John Boston | The Gillette Merchants of PC Shaming

John Boston


As CEO of Proctor & Gamble, the umbrella company over Gillette, I’ve been a big fan of your razors for many years. Love the Fusion 5. What a great shave I get, how it contours my face and I can’t recall the last time I nicked myself. I think I started shaving back in the Pleistocene with a Gillette, those old slash-an-artery misnamed “safety razors” with the double blade so sharp you could bisect a proton if you’re not careful. My dad taught me the trick of tearing off little pieces of toilet paper to sop up the blood so I wouldn’t go around looking like the victim in a 1950s zombie movie.

Just threw all my Gillettes in the trash.

Won’t buy another one of your razors. Ever. Thought of switching to Schick. Then, I discovered P&G owns that whisker nibbling company as well. No offense, but I’ll be checking to see what Proctor & Gamble products I can avoid as well.

Yes. It’s about your company’s relentlessly annoying “Toxic Masculinity” commercials. I find your TV campaign scolding. Nagging. Henpecky. Shrewish. Finger-wagging. Insulting. Accusatory. Boorish. Holier-than-thou and pretty darn stupid. It’s a pathetic, myopic commentary based on a willfully ignorant premise among advertising departments and the companies they influence.

I’m guessing, Mr. Taylor, you have a lengthy experience with TV spots and the American white male. We’re the guys always baffled by the simplest things and need to have a tongue-clucking spouse or girlfriend set us straight. Underwear goes on the inside of the pants, right? I’m not sure if my black, brown, golden, raspberry red, lemon yellow or orange-orange male compadres have noticed, but Madison Avenue has been slowly targeting them as dullards and mouth-breathers in their TV spots.

Us poor guys. Besides being screaming psychopaths in wife-beater T-shirts, we can’t pick out barbecue coals or canned tuna by ourselves. We need to be sternly reminded by wise and elevated corporate social justice warriors: Use the fork. Not your fingers. 

In the devil’s far reaches of imagination, even Satan wouldn’t invent an ad campaign urging inner-city blacks to not steal television sets.

Do you know why, Mr. Taylor?

It’s wildly inappropriate, profoundly stupid, miles off any known scale of appropriate behavior and insulting to the point of inviting a well-deserved toxic masculine punch in the nose.

Years ago, a friend of mine noted: “The devil will never come at you crimson red, with pointy ears and flicking tail. He’ll walk with you, put his arm around your shoulder and say, ‘Be reasonable…’”

This is the fabric of your commercial, the ugliness of Proctor & Gamble’s message that, after the fact, you stubbornly defend:

It’s shame.

It’s shame, wrapped in the homely, blind, vainglorious, accursing, self-righteousness of a corporate cement-head giant.

I’m blessed with hundreds of friends and even more good acquaintances who are men. We all have our burdens, setbacks, glaring faults and some have survived terror I can’t even imagine. They sometimes make decisions that make me wince. Ditto with my gal pals. But, for the most part, we suit up. We show up. Each person is different and moving through Life at his or her own pace. But in all of us is that desire to become the man, or woman, they are supposed to be. The men I know have been more than heroic.

That is something to be celebrated. Not shamed.

Which is what you’re doing with your razor commercial. You paint a picture of men at their lowest then try to hide behind poorly camouflaged and unasked-for moralizing from a Pajama Boy point of view, only with a deeper voice.

There is no such thing as Toxic Masculinity.

I’m not selling a razor or box of oatmeal here, but the truth is this: hurt people, hurt people. 

It’s a great line. It’s not mine. Behind every cruel act can be found original imposition, pain and fear that won’t go away for lifetimes. Hurt people become crazy people. They lash out. Then there’s the mass hypnosis of the mob.

It’s not just men.

How many times have I witnessed screaming women in public? A mom slapping her child in a store? A wife cheating on her husband? Headlines of a mother drowning her baby?

Will Proctor & Gamble even offer a slight tut-tut in a Tide commercial, a Pepto-Bismol spot or advertisement for Scope, Oil of Olay, Mr. Clean or Fixodent, warning the Sisters of Eve on the loutishness of Feminine Toxicity? 

I think not.

Good day and goodbye, to you and your products, Mr. Taylor.

John Boston is a local writer.

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