Gillette, #Boymom, and the Baby Steps to True Equality

I don’t spend much time on social media anymore, but one of the things guaranteed to make me grit my teeth whenever I did was #boymom.  Gillette razors apparently agree, with their controversial new ad asking men to be better. #bemoreliketheGilletteAd is a little awkward, but it’s way better than #boymom.

Gillette, #Boymom, and the Baby Steps to True Equality

Explain how this is different from literally ANY child under the age of 6?

Here’s my issue with #boymom, and it ties into the issues that Gillette is tackling with their new ad. I have a son. He likes to be rough and tumble sometimes, and bugs and fish and bodily functions are all the coolest things in the world to him. At the same time, he can be deeply sensitive and sweet, and his prized possession for most of his toddler years was a kitchen spatula. I would get told all the time “Oh, he’s going to be a chef one day!”, and every time I responded with “or just a really good husband.” People would sometimes visibly react at that, but the reality is if he were a girl carrying around a spatula, at least some of those people would be prattling on about what a good homemaker that girl would become.

My friends have girls who can go toe to toe with my son in everything-why do his exploits get a hashtag that praises and celebrates his behavior, while girls get called a tomboy, a vaguely insulting label implying they’re not like other girls. All kids play. All kids love mud, and activity, and no kid comes out of the womb hardwired with gender expectations. They all come out slimy and screaming. The rest is up to society, and the direct and indirect ways we influence and reinforce those stereotypes. #Boymom is just one symptom out of many, but it shows that we allow, in subtle and damaging ways, this idea that boys and men should get away with certain behaviors, not because those behaviors are ok, but because they somehow simply can’t stop themselves. Somehow, though, plenty of men throughout the world manage to function while showing equal respect to women, so the ones who can’t are problematic, not heroes.

So this brings us to Gillette’s new commercial. In it, they’re tackling the stereotypes every marketer has pushed for years — that men grill while women nurture, that “boys will be boys”, that men need to be tough, that catcalling is ok and women should smile more. Instead, they’re asking everyone to face those stereotypes head on and they’re asking “why”. It’s the next evolution in a conversation about gender equality, because this isn’t just them saying “hey guys, don’t play grab-ass with the ladies, it’s not cool”. It’s them asking everyone to stop and question the status quo. It’s saying that #boymom isn’t a good excuse; every human being should be held to the same basic moral standards of respect. Frankly, it’s significantly deeper and more effective than you’d ever expect to get from a razor commercial!

This is an uncomfortable conversation. It’s ok to be upset when you watch this, either because you’ve been on the receiving end of toxic masculinity or because it’s forcing all of us to face and re-evaluate our expectations and behaviors. Gillette is calling out men’s behavior, they’re asking us to make a giant leap forwards in how we deal with each other — that’s not something that makes you feel good, and it’s not supposed to. It’s supposed to make you react and think and discuss. A razor commercial isn’t going to change the world, but the fact that they’re opening the conversation is huge, and hopefully sets us up for more meaningful discussion going forwards. Just … don’t read the comments on YouTube. That’s not the kind of discourse this ad is seeking, and in my personal view a lot of the backlash is because no one likes to have a bright light shone on their shortcomings — but it’s in the light where we can see, and fix, and heal.

The next step is for more places to embrace this, to showcase that you can be a man without denigrating anyone else. To stand up for all people and to treat every. single. human. being. with respect.

Also, Gillette, since you’re being so cool about gender and all, maybe make the women’s and men’s razor pricing equal too?

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About the Author

Zek has been a gadget fiend for a long time, going back to their first PDA (a Palm M100). They quickly went from researching what PDA to buy to following tech news closely and keeping up with the latest and greatest stuff. They love writing about ebooks because they combine their two favorite activities; reading anything and everything, and talking about fun new tech toys. What could be better?

3 Comments on "Gillette, #Boymom, and the Baby Steps to True Equality"

  1. Very much agree with all of it! Also avoid the comments on Facebook, Twitter and … yes, even LinkedIn. The amount of mansplaining, sea-lioning and tone-policing I have seen is quite obscene.

    I know my boys were less likely to (a) stomp in puddles (b) torture small creatures (c) bring mud into the house and (d) eat mass quantities than many of their female friends both in Massachusetts and here in New York. Same for me as a kid – I played football, but loved to cook and have always had many female friends. The whole ‘boys will be boys’ thing is a BS cop out.

  2. I thought the Gillette spot was really well done and had a beautiful message, but the comments being left about it on Youtube and other sites … =/ I shouldn’t have looked.

  3. The quality of reviews on Gear Diary has been getting worse over the years but I’ve remained a loyal reader (since Judie was with the-gadgeteer). This kind of political content is what will drive me away for good. Do gadget fans really want to hear about your political leanings? Maybe. This gadget fan definitely does not. I have YouTube for that kind of thing, and the author probably has her personal blog or Facebook page.

    Is it really a good idea to virtue signal on a gadget review site? You’re alienating those that don’t agree AND those that do agree but don’t want politics where it doesn’t belong. I just don’t understand the point of this article other than for the author to tell everyone how “woke” she is, regardless of how it affects readership.

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