Procter & Gamble is continuing to produce ads that touch on larger topics than the products they sell. Recently, Gillette produced a #MeToo-inspired ad that reframes their tagline “The Best a Man Can Get” and the reaction to it has been very divided. On January 15, Real Clear Politics indicated that the ad had received far more negative than positive reactions (454,000 to 145,000).
One news program invited a woman and a man to share their reactions. He was upset because it “paints all men as bad guys” by using their tagline in that way. The woman kept trying to explain to him the point of the commercial (‘woman-splaining’ if you will).
Piers Morgan, a well-known journalist claimed that the ad was ‘driving a war against masculinity.” What’s fascinating is that the commercial addresses a broad range of negative behaviors that affect several different groups, not just sexual harassment. Like, calling a boy a sissy, a group of boys bullying another boy, along with catcalls and a woman’s reaction to a man touching her in a meeting while telling the men in the room, “What she’s trying to say is…..” It shows a line of men from all backgrounds saying “Boys will be boys – and then ends by saying, “Boys watching today will be the men of tomorrow.”
Haven’t we excused the bad behavior of grown men for too long by saying, “Boys will be boys?” Apparently, Piers Morgan doesn’t want that to end. Is he really suggesting that all of these inappropriate and/or mean behaviors interfere with male masculinity?
My response to the concerns expressed by the man on the TV show and Piers Morgan is “If the shoe doesn’t fit, don’t wear it.” P&G’s response to the criticism is that they are trying to appeal to younger consumer groups with these types of ads – and that it hasn’t hurt their sales. They will continue making ads that reflect issues facing our society and leveraging their advertising power to make a difference. I applaud them for that! The most important thing men can do is step up – and that is exactly what this ad is calling them to do and showing some ways they can do that.
If you see something, say something. Don’t be silent, don’t ignore it. Be an advocate and an ally. If you have power, use it for the good of those who don’t. Men opting out of being part of the dialogue is the same kind of thing that happened in the fallout after the Anita Hill hearings when men decided it was safer to avoid interacting with women altogether.
Last year, I developed a new training module in response to some of the same kind of results that #MeToo movement was having on men. The first time we used the new training module was at an HR conference with 13 women and 3 men. I asked one of the men, “So, how do you feel?” His response was, “I feel guilty.”
Here is what I told him, and what I hope people hear in the wake of this ad. We don’t need guilt; It is a non-productive emotion. We need action. Men can’t help that people have experienced different socializations based on gender in formative years.
But, now that you see the impact of those differences in the workplace – you can make a difference.
That’s where your help is needed.
Patricia C. Pope is CEO and Chief Creative Officer of Pope & Associates. She is a recognized subject matter expert with over four decades of knowledge and experience in diversity, inclusion, and culture change. She serves as the lead consultant on many of our client engagements and has primary responsibility for Research & Development. Her passion is creating new assessments/measurement tools, new learning content and training solutions, and innovative ways to build inclusive cultures.