Gillette has blasphemed against men – thank God
When people get this angry about an ad it means they're afraid and, let's face it, these men have a lot to be afraid of
Gillette isn’t the best a man can get. That takes years of therapy, and if he’s lucky, the acquisition of humility and insight. It also isn’t the worst a man can get. But if you want to see many, many men making themselves painfully transparent, Gillette is a good place to start.
Before I go on, however, let me stress that I am not writing this to change minds. If you are someone who believes men have a harder time in the world than women, and that feminism is an attempt to subjugate men, perhaps because you read it in a Russia Today article on Facebook, then this will sound like whiny leftist snowflake propaganda. In my experience people like this enjoy getting angry about leftist snowflakes, so you’ll probably keep reading just to get those endorphins pumping, but if you choose to stop here, go with God and give my love to 1954.
But if you’re still here, then let me ask you: do you understand why so many men are so angry about Gillette’s new advertisement?
I asked Facebook and a few men told me that they’re sick of being tarred with the same brush as rapists and abusers. Which is weird, because I’ve now watched that ad a few times and I still can’t find the bit where it says that all men are rapists and abusers.
All I can see is a fairly gentle reminder to men that abusing women is wrong, that boys have feelings, that mansplaining is patronising and hurtful, and that bullying isn’t fun. I imagine if they’d had a bigger budget they might also have reminded us to brush our teeth and eat green, leafy vegetables. It really wasn’t much more revolutionary than that.
Of course, one should always stay alert and suspicious when it comes to advertising, which is, by definition, manipulative. I can understand, for example, why women might be sceptical of Gillette’s egalitarian bona fides, given that it still extorts a “pink tax” from them by making their products inexplicably more expensive than those for men.
I also understand the instinct to accuse Gillette of being cynical or opportunistic, feigning a social conscience to sell to a younger market. Corporations, after all, are amoral, and answer only to shareholders.
Then again, does it matter if Gillette is only pretending to be interested in a kinder world? There’s an argument that slavery was only abolished because British business knew it couldn’t compete with slave labour in the United States. Does it matter if society takes a stride forward because that stride will make the rich richer? I’m not sure.
But I do know that the outpouring of rage in the comments under the advertisement on YouTube is wildly, ludicrously disproportionate; entirely unhinged from the actual content of the video.
“This is literally the same tone Nazis used in their propaganda against Jews in its early phases,” writes one man, apparently citing those hard-to-find Nazi leaflets that urged Germans to stop discriminating against Jews. A few comments later, a likeminded man adds that Gillette deodorants probably contain holocaust gas Zyklon B.
Many others allude to 1984’s Big Brother. “This is a disgusting depiction of what is wrong with politics/leftist propaganda,” writes another.
For the most part, however, the most aggressive comments resort to well-worn misogyny and homophobia. “Who’s running your ad department a bunch of lesbians? (sic)” asks ‘Texas Dude’.
Another despairs: “The pussification of Men continues…” It’s an almost perfect picture of a worldview: vaginas are synonymous with failure and weakness, and Men need a capital M.
For some, these comments and the thousands like them all over the internet might seem like a political backlash; that a certain kind of masculinity is trying to assert itself in a world that is changing politically. Others might say this is all about economics; a corporation trying to appeal to a younger market, and its older supporters feeling insulted and voting with their wallets.
For me, however, this doesn’t feel economic, political or even social. It feels theological.
I understand men reacting with a grumpy “Yes but not all men!”. I understand some men protesting, with eloquence and restraint, that they do confront bullying or sexual harassment when they see it. But the rage! The rage speaks to something much more primitive.
What we’re seeing is not a reaction to political differences. This isn’t an argument over gender. To me, this is the explosive, quite mad reaction of ancient priests who have witnessed blasphemy.
Gillette has blasphemed. Not only has it named the One True God – millennia of male rule and male assumption – but it has suggested that a Reformation might be needed. And now it must be stoned to death.
For me, that fits the profile of this rage. Because when you’re that angry about someone telling you not to be a dick, it’s because you’re frightened.
The pillars of the temple are starting to shake, and if they all fall down, what will you be forced to see?
You will be forced to see that your god is an invention, that the world exists and evolves without your permission, and that you are not at its centre.