Toxic Masculinity in Gillette’s new advertisement


Amelia Southern

Junior Will Phillips is the perfect example of non-toxic masculinity, Will is unapologeticly emotional and it is shown in this picture as he smiles and plays with the stuffed animal.

Amelia Southern, Photographer

In this day of age, information has become immediately available. Mass media, especially social media, as an information provider is a big influencer, but things are not always positive. Media can have negative effects on their consumers. As a result of patriarchal culture, masculinity in media has always been an issue that affirms gender roles in our society. Media shows masculinity as a powerful form of dominance over femininity. It conjointly constructs masculinity as a privilege of men. Headlines that we often see on television, online news sites and other media also help strengthen gender stereotypes. It can be related back to movies such as but not limited to Grease: where Sandy basically changes everything about who she is to increase her appeal to Danny … and it works. She and her friends also are the subject of plenty of objectification, and Danny feels like he has to lie to his friends about having sex with her for them to think he is cool. Girls do not get a lot of respect in John Hughes’ beloved 1980s comedy, Sixteen Candles. In the movie, boys pay to see the protagonist Sam’s underwear, and in one scene it is implied that a guy had sex with a fellow student while she was passed-out drunk. As well as the classic tale of Cinderella, she is stuck in a life of thankless cooking-and-cleaning labor, and her circumstances only take a turn for the better when the prince falls in love with her at first sight and whisks her off to his castle, which is hardly an example of female empowerment. But recently, things have begun to change in the media. Razor company Gillette released a new ad that takes the company’s 30-year-old slogan, “The Best a Man Can Get,” and turns it into an introspective reflection on toxic masculinity.

What is Toxic Masculinity? 

Toxic masculinity is mostly defined by what it is not. In short, toxic masculinity is insecurity about being vulnerable and emasculated. It suggests that such toxic masculinity can lead to homophobia, sexual harassment, bullying, domestic violence, and self-harm.  But first, what exactly is masculinity and how is it different from toxic masculinity? Very broadly speaking, masculinity is having qualities appropriate to or usually associated with a man, which includes negative and positive qualities. On the other hand, toxic masculinity is a loose term that refers to a subset of those behaviors that are harmful or destructive i.e toxic it is often used as a shorthand to humiliation, devaluation of women and domination. Toxic masculinity is when a boy or man will detach themselves emotionally, sexually objectify, are hypercompetitive, sexually predatory, aggressive, use intimidation, and/or violence.  This ideology affects everyone who is around it. Personally, I have learned that young men and boys are, indeed, struggling. Girls and women spent the past several decades catching up and, in some cases, lapping boys and men in post-secondary education and professional fields, and are now finding their way towards financial, social and sexual independence. While we have focused on advancing opportunities for girls, we have overlooked some alarming statistics about boys. For example, white males accounted for 7 of 10 suicides in 2016 according to the American Foundation of Suicide PreventionMen are taught at a young age to hide their emotions, they are told to wear the quiet, stoic mask, males will have a  had time asking for help when struggling. Why? They have been conditioned their whole lives not to talk about this stuff. When things are tough, they have been taught from an early age to “be a man and deal with it”. They have been taught that crying or showing emotion is a weakness. They have been taught that real men do not ask for help. For as many advantages as men have in the world, this is one area where men are way behind. Women openly talk about their problems and their struggles every day and when they do, there is always a friend who is willing to listen. Most guys do not have an emotional support system like this. They will be scared to talk about something so vulnerable. Without an outlet to talk about this stuff, most men wind up dealing with their shame and their struggles alone. How does the toxic masculinity cycle even start?  Boys are taught to behave this way with playground taunts and again media, that boys should not like pink, cry or “throw like a girl.”  Slowly, you start to see homophobia and misogyny color. As they grow up, boys see the men in their life as examples of how to behave and deal with things. How they have been taught to handle these things has a major effect on what will become of them. Gillette challenges this ideology in their ad, “The Best a Man Can Get”.

The Best a Man Can Get

Gillette’s newest advertisement is not about beards. The nearly two-minute video, created by the brand’s agency Grey and titled “We Believe,” features a diverse cast and opens with audio of news about the #MeToo movement, bullying and uses the phrase toxic masculinity. A narrator goes on to dispute the notion that “boys will be boys,” asking, “Is this the best a man can get? Is it? We cannot hide from it. It has been going on far too long. We cannot laugh it off, making the same old excuses.”  Just days before the release of the ad, the American Psychological Association issued new “Guidelines for the Psychological Practice with Boys and Men.” The new guidelines highlight the unique physical and mental health risks that boys and men face, including higher rates of completed suicide, violence, and substance abuse. They also issue a warning against conforming to traditional stereotypes of masculinity, citing years of research that links machismo to the health risks.

 How Can we End Toxic Masculinity? 

Many of our most toxic ideas about masculinity are passed down through our entertainment. This is troubling because the effect is that we not only receiving these toxic messages but we also enjoy getting them because of the medium. While most people are not ready to give up action movies completely, kids should learn to think critically about what they are seeing and what subconscious ideas are being planted. By bringing those ideas into the conscious mind, we can keep them from taking root and recognize how prevalent they really are. When we grow up learning and experiencing affects us our entire life, it impacts how we think and behave, and informs our decision-making processes. With each generation, we have the power to create new norms and standards. It is up to all of us to transform our society, and parents probably hold the greatest power in making the most lasting change. Toxic masculinity hurts everyone, so let us set an example for the boys of today and the men of tomorrow to reject the harmful messages that permeate our society and choose a new definition of what it means to be a man.

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