Watching fragile men freak out over a Gillette ad

January 17, 2019

I’ve never been a big fan of Gillette razors. Gillette is owned by Proctor & Gamble, one of the least-socially responsible mega-corporations and I remember boycotting them in the 1980s over their commitment to animal testing. So imagine my surprise this week to learn that Gillette was launching an awareness campaign called The Best Men Can Be that acknowledged the issue of toxic masculinity. What wasn’t surprising was the backlash from snowflake “macho” men who saw the corporation trying to dismantle maleness itself.

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The ad for the campaign aired this week and it’s powerful, linking the issues of bullying and sexual harassment to the type of “boys will be boys” masculinity that for too long has gone unchecked. And when it is checked, for just one minute and 48 seconds, a lot of bros simply freak out, swearing they will never buy a Gillette product again. These men fall into three categories.

  1. Misogynists who think it is their (male) God-given right to harass women and bully boys and men they view as less “manly.”
  2. Men who think the term “toxic masculinity” refers to all forms of masculinity. (As I’ve written, masculinity isn’t toxic. Toxic masculinity is.)
  3. Men who don’t understand that gender is something that we learn. We learn different definitions of masculinity at different times in history and in different places in the world. Masculinity has very little to do with having a penis.

When gauging the freak out, you see plenty of all three types of men. They’ve already made response videos, which I can’t stomach to watch. And I’ve given up on trying to educate these men in the comments section on the YouTube video. They are in full defense mode, many hilariously claiming the Gillette is a “Marxist corporation.” Seriously.

Here are a few of the prize-winners just from today:

Gillette the gayest a man can get – kdubs_r

Legal system: Innocent until proven guilty. Gillette: Men, guilty until proven innocent. – Nathan Drake

You do know that feminists are quite proud to not shave right? – Ben Haworth

“Because the boys watching today will be the women of tomorrow ” – Taffe M

It’s Toxic Irresponsibility. Not toxic masculinity. Why would you inject gender into this? The fight is against social irresponsibility. There are just as many irresponsible women in society as there are men. Why is the tip of the spear pointed only at men here? – Nic 9Volt

And my favorite;

Men account for around 80% of suicides. Men are most likely to fall victim to violent crimes. Men work the most dangerous jobs. More men die on the front lines of war/ Men have shorter life spans. GTFO of here with your social justice propaganda this is not a man’s world in the slightest – Mickey Rourke

Mickey just made the case that toxic masculinity is killing men without even knowing it!

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I have a feeling that someone at Fox News or some alt right website told their mob of triggered bros to flood the comment section, because, it’s pretty hilarious/sad. Maybe I live in a Portland bubble where most men know there are many ways of doing masculinity that don’t include beating up “sissys,” harassing women, of going on shooting sprees for that matter. These mouth breathers seem to think Gillette is describing ALL MEN. Maybe they missed former NFL player and male feminist (and TV hunk) Terry Crews in the ad saying “Men need to hold other men accountable.”

The first category of men, the committed misogynists, are going to see what they want to see in this commercial. They’ve labeled it “anti-man,” “anti-white,” and “anti-American.” They are committed to their inherited rights to have their authority remain unchallenged and will be in high attack mode to prevent a woman from being elected in 2020. (Several of the negative comments on YouTube reference doughy rich boy Donald Trump as the paragon of masculinity.)


The other two categories can be reached through education. Why is violent crime overwhelming committed by men? Toxic masculinity, but there are scores of men who model other forms of masculinity that resists the harm men do to themselves and others because “boys will be boys.” Where does this toxic masculinity come from? We learn it at an early age when we learn that “boys don’t cry” and you show a girl that you like her by punching her. If there was ever a time for a sociologist it’s right now!

This is the message that I’ve been sharing with my students for nearly thirty years. We can construct gender any way we want. I’ve been a stay-at-home dad and I love Marvel superhero movies. This week I called out a guy on Facebook for referring to a female elected member of congress as a “bimbo.” Another guy, a rather well-known former cop named CW Jenson, claimed that I must have “burned my man card.” I told him I proudly burned it in college. “It’s called growing up,” I said. I’m just as much of a man as Mr. TV Cop.

Terry Crews is right. It’s up to boys and men to shut this shit down whenever and wherever it appears, on Facebook and in the office. I was walking Cozy past a schoolyard to the park recently and two middle school boys were beating up a third. I broke it up but where were the teachers? Boys will be boys? Silence is permission and it’s time to get loud. THAT IS NOT COOL!

It’s not surprising to see the Old Boys Club freak out over the Gillette ad. The writing is on the wall. The times they are-a-changing. And the genie is out of the bottle. Women are holding a mirror up to men’s faces and they don’t like what they see. Some men will change. Others will just try to smash the mirror. As Gloria Steinem recently told me, the moment when a woman is most at risk of being murdered by her abuser is when she finally tries to escape him. The abusers are fighting hard as we try to break free. I hope efforts like this will mean my daughter will be safer than my wife is and my mother was. In the meantime, I think I need a shave. Know any good razor companies?

9 thoughts on “Watching fragile men freak out over a Gillette ad

  1. Hey Professor,
    I really liked reading your response to this ad. I think it is important to talk about these social problems that have been leaching onto our society for way to long now. I hope this ad sheds some light on these ongoing problems. Thank you for caring about not just how this affects your family, but for caring for everyone as a whole.

    -Christian Vandehey

    Liked by 1 person

  2. There’s this perception that all masculinity is bad.  Whether you are part of part of a fraternity, just being with the boys, whatever the stories/cases may be. Not all male organizations are bad. With me, I’m a Mason and proud to be one. With us, we have a lot of involvement within our community. Our community knows we are there to help if and when they need it. Does that mean we’re bad? No it doesn’t.


    Once a month, our church has something called Iron Works. This is taken from Proverbs 27:17 “As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” This is where we as men and only men of the church come together for a bible study. Not only is it just a bible study, but it’s about fellowship with other men from our church. It’s about holding each other accountable as Christian men. It’s about being a leader in our home with our wife and children.


    When it comes to “masculinity,” not every man has that mindset. What gets me is there’s this mentality that every male is has a toxic masculine side, when that is not true. Believe it or not, but there’s many women who have the attitude that “boys need to be boys.” However, as long as it’s constructive. Here’s what I mean by that. We are looking to adopt a boy. My wife has said that she wants me to teach our son about construction, doing yard work, playing in the dirt, just being an all-round boy. Ephesians 5:18-33 spells out clearly how the men are to be in their household, “25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might [g]sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. 30 For we are members of His body, [h]of His flesh and of His bones. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”


    Here’s where everything starts to go sideways with both men and women. They don’t wake up one day and say I’m going to be a toxic masculine man, bigot, racist, etc. Something about their surrounding of people that can bring that attitude out. When I was at Portland State, I was looked at as having Islamophobia because I was in Iraq. Did the thought ever occur to anybody that I’m having trust issues surrounding myself by people who are Islamic? Nope. Rather than attacking the person for being a “toxic masculine,” get to the root of the problem and find out why they are that way and how you can help them rather than calling them out negatively and forcibly. Usually, there isn’t a solution to that. The person has to want the help. 


      1. I don’t think I did. I’ve heard you preach before that any organization that doesn’t allow women is toxic. Any place that doesn’t give women power is toxic. I’ve even heard you say in class that the church is toxic masculinity because it doesn’t allow women to be head of the church. So really, by your teachings in class, masculinity is toxic.


  3. Hey Randy, I’m a new reader of your blog. As a young man who wants to have kids one day, I really want to make sure that we raise our future sons to help foster a world that encourages love and kindness between ALL sentient beings on this plane. Finding your blog was a great surprise and I really respect the cause.

    Onto the Gillette ad – the ad seems to be aimed towards helping boys grow up to be kind in general, showing that manhood does not necessarily consist of being aggressive and overtly “masculine” in the conditioned sense. While I agree with this notion, I think that there is some nuance to the “stereotypical male” portrayed in the ad – the behaviours presented as toxic in the ad ARE toxic (and the more awareness, the better, as far as I’m concerned), but the ad seems to relish in lumping all men together more for strategic marketing value than for truly accurate social commentary. With that being said, yes…the ad is definitely a conversation starter and promotes positive-social-change to an extent, and yet, it also seems to put all men on blast under a corporate guise (with the overarching goal to sell more product). As a comment on Reddit succinctly said: “Gillette’s honestly doesn’t give a fuck about toxic anything, they’re just trying to sell their cheap ass, made in China by slaves razors. Just another bullshit company jumping on the social justice bandwagon to make a profit.”

    I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on this – where does strategic-virtue-signalling-marketing end, and the true mandate for social change begin (not that the two are mutually exclusive)? I realize that ultimately, this sort of awareness is a good thing. Looking forward to hearing from you.



    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Hassan,
      Yeah, I think we can’t get super-excited about a Proctor & Gamble company doing anything with out understanding their corporate footprint. You wonder if they did a cost benefit analysis knowing that some folks would scream “Boycott!” Is there a net gain of customers. It’d like to think it’s a new era of corporate citizenship, but that might just be silly. And how much complexity you can squeeze into a TV commercial is a whole other matter.

      Glad you found this blog! Stay tuned for more conversations.


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