Gillette: the best a man can get?
No publicity is bad publicity. Or so the saying goes.
Playing on its famous slogan, ‘the best a man can get’, the ad shows boys bullying each other, sexual harassment, sexist behaviour and aggression.
‘Boys will be boys,’ says one dad to another while grilling a slice of meat on a barbecue. It’s one of a long line, with each chef saying the same.
Boys will be boys will be boys will be boys.
But Gillette ‘believe in the best in men.’ The ad goes on to show men displaying more positive behaviours.
It finishes up with the words, ‘it’s only by challenging ourselves to do more that we can get closer to our best.’
I’ve just checked YouTube. It’s received 516,000 likes. And 963,000 dislikes.
Critics are labelling them as those who typify this ‘toxic masculinity’. But these angered men don’t appear to be safeguarding their right to wolf whistle on the street.
Rather, they believe the ad tars all men with the same brush. One guy gives his view on Twitter:
‘I learnt #TheBestMenCanBe from childhood and I don't pay a company to say that we are all “defective" because we are male.’
Surely no-one would argue that all men are sexist and abusive bullies?
At first, I could sympathise with this view. As school boys run past another boy with floating iMessage bubbles containing their bullying slurs, I had to ask:
Is school bullying a guy thing?
When I was a teacher, online bullying or fighting on the ground was just as rife among the girls. But this doesn’t mean all women are bullies.
And this is the argument of many of the 963,000 critics.
But before allowing my internal lawyer to spring to my defence, the following scenes condemned me.
Watching the leering looks of lustful men in the ad, which of us men can say this has never been me? In thought, word or deed?
Seeing these ‘macho’ men grilling meat on a barbecue, which of us can say we’ve in no way bought into a narrow view of male identity?
Watching men stand up for what’s right and challenge sexist behaviour, which man can say that this has always been their reaction?
No man can. In some way, we’ve all fallen short.
Jesus used a similar tack when challenging men. On one occasion he said:
“But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:28
And this isn’t only about how we treat women. Jesus goes on to say, “Be perfect… as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). He calls us to challenge all parts of constructed male identity – all parts of our lives.
Be perfect? His words don’t give us much wiggle-room, though our hearts long for a way to avoid blame.
So what do we do?
We can go one of two routes.
A good man?
One way is to say, ‘Well, if I can’t meet God’s standards, at least I’m not as bad as them.’
In this way, the ad’s critics have responded with a backlash against women and the feminist movement. One person tweeted:
Feminists made up toxic masculinity. It’s not a real thing. Feminists are the toxic force in society now…Female supremacy is their true goal and bigotry!
This is an example of how we look to avoid blame by looking for fault elsewhere. The Bible calls this ‘looking for a righteousness of my own’ (Philippians 3:9). Self-righteousness, if you like.
And this is one way we men could respond.
Jesus, the perfect man
But there’s a better option.
Jesus described such high standards to drive us to him (Romans 3:20). So that we’d give up all pretence of self-righteousness. So we’d see our moral failure.
Indeed, he came to die for that failure on the cross (1 Peter 2:24). So that we can be forgiven of all of our guilt (1 John 4:9).
But it doesn’t stop there. He also came to give us his perfection. In a culture which treated women as second-class citizens, Jesus’ perfection glowed brilliantly.
He was gentle (Mark 5:34), compassionate (Luke 7:13) and gracious (John 4:1-26). And not just with women – his gentleness, compassion and grace was extended to men and women equally.
And for every man who’s fallen short of Jesus’ perfect standard, we don’t have to look for our own righteousness any more (Philippians 3:9). Jesus gives us his moral perfection (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Here’s the point: as imperfect men, Jesus is the best a man can get. He is perfect. And he shares that perfection with us men.
The Best Men Can Be
Having received Christ’s forgiveness and perfection, we increasingly take on his character – including his male identity (2 Corinthians 3:18).
We fight the leering looks, the sexism, and any form of aggression (Mark 9:43-47). We stand up for abuse victims (Isaiah 1:17).
And as we become more like Jesus, we become more like the one who took on the burden and responsibility for sin that wasn’t his own.
Part of true male identity is taking responsibility for others’ burden – not shirking blame. So as a man, I want to look deep into the wounds inflicted by men.
I want to consider the millions of victims of a porn-industry primarily driven by male viewers. I want to consider the daily put-downs that women receive in the workplace.
I want to consider the young boys being fed the lie that gang violence is about proving your masculinity. I want to consider the physical, emotional and sexual abuse that men have inflicted.
I want to consider the small ways that I contribute to the problem. And I want to repent.