masculinity where men are expected to express their emotions in a healthy way? This, in my opinion, is the worst case out of all the three, because here the person is accepting of their flaws in a way that makes them feel like their flaws are necessary. It is a bias stemming not from ignorance, but from acceptance, and I do believe that this is so much harder to fix.

Then there are the people saying things like, “I appreciate the message, but this is not the right way. Why are they using their brand to showcase toxic masculinity?” Or, “Why do they have to be right in my face about this stuff?” To you I say, the video reached you, you are against it, deducing from the theories above, this is exactly the right path that Gillette took to propagate this message. After all, they are a razor brand that caters to men, as a woman, I am just really happy that they used this platform to do some good in the world.

It is heartbreaking how many men we lose because they don’t have a healthy avenue to express their emotions. Mental illness is a thing that exists in so many different ways. You are not weak for visiting a therapist, you are not weak for crying, you are not weak for being you. Men, we need you in our lives, and as a feminist, I really do appreciate the good men in mine. That being said, please seek help if you feel like you need it because you deserve it.

Watching what Gillette has done in such an eloquent way, I really hope more men join the team and empower the people around them. The feminist movement has been around for centuries and we need more men joining our ventures. We need more men telling their daughters that they are strong, more men learning how to do their daughters’ hair the right way, more men setting examples for their sons to follow. Let’s change the implication of “men will be men”. “Sucking up” is not a proof of strength. Bullying and intimidation are not tools to use so that you can have your way. We need to stop justifying bad behaviour using anatomy. Identifying as male does not give you a free ride through whatever mess you create. Be strong so people feel supported by you, don’t pull people down to showcase your strength. In short, don’t be toxic.

That being said, Gillette really has my full support and I am sure other feminists would agree. Men deserve so much more than society allows them to have. And if you still think your choice to switch to another razor is going to give Gillette a run for their money, think again! Men aren’t the only people who need razors and I am sure more and more women would switch to Gillette after discovering their new campaign. I know I will!

As my rant comes to an end for this editorial, I really hope you will all keep the conversation alive. What other brands do you think should come out with a social agenda?  What are some issues that you feel really passionate about? I am always looking to hear what our readers have to say and it would be amazing to know who reads these editorials! Reach out to me at iwarrior@uwaterloo.ca.

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