It’s “hate on men” season.
On Tuesday, a man threw his razor blade in the toilet. He took a picture of it floating in the bowl like a metallic turd and then put the photo on Twitter with the hashtag #GilletteAd. (He didn’t flush it! You’re the idiot!) The image was a gurgled battle cry, meant to rebuke a new Gillette commercial that touched on themes of bullying, sexual assault, and harassment. As silly as it sounds, @warroom, the account posted the image, wasn’t alone in his outrage.
In response to the spot, Fox News emptied out its entire clown car and let every passenger take a shot at the “man-bashing” ad. On Gillette’s official page, the video was downvoted into oblivion—it now has 1.2 million thumbs down versus 693,000 in the opposite direction. A “male supremacist” group voiced its displeasure. Piers Morgan and actor James Woods tweeted that after using Gillette for most of their lives, they’d look elsewhere for future shaving products.
Why did a two-minute commercial cause such a ruckus? Gillette’s brand director Pankaj Bhalla says they the company was merely asking men to be “peaceful, kind, respectful.” In response, commentators like Morgan shout that Gillette was asking men to “cut their testicles off.” The result is something like a grooming-brand culture war, where the stakes are nothing less than the future of masculinity. All of which raises a few questions: Why are guys listening so intently—and in some cases furiously—to what they hear in shaving commercials? And why are grooming brands so invested in exploring masculinity in the first place?