Gillette advertisement sparks controversy for presentation of toxic masculinity


Marcella Sakols

Razor company Gillette released an advertisement on Jan. 13 that went viral for discussing issues of rape culture, toxic masculinity, and bullying by comparing passive men who encourage aggressive behavior with men standing up against harassment. The advertisement was met with mixed reactions from both men and women.

The video starts out by depicting men and boys being violent, cyberbullying, and harassing women, as their actions are dismissed with the saying “boys will be boys.” Gillette goes on to show news anchors talking about allegations of sexual assault, followed by Terry Crews saying “Men need to hold other men accountable.” The video then shifts, showing men standing up against harassment, stopping catcallers, breaking up their sons’ fights and telling their daughters that they’re strong. The video ends with the saying “Because the boys watching today will be the men of tomorrow.”

The video, published to Youtube Jan. 13 by the Gillette company, earned 29 million views.

Toxic masculinity has been addressed more often over the past years as one part of the growing discussion around gender and sexual harassment. People have differing views on what masculinity means and therefore received different messages from the Gillette video. To some, it was an empowering example of what masculinity should be, but to others, it was seen as a publicity stunt.

“This seemed to be the latest commercial and a trend where these companies intentionally do something political in order to get a lot of controversy and a lot of conversation about their brand,” junior Alex Beattie said.

The advertisement has also received criticism due to its focus on the harmful men in society, and some don’t find that accurate. Beattie said that mainstream media often exaggerates toxic masculinity for attention, and therefore brings out the most extreme cases.

“That kind of locker room talk is harmful toward women and it’s also harmful toward other men who don’t conform to that idea”

Contrarily, other students feel differently and believe toxic masculinity to be a harmful part of society.

“That kind of locker room talk is harmful toward women and it’s also harmful toward other men who don’t conform to that idea,” junior Jessie Jones said.

To the student body, it’s important to bring up possibly uncomfortable topics in an effort to make a change. Students believe having civil discussions despite disagreeing is important, and that learning about current event issues is crucial.

“Delving into topics like these, especially societal problems like masculinity, I think it’s really important to have that discussion in a classroom especially as we’re becoming adults… we need to get other points of view on the problem,” junior Carter Anderson said.

Despite political beliefs, the Gillette commercial is one of many controversial ads on the internet, and due to their increasing popularity, more brands such as Nike and Adidas are taking openly social and political stances.

“I think it’s good that companies are taking a stand politically because especially with the feminist movement, it’s really important that you know which companies you should support or which companies have the same ideas as you,” Jones said.  

Similarly, Beattie said that it’s important to hold conversations about topics like these, but doesn’t want them to be defined and facilitated by large scale brands like Gillette, but rather the community itself.