The #MeToo movement has yet again sparked a fire in the media industry this late 2017. Actress Alyssa Milano came out, and shared her story of sexual harassment by the famous film producer Harvey Weinstein. As more artists, professionals, and members of every social strata both male, and female outed themselves as victims of sexual abuse, other forms of media also followed suit. They adapted the same dissent most have been vocal about. One of them is digital marketing – or marketing in general. With the divisions that come along with this movement being clearly delineated, are people ready – or should they be ready, with progressive marketing advertisement?
Gillette, a razor company, posted a video ad via YouTube last January 13th about what they say as “toxic masculinity”. From their tagline, “The Best A Man Can Get”, to “The Best A Man Can Be”, the brand calls upon men to step up, resist the norm, and be the best person that they can be – more than how the society expects them to behave.
As a response to the #MeToo movement, the video shows clips of what they deem as “toxic masculinity”: standards of masculinity being defined solely by being macho, physically strong to the point bullying, aggression, misogyny, objectification and harassment of women – the list goes on. It ends with empowering men to challenge themselves for them to be their best. Resisting the norms set out for them by the society about how they should act as male would set a good example for boys today.
This may be a charming, and empowering video that had helped the keyword search term “Gillette Razor” spike in traffic after 5 years, it has also garnered dissent in the digital space. The video has about 1.4M dislikes, in contrast to the 770K likes on YouTube, with comments accusing the brand of being self-righteous. On the other hand, many people have commended the company for the humanitarian message it intends to send across.
Since history, collective memories recall women to be always prone to oppression by this society where men are expected to always be superior. Women used to only be confined in the domestic space. They were not allowed to vote, to get a proper education, to receive proper wages, and more. Because of this view on women, they were the ones usually prone to rape, abuse, exploitation, and more inhumane ways. Militant activism over the years has gradually struggled to fight for women’s rights, and just treatments with men. Feminism, a political movement calling for equality between men and women, started to arise due to these oppressions. They have since been calling for the democratic rights of women.
The #MeToo movement, though, was started in 2006, and was re-ignited in 2017. it aims to empower all victims of sexual assault, both male and female, to come forward and tell their stories. This spreads awareness, and invites empathy to put a stop to sexual assault.
The strong backlash of this ad may be due to many reasons. One of which is it poking the very membrane of ideology that its customers live by. While the systemic oppression suffered by women still stands, men are also chained by how the society hones them to be which is how they act the way they do. Women are not spared of this – they also perform the gender that has been inscribed upon them. None of us are spared.
This is not the first time people have stood united against common enemies, and fought for their rights, and the common good. This is also not the first time companies have used their platform to advertise, and provide inclusivity for certain socio-cultural issues. There have been companies who utilised more progressive takes on things, like marketing the rainbow icon in empowering the LGBTQ+ community, or female brands empowering women of different sizes, and races. Some people cannot help but become skeptic regarding these ads: do they work, or are the people actually biting to it? Can people accept these companies to join in their fight, or are they really joining in the fight?
The Gillette video ad has garnered different opinions worldwide. Is digital marketing, or marketing for that matter, truly ready? Well, hundreds of years ago, people believed that the sun moves around the world. As the times have progressed, their beliefs were shattered upon the scientific findings that it is actually the other way around, despite historical persecutions who first believed the then groundbreaking findings. Now, that is the truth we hold without any thought. This proves that everything changes, and people’s consciousness evolve. If now, we believe that boys will always be boys, with the heightened awareness everyone takes part in, and with the number of victims that the said norm has caused, things may actually change.
Are we going to be ready for these “progressive” ads? Some may not be ready, some may not. All we need is to survey the material conditions, and to come up with strategic actions that will bridge the gap. Everything is changing, but what matters most is to trust the process, and to always be geared for the better. Some may not be ready, but with education, human empathy, and the intention to bridge the gap and unite, then we are good to go.