Gillette pink tax playboy

Going Viral, Getting Money: Why Gillette's New Ad Only Perpetuates Toxic Masculinity

The very company that divided women and men is desperate for a part in the #MeToo movement

Courtesy Gillette

On Monday, Gillette (yes, the shaving brand many use to remove their hairy parts) released an odd near-two-minute video surrounding the #MeToo movement. I was under the impression we'd all collectively moved past letting brands trick us via the chaotic cultural landscape? Last year, we discussed the performative political stances designers often practice during Fashion Week, and just a week ago revealed the Fiji Water Girl as little more than a viral marketing campaign devised to bring in money and build status.

The Gillette commercial on its own is remarkably...stupid. It commences with a series of a variety of men gazing at themselves forlornly in bathroom mirrors (no doubt, about to shave with a Gillette razor), while audio headlines and news clips addressing the #MeToo movement, sexual harassment, and toxic masculinity distract them from the mundanity of their current shaving situation. "Is this the best a man can get?" an unseen entity narrates. I'm unsure what this means. Are these men staring at themselves in the mirror as self reflection? Are they reconciling with who they are, admitting to the pain they have caused? Are they asking their reflections to change their ways? Are we supposed to feel bad for them?

Then a more traditional version of the über-masculine Gillette commercial we've come to know rolls in; a mass of radically angry men and teens tear through the film, running and shouting. Still, their rage is indecipherable. Are they mad about the #MeToo movement? Are they irate with themselves? Are they suddenly shocked and enraged at how men have treated women for centuries? A mother is seen holding her son while he receives bullying texts: "FREAK." "You're such a loser." "Everyone hates you." "Sissy!" I guess I feel bad for the kid, but what? When they refocus on the #MeToo movement, declaring "We can't hide from it; it's been going on far too long; we can't laugh at it; making the same old excuses," I pause. I think I'd agree with this broadcast, if say, they didn't follow it up with 20 paid actors chanting "boys will be boys" over and over again at what appears to be a cookout.

Eventually, they get to their point. The brand—the same one that referred to women's hair as "an embarrassing personal problem"—emphasizes there's been a shift in culture (another nod to the #MeToo movement), and that there's "no going back," playing a clip of Terry Crews testifying on behalf the Sexual Assault Survivor's Rights Act: "Men need to hold other men accountable." I'm a big Crews fan. What I'm not a big fan of is performative wokeness—especially when it's coming from men.
Speaking of women, where are they in this commercial?
It takes an even cheesier turn, urging men to "say the right thing," and belching out odd scenarios that give me '80s sexual harassment workplace training video vibes: a dude at a party addresses a woman with "hello, sweetie!" while another man white-knights by simply saying "come on!" We see another man attempting to approach a commuting woman on a city street who's then checked by someone we can surmise is his bro, who insists, "not cool, not cool" and places a hand on the dude's stomach to hold him back. It's passive mediation at best... I've never seen this work in real life.

We see some touching social media clips of men simply... getting along following a dispute, or a father with his daughters acting like fathers should with their daughters. We see several middle-aged men breaking up fights between young boys. One of our heroic mediators passively says to the kids "that's not how we treat each other, okay?" Gillette urges more men to step up and cease being bystanders, highlighting that "the boys watching today will be the men of tomorrow." The commercial end with "It's only by challenging ourselves to do more that we can get closer to our best."

The question remains: how can this two-minute commercial, so jam-packed with narrative, be so tone-deaf? I'm not personally worried about men saying "hello, sweetie!" to me at a party. I'm a bit more concerned about being attacked, assaulted, kidnapped or raped on the way to the party. I'm not even that bothered by a dude on the street catcalling me anymore (though it's annoying), rather I'm terrified of being fucking murdered.

Speaking of women, where are they in this commercial (aside from a single second blip of a female broadcaster reporting on allegations)? By erasing women from a movement directed by, focused on, and impacting women, one would certainly get the impression that you're supposed to feel sorry for these men, and then maybe... hopeful? I feel neither. It's astounding men really managed to make a campaign involving women's trauma about themselves. Even the non-profit organization Gillette set up is called "The Best Men Can Be," which is just a boring riff on the brand's iconic tagline: "The Best a Man Can Get." I should mention this is still their tagline, and likely won't be changing anytime soon.

I'm all for raising the next generation correctly—or, in other words, teaching them to not rape and harass women. And if Gillette's were a convincing message, I'd applaud it, as thousands of others have done on social media. One tweet, in particular, garnered the attention of literally hundreds of thousands (395,000 hearts and 183 retweets, to be exact), stating: "THIS is how you use your brand. THIS is how you engage with your audience. Gillette being aware of mostly having a male audience and using their influence as a global brand to make a change for the better. other companies take notes."
They need to win back customers any way they can; they need to go viral, even if it breaks a few conservative hearts.
No, this is how a brand goes viral to make money off of you. While Gillette (owned by conglomerate Procter & Gamble) did earn its wings selling men's shaving products, the company also owns Venus, the most popular women's razor brand in the United States. In fact, Statistica has reported that aside from the Gillette Mach3, which sold approximately 3.3 million units in 2018, making it the most popular shaving device in the United States, the Gillette Fusion5 and Gillette Venus both sold 2.9 million units in 2018. That's no small feat. Gillette Venus is the most sought-after women's razor on the market.

Gillette Venus has a huge female audience and market. It's actually so successful I don't know anyone who can't recite their commercial jingle by heart: "I'm your Venus, I'm your fire, your desire." It's catchy! See, now it's in your head. I've endured the tune playing on a loop in my mind for decades. It's the reason why—if I didn't use a men's razor (though I'm more of a Schick Quattro girl, myself)—I buy Gillette Venus. They're cute. They're even available in an adorable mini version, so you can shave your pits on the go if you're out and about and notice you've missed a spot. They're also pink-taxed.

Pink-taxing is an effort developed by conglomerates to sell products to women for way more than the masculine equivalent. In 2010, Consumer Reports found that woman-centric products "cost up to 50 percent more than similar, sometimes nearly identical, products for men." Some pink-taxed commodities include plus-sized clothing, dry cleaning, imported items, and—more than anything else—personal care goods. In a separate study at the University of Central Florida, for instance, researchers determined women have to spend 30 cents more on deodorant than men. A study from The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs confirmed that women spend an average of 13 percent more than men for their personal care products. The pink tax has built a system where women spend nearly $1,400 more in increased costs and fees each year than men—costs and expenses the brands blame on packaging and marketing efforts. Basically, we're all just being cheated.

Gillette is no stranger to the pink tax either. Right now, on Walgreen's website, you will find that an eight-pack of women's three-blade cartridges are $3 more than an eight-pack of men's three-blade cartridges. Unless women go rogue and buy a men's razor (like me) or shift to cheaper, unisex companies, like Harry's (which launched the female-focused Flamingo brand in late 2018), Dollar Shave Club (who guarantee no Pink Tax), or Billie (lauded as the female Dollar Shave Club), they'll be stuck purchasing overpriced blades forever.
Did I mention Gillette's irritation with successful razor blade startups—the ones who tend to avoid the pink tax? Actually, Gillette sought to sue both Harry's (in 2013) and Dollar Shave Club for patent infringement. Gillette actually filed a patent infringement suit against Dollar Shave Club in 2015, which was dropped after the company issued a countersuit. But it's honestly no surprise; Gillette has been suing Schick for infringement for decades. And who can blame them? As America's historic champion of razor blades, Gillette is no longer the gold standard of razor blade brands. They're in competition with fresh, young brands (we can't forget Bevel or Supply) that refuse to unfairly tax their products and want to disrupt the multi-billion dollar shaving industry. They need to win back customers any way they can; they need to go viral, even if it breaks a few conservative hearts. They need the publicity—good or bad—to battle direct-to-consumer blade startups.

In December 2018 (yes, last month), Gillette apparently told Vox that they'd committed themselves "to a metamorphosis." I guess Gillette's bizarre, performatively-woke commercial is the start of their transformation, as it certainly echoes past fake-woke branding campaigns that have since been called out, like Dove’s "Real Beauty" campaign. And yes, men are angry online, but unlike Nike—who angered customers so much by featuring Colin Kaepernick in an ad last year that they burned their shoes—there aren't as many in-store, name-brand razor blade options as there are shoes. So, while a few dumb men have thrown their razors in the toilet to epically own the liberals, it's more than likely they'll fish them out later and, because men are gross, shave with them.

What's even more unlikely is that Gillette will suffer from the so-called "backlash" at all (I'm not sure Piers Morgan objecting to any campaign is even considered backlash anymore). Gillette is #32 on Forbes' list of The World's Most Valuable Brands in 2018, worth $17.1 billion. Not to mention, the company's new, viral commercial has secured 13.5 million views on YouTube. And no, they probably don't care that the video was down-voted 708,000 times. Who cares about the angry peasants when the brand earned multiple celebrity endorsements overnight from Chrissy Teigen, Arianna Huffington, and Ava DuVernay? But I wonder if these women would still endorse the brand after recognizing that Gillette still runs ads on misogyny-soaked Fox News?

After spilling this much tea, I'm going to sit back and let it cool. I'll let you all determine for yourself whether this is a genuine display of care for women or an exploitative White Knight approach to make money for a $17.1 billion company.

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