Graham Allen, a U.S. Army vet and the host of Rant Nation on Blaze TV, posted on his Facebook page a family photo shot in a field of cotton. He carries a weapon over his shoulder and his young daughter is flanked by her two brothers who hold a handgun and a rifle. “Practicing our ‘toxic masculinity,’” wrote Allen with an Amerian flag emoji. “Hey Gillette, does this offend you? I’ll raise my kids the way I believe they should be…thanks for your advice.”
On Sunday, the razor and shaving products company aired a short film called “We Believe: The Best Men Can Be” tailoring its timeless slogan to the #MeToo age. The two-minute video demonstrates how men can resist bullying, gender stereotypes,sexual harassment, mansplaining and violence. “Is this the best a man can get?” asks a voiceover.
The ad goes beyond addressing men who embrace qualities of traditional masculinity but those who allow micro-aggressions to occur by not intervening. “Bro, not cool, not cool,” says a male actor who stops another from catcalling a woman on the street.
The Gillette advertisement saw more than 20 million views on YouTube, 540,000 likes and 1 million dislikes, with consumers trashing their Gillette razors in protest and saying the spot was an attack on men in general.
“We weren’t trying to court controversy,” Gillette brand director Pankaj Bhalla told Fast Company. “We were just trying to upgrade the selling line that we’ve held for 30 years — the Best a Man Can Get — and make it relevant. I don’t think our intention was to have controversy just for the sake of controversy.”
“I want to be respectful to the folks who didn’t necessarily like the ad and had a point of view on it — they are absolutely entitled to it. But the ad is not about all men being bad. It’s the exact opposite of that,” he said. “There’s a part where we say, ‘We believe in the best in all men.’ It’s literally right there in the ad! The intention is to say, ‘All of you guys are great; how about you be an even better role model for your kids?’ That’s it. That’s the ad.”
Allen’s Facebook photo with 72,000 reactions, 10,000 comments and 11,000 shares competed with Gillette for provocation.
The message, said some, was too political. “Gillette: be better, treat people with respect, stand up to bullying. This dude: YOU’LL NEVER TAKE MY GUNS,” “Literally anything happens. Conservatives: ‘We should pose with guns to own the libs,’” and “I went to Gillette’s page to see some anti-gun bs but all I found was an ad for anti-harassment and anti-bullying. Did I miss something else?”
Gillette foes wrote, “This is a war against men. I understand where he is coming from,”
“My husband is very masculine. But that doesn’t mean he’s emotionless. That’s where things go wrong. When you make assumptions about people you know NOTHING about.”
One camp said that Allen overreacted. “Bro, it’s a commercial. Telling people to be kind to one another. What the f*** is even wrong with that?” and “No one is saying all men are terrible. The commercial was just saying that it’s time for us to hold the actions of the bad ones accountable and to be better. How is that even bad?”