Each morning, when I look in the mirror to shave, who do I see staring back at me?
Am I a product of my toxically masculine society?
Thankfully, Procter & Gamble has alerted me to these flaws in my character. After watching the new Gillette ad that asks the question, “Is this the best a man can get?” then proceeds to characterize all men as misogynistic, cat-calling bullies, I realized two things: First, virtue-signaling in advertising, specifically by billion-dollar companies, is at least disingenuous and at worst a sleazy way to increase their bottom line. Second, politicizing consumer products is a quick way to get me to not buy your product.
To be clear, equality for everyone regardless of race, gender, creed or sexual orientation is a worthy cause, one which everyone should be doing something about. The fact that I need to verbalize this for fear of being misrepresented is part of the problem.
When a company that made $6.6 billion in sales in 2018 comes out with an ad attacking its largest consumer base as sexist, then releases a statement on their website saying they will donate $3 million over the next three years to educate that base, it reeks of disingenuity.
Gillette spent $134 million in advertising in 2017. Only donating .04 percent of their yearly profit doesn’t seem like they are interested in affecting social change at all. Is this the best Gillette can get?
What I did not want to do was make a political or social statement when shaving. I’m not throwing away my Gillette razors. They cost too much. But what I won’t be doing is buying more once those run out. I’ll buy razors from someone who isn’t politicizing my consumer product.
P&G isn’t the first company that has followed the model of politicization. Nike’s “Dream Crazy” ad that used Colin Kaepernick as its spokesperson was extremely controversial. Instead of putting on my favorite running shoes, now I’m tackling social issues.
Do I think kneeling for the national anthem is disrespectful? Definitely. Will I fight to support an individual’s right to do so? Absolutely.
There are other questions that need to be addressed: Is police brutality a real issue in our country? Do #blacklives matter? Do #bluelives matter? Do I support the police?
Some of these questions are simple, others are more complex. I’m not interested in solving these issues when I lace up my shoes to go for a run. I’m not throwing out my Nikes, but I won’t be buying any more.
The political and social issues that we face on a daily basis are daunting enough without the added frivolity of having to choose consumer products based on these issues.
Should I eat this chicken sandwich? Or should I refuse to because Chick-fil-A’s CEO doesn’t believe in same-sex marriage? Are my personal beliefs now called into question because I like waffle fries?
It’s not the social issues or activism that bother me. It’s the politicization of products that aren’t political. A break from politicization is exactly what I am looking for. I’m not looking to make statements by my choice of footwear and, I think, neither are the majority of consumers.