Tuesday, January 15, 2019

A company’s campaign gets it

The video above is from a company that makes men’s grooming products. The campaign seeks to help men be better men, which is a worthy thing, even if some may not think so for whatever reason. There was a time when such issue marketing never happened, but I think when it’s relevant, it’s a good idea. Why not use their marketing power, and access to the target market, for good? And this video IS good.

The video is from men’s personal care products brand Gillette, which decades ago adopted the slogan, “The Best a Man Can Get”. The campaign is called “The Best Men Can Be”, playing off their product slogan and setting an aspirational target. They said in a statement on their site:
It’s time we acknowledge that brands, like ours, play a role in influencing culture. And as a company that encourages men to be their best, we have a responsibility to make sure we are promoting positive, attainable, inclusive and healthy versions of what it means to be a man.
This is a reference to the fight against what’s popularly called “toxic masculinity”, something that many on both the Left and Right don’t seem to fully understand. I’d sum it up as: Don’t Be An Arrogant Jerk to Everyone.

Toxic masculinity is about what’s toxic to men. It’s what robs men of their emotions except for anger and aggression. It’s what leads men to trying to be the “alpha male”, dominating everyone around them, too often aggressively or even violently. It leads men to assume that every woman is sexually available to them, or that they have the right act toward them as if they are. It leads them to dismiss, discount, victimise, and bully those they perceive as weaker, men and women alike, even if only emotionally. And it means men must never cry.

It leads to rape and sexual assault. It leads to bullying and attacks on gay men—or those merely thought to be gay. It leads to aggression and fights over nothing. And it leads men to strive to achieve an ideal of the “perfect man” that almost no one can naturally be, setting them up for failure, self-loathing, and more aggression arising from the shame and frustration of not being that “perfect man”.

The solutions are to let men be men—no one is talking about changing that at all. Instead, it’s about getting men to stop objectifying women, since that leads to dismissing women, and on to sexual harassment and even sexual assault. It’s about getting men to understand that bullying is wrong, and that achievement, competence, and compassion earn respect, and brute strength does not.

“While it is clear that changes are needed,” Gillette said in their statement, “where and how we can start to effect that change is less obvious for many. And when the changes needed seem so monumental, it can feel daunting to begin. So, let’s do it together.”

And that’s the key: Men helping men change. We’re the only ones who can do it.

I saw some pushback against “toxic masculinity” arguing that the bad things it describes are “natural” for other animals, as if human beings are captive to our past and can never evolve, as if our powerful brain can’t see a problem and fix it. Human males are nothing like rams that violently butt their heads against each other to win sexual access to a ewe—we’re smart enough not to do that. The masculine traits of men that women and gay men find sexually attractive are NOT the same as for other animals, and it’s silly to suggest they are.

Then, too, some conservatives are deliberately misrepresenting what this campaign is all about by misrepresenting both its intent and what “toxic masculinity” is. Sometimes this is because they don’t understand what that is and how it hurts all men, regardless of ideology. Some do it to attack the Left, using it as part of their “social justice warrior” attacks.

Sometimes the Left doesn’t help things. They may use “toxic masculinity” as something to try to shame men who may not share all of the Left’s agenda. They use it as some sort of political litmus test, similar to what the Right does.

But “toxic masculinity” is real, and a real problem. We need to ignore politics and those who would seek to exploit “toxic masculinity” for ideological or political ends. We need to help men be better men, that’s it. The ideologues can look after themselves.

This isn’t the first time that a company that’s made money off of the stereotypical gender roles has tried to present an alternative, more positive message. For example, Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign tried to improve women’s self image, but the company itself was flawed. Gillette has faced criticism, and, of course, its parent company, Proctor & Gamble, has had many controversies.

This isn’t about the companies or their products. This is about a message, about getting men to talk to other men, and to model better behaviour that boys can emulate when they become men. No company is perfect, neither is any ad campaign. I don’t think that matters. The message is good, it’s from an appropriate source, and it may—just maybe—do some good, and, if it does, it’ll be the best thing we all could get.

The video below is the short version of the ad, suitable for broadcast television. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s anywhere near as effective.

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