The Best that Capitalists Can Do?–What’s Really Wrong with the Gillette Ad, and Why Nobody is Talking About It

Toxic masculinity is what folks used to call a “jock mentality.” It is very real; I have the scars to prove it.

It was no fun growing up being called “retarded” and “faggot” in grade school while being called “nigger,” “coon” and “monkey” in my fucking neighborhood. Or having the shit kicked out of you at the age of nine by a dozen young punks while your guidance counselor looked on, smugly. Or getting groped in high school by closeted, allegedly ‘heterosexual’ guys. (As a side note, I know of many women who did not like being bullied by other girls when they were young, but that’s off-topic.)

For decades, I have been hoping–and not so secretly–that these jocks would get their comeuppance. Let these clowns whine. Even if their complaints against Gillette may hold some water (the commercial is somewhat patronizing, to say the least), their reasons for rejecting the ad are highly suspect. Most of the men complaining–people like James Woods or Paul Joseph Watson–are right-wing, all-American Reaganite types, hung up on some Anglo-Teutonic or Latin/Slav reactionary Catholic ideal of (white) manhood–much of which involves suppressing the life of the mind in favor of doing things exclusively with your hands (or your tiny dick).

Having said that, the very fact that Gillette, of all companies, would make an ad concerning “toxic masculinity” (aka WHITE¹ masculinity) is laughable.

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The Gillette Ad: Neoliberal hypocrisy at its finest

If Gillette wants to wag its hypocritical little finger at rank-and-file “dudes” who wolf-whistle at women on the street (which is stupid in its own right) let them do that. Nobody cares. But before they do that they should stop and consider just what in the hell goes into making their shaving gels.

If Gillette wants to preach to its audience about young bullies who rough up kids on playgrounds, it should start by preaching to its fucking parent company Proctor and Gamble about how it treats seven-year old Indonesian girls who pick its cotton–or, to be more precise, extract its palm oil.

Palm oil is one of the key ingredients that goes into the production of Gillette’s famous shaving gel. Several articles on the web detail how Wilmar, the world’s biggest palm oil processor, “was sourcing its oil from illegally cleared land and destroying the habitat of critically endangered Sumatran tigers.” Jakarta Globe/Agence France-Presse, October 22, 2013. The article has since been taken down, but a quote from an online cache reads:

“Until Wilmar commits to a no-deforestation policy, their trade of palm oil to big household brands… makes consumers unwitting accomplices in the extinction of Indonesia’s 400 remaining Sumatran tigers,” head of Greenpeace’s Forest Campaign in Indonesia, Bustar Maitar, said.

Wilmar supplies more than a third of the world’s palm oil, according to the company’s website, and its oil can be found in Oreo cookies, Gillette shaving cream and Clearasil face wash, among an array of grocery items in more than 50 countries.

Greenpeace said Wilmar was continuing to source palm fruit from plantations on illegally cleared land within Sumatra island’s protected Tesso Nilo National Park, prime tiger habitat.

The report also said that fire had hit the permit area of another of Wilmar’s suppliers in June, when blazes swept through Sumatra’s forests for weeks, covering Singapore and Malaysia in a blanket of hazardous smog.

Indonesian officials said most were deliberately lit to clear forested land and grow palm oil.

Wilmar denied suggestions its supplier had deliberately lit land-clearing fires, saying in a statement the blaze was on a plantation that was likely ignited by surrounding flames.

“We are currently reviewing our business practices, including our sourcing policy, working with certain international supply chain experts,” Wilmar spokesperson Lim Li Chuen told AFP.

The company said it had issued “a stern reminder to all staff” of its policy to only source palm fruit grown legally and that any supplier trying to sell illegally grown fruit would be “dropped altogether”.

Wilmar is the latest company to be targeted by Greenpeace, which has taken aim at several high-profile firms and campaigned for responsible consumer spending.”

Within three years of this article’s appearance, Proctor and Gamble merely shifted from one palm oil magnate (Wilar, in Indonesia) to another (Felda Global Ventures, in Malaysia). Felda is even worse. According to sumofus.org,

Felda deals in the human trafficking of its plantation workers, confiscating close to 30,000 passports, and still works with labor contractors and recruiters who charge enormous fees to trafficked foreign workers. 
 
Plantation workers are trapped in modern day slavery, all to produce palm oil that ends up in P&G products. The multinational consumer goods company is well aware of the problem, and yet still buys conflict palm oil from its joint venture partner Felda. (Bold in the original.)

 

What do #MeToo, Paul Joseph Watson or any of these other internet spooks have to say about this stuff? Nothing, of course. None of them gave a single thought about near-extinct tigers or severely-depleted rain-forests somewhere in South-East Asia–let alone a bunch of poor “gooks.”

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“Who cares? After all, we don’t live there.”

I think that in due time Gillette (I don’t know about Nike) will be staffed largely by women. Proctor and Gamble, the parent company, will probably be headed by a woman. The CIA, at this very moment, is now staffed by women. But, God forbid, it is still the fucking Central Intelligence Agency. Nothing changes; everything goes on as before, except that white women are now doing the white man’s dirty work.

The same goes for other carefully hand-picked minority groups in the USA. A few American cities these days, for instance, are largely managed by African Americans. Cool, you think. But–which African Americans?

Picture a Black (male) President sending troops (mainly black) to a city with a Black (female) mayor, Black chief of police, black administrators, black accountants, and a majority Black population. To do what? To put down a rebellion of poor Black people furious at rampant police brutality. If this sounds like The Congo, or Liberia, or Nigeria in a bad political phase, you would not be far off. Actually this was Baltimore, Maryland, in 2015. (Maryland is not in Africa.)

When “French West Africa” gained its so-called “independence” from France in 1960, one so-called “African president” said with a straight face, “Gabon may be independent, but between France and Gabon nothing has changed–everything remains as is.” Exactly–and from today’s vantage point, our immediate future will look precisely like Gabon in 1960.

The patriarchy appears to be in transition, as the old white men are dying off and many young white men appear unfit to inherit the mantle of patriarchal domination; they cut a bad image with all that reactionary, alt-right bullshit. Many people worldwide automatically see “Nazi” when they see a white, male face. Indeed the face of cutthroat neoliberal capitalism these days is the face of a smug white man–the very paragon of “toxic masculinity”–in a three-piece suit and shades.

Capitalism will soon replace this guy with a smart, sassy, progressive black male (or white transwoman) who shaves his/her face with–you guessed it–Gillette razor gel.

Hannah Rosin’s prediction of “The End of Men” appears to be coming true–on the surface, anyway. The keys to capitalism are being increasingly handed to white women, who (like Angela Merkel) will be managing the works. Elite white ladies will get their long-awaited comeuppance. White men will still be the advisers, with plenty of time on their hands to fuck around…perhaps on some hidden island somewhere in Booga-booga-land, surrounded by pink cocaine and child prostitutes. The media will not disclose their whereabouts and will pretend they are safely dead. The plantations and human trafficking will continue unabated, and the cries of children forced to work for a pittance in illegally cleared forests will be met with silence.

———————————————————

¹I insist that this is a white (and, moreover, very American) ideal. Black (and other non-white) men who adhere to this ideal are typically aping their white Anglo or Latin or Arab masters.

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