A still from the Gillette advert that has divided the community on the issue of ‘toxic masculinity’. The advert has been viewed more than 15 million times on YouTube.
DURBAN - Amid the growing call to boycott Gillette, over its latest advert, social and gender activists are applauding the men’s grooming products manufacturer for taking such a strong stance against gender-based injustices.

Earlier this week, Gillette released an advert aimed at tackling “toxic masculinity” and highlighted the #MeToo campaign.

The advert, which has been viewed more than 15 million times, shows a number of scenarios of how male patriarchy is praised. There are also scenes where men defend those being bullied. The advert has drawn mixed reactions from all over the world.

US talk-show host Piers Morgan tweeted: “I’ve used Gillette razors my entire adult life but this absurd virtue-signalling PC guff may drive me away to a company less eager to fuel the current pathetic global assault on masculinity. Let boys be damn boys. Let men be damn men.”

While thousands of people took to social media to lambaste the advert, there were those who felt the advert created a talking point to address gender inequality.

Associate professor in the Department of Sociology at Unisa, Professor Nokuthula Mazibuko, said the notion that “boys will be boys” referred to a particular set of characteristics that the community often learnt to associate with men.

“Challenges to the exercise of power by men can be perceived by other men as threats to their masculinity. The advert is showing socialisation as a crucial element of early childhood experiences for the transmission of ideologies, orientations and behaviour across the generations and genders.”

A gender activist and advocate for social justice and gender equality, Kerryn Rehse, said some people misunderstood the meaning of the advert.

“The fiercest comments are coming from right-wing groups. Their view is that the advert is painting all men as bad.

“We need to focus on the fact that there are men who are perpetrating acts of bullying, sexual harassment and sexual violence, and there are those who stand back and do nothing,” she said.

Rehse said it was a brilliant step by Gillette to come out and directly challenge gender-toxic behaviour.

The chairperson of the Unisa Men’s Project, Leon Roets, said he stood behind the message of the advert.

“This shifts understanding and reminds us that change is in our hands. There is also positive imaging that challenges tradition. It addresses the issues of fatherhood versus manhood. The advert is alerting us to the fact that not all men are the same.”

In a statement on their website, Gillette said its tagline “The best a man can get” needed to inspire people to be better every day.

It added that it pledged to actively challenge the stereotypes and expectations of what it means to be a man “everywhere you see Gillette”.

“In the ads we run, the images we publish to social media, the words we choose, and so much more. It needs to create new standards for boys to admire and for men to achieve.”