At ease, women!
Despite generations of thought and exploration into why some men sexually harass/assault/kill/hate women and how to stop it, the answers have finally arrived.
I admit I was shocked that the answers should be found by a company that makes and flogs razors. But not as shocked as I was by their discovery that the reason men sexually harass/assault/kill/hate women is simply because they barbecue too much.
That’s right fellas; stop it with the tongs and the meat over hot coals and you will stop wanting to sexually harass/assault/kill/hate women!
Another shock arrived when it became clear that despite having watched the actual advert that actually exists and isn’t a parody even though it seems like one (barbecuing leads to rape) and despite it clearly being the best example of an exploitative brand-awareness campaign since Benetton slapped jumpers on Aborigines and despite its express, unhidden, blatant purpose which is: TO MAKE MONEY BY SELLING RAZORS; despite all of this, the internet and especially many women of the internet, seem to love it.
Perplexed, I watched the advert again. Had I missed something? Why was everyone so pleased to see a company using such a complex and distressing issue to shift razors? Was it supported by a charity or a human rights organisation? Was it endorsed by the Trump administration, an incredible U-turn of their we-support-toxic-masculinity policies which would lead to Kavanagh being immediately fired and sent home to drink his beloved beer and fantasise about rape forever?
At the end of the advert, after a man who might be God or maybe your Dad has told us that men can be better (if they just stop barbecuing), a graphic informs us that there is a campaign called The Best Men Can Be and if you google it you will discover that Gillette have pledged to donate a whopping $1m this year to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. Imagine the dent that $1m will leave in their profits! Seriously, if you care about boys not becoming rapists, the best (the ONLY) thing you can do is go out right now and buy their over-priced, grotesquely gender-biased branded products with special anti-rape powers.
Because nothing challenges gender stereotypes better than their ‘pink for girls special hairs’ and ‘blue for boys special hairs’, right?
The ad opens with a few men gawping at themselves in the mirror, having a proper crisis of masculinity, their heads mashed with guilt and shame and anxiety, which is a perfect example of the classic advertising technique described by David Foster Wallace as ‘creating an anxiety relievable only by purchase.’
So here are the men (all of them clean-shaven or with sculpted beard) anxious as hell because they still want to harass girls on the street and beat each other up and patronise women in the boardroom and barbecue themselves into an orgasmic stupor but THE WORLD HAS CHANGED, God/your Dad tells us because WOMEN have been SPEAKING OUT (and still not being believed and still seeing their attackers promoted and voted to the highest positions in the land, but – meh) and all this speaking out by the women means that we can’t be rapey anymore or we’ll end up on the news but worry not fellas, put down those barbecue tongs, pick up one of our razors and all your toxic masculinity will disappear. We promise.
It is the commercial equivalent of the Big Red Brexit Bus of Bullshit. Create and inflate anxiety over immigration, jobs, housing, the NHS and then offer the relief: Brexit. Noam Chomsky knew it when he said, ‘it’s important to bear in mind that political campaigns are designed by the same people who sell toothpaste and cars.’
We bought the Brexit product, driven by fear and anxiety, only to discover that not only did the product not exist, but the people selling it were the ones creating the problems in the first place.
Gillette have not ‘started a constructive conversation’ about masculinity any more than Brexit did about the problems facing our country. No advert designed to sell a product and make a profit has ever changed the world. All Gillette have done is found a brilliant way to reinforce their brand and shift their stock, for ‘Gillette’ to be hashtagged to fuck, for the ‘best a man can get’ jingle to be once again on our lips.
Don’t buy it. It’s another lie on the side of a bus.
And fellas, if you really are anxious about your toxic masculinity, the best products you can buy are free; a pair of ears and a closed mouth. We are trying to tell you something here. Shut up and listen.
Also: grow a beard.