Are we too easily offended? It is a question I often have to ask myself, usually after some delicate soul takes umbrage at something I have said or, on occasion, written.
Tune into any radio phone-in or log onto any social media network and you will hear people outraged by something done or said by somebody they vehemently disagree with. Every now and again, it can make for a fun five minutes but usually the novelty of the latest ‘most hilarious daft spat of the year’ wears off as quickly as Fiona Bruce’s BBC Question Time honeymoon period lasted.
For what it is worth, I am pretty confident that we are no more sensitive than we were 30 years ago as we have always been susceptible to the occasional row, usually brought on by the most seemingly innocuous comment or incident. Back in the ‘80s, families would fall out over a particularly heated game of Monopoly - these days people lose their minds over a tweet - usually one that they haven’t actually read but are angered by all the same.
The latest storm in a teacup comes in the shape of an advert, you know it - the one for the world’s most famous purveyor of shaving gear, Gillette. If you haven’t seen it, the premise is quite straightforward - it brings many stereotypes about masculinity, including the toxic, nudge, nudge, wink, wink aspects, firmly under the spotlight and makes for a punchy 109 seconds of viewing.
The video is a response to the #MeToo movement and challenges its The Best A Man Can Get motto, which is arguably the most instantly recognisable marketing catchline of all time.
The ad calls out bad behaviour, including men leering at women in the street, chauvinistic nonsense in the workplace and young boys feeling the need to knock seven bells out of others. It also showcases the ‘modern man’, the kind of guy who breaks up fights and stops his pal from channelling his inner Benny Hill.
The response to the advert has been nothing short of breathtaking, with fuming fellas from Ilfracombe to Idaho claiming that they will never buy the brand’s products ever again, claiming that the company has turned its back on the very people who have generated it billions of dollars over the decades.
Last week the #boyocttgillette hashtag gained some traction on Twitter, with incandescent chaps posting pictures of products that they were never going to buy again. The word ‘betrayal’ has been used quite a bit by those offended by this very clever piece of marketing.
It is almost laughable that men who associate themselves with old fashioned values and hark back to a time when unacceptable behaviour was described as ‘banter’, or its 1970s equivalent, are offended by this, as weren’t the ‘real men’ of yesteryear unmoved by anything? They certainly wouldn’t have watched television, let alone complain about what was on it.
As a bloke who has consistently come close to displaying old school masculinity, yet always fallen slightly short, I applaud Gillette for using its mighty brand to project the message that we are not all knuckle dragging halfwits.
To some this is a cynical attempt to jump onto a bandwagon for the sake of profits and while Gillette’s aim is always to make money, this is a classic example of a corporate giant acting responsibly.
There really is nothing to get upset about.