April 07, 2004

Week of Loathing (Day the

Week of Loathing (Day the Fourth): Gillette, Self-Championed as “The Best a Man Can Get”

A few superannuated members of our crack young staff here at “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly” remember the tumult that surrounded the original publication of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique. Appearing in 1963, this book, by the Den Mother of so-called Second-Wave Feminism, argued, among other things, that American culture was quashing the constructive impulses of females. Friedan disparaged male-run operations like Ladies' Home Journal, which spent much of its editorial acumen on such trivialities as cake recipes and vacuuming tips.

As Hal Colebatch discussed in the Autumn 2000 number of The Salisbury Review, however, women’s more prominent role in the promotion of American culture has hardly raised standards. On the contrary: It appears as if women were not, contra Friedan, frothing at the mouth to peruse magazines containing lengthy disquisitions by the likes of Jean-Paul Sartre and Kate Millet. Rather, with women long ensconced at the editorships of such lofty publications as Ladies' Home Journal, it seems as if these magazines still confine themselves mostly to, well, cake recipes and vacuuming tips. So much for the intellectual firepower of the weaker sex!

But we, the crack staff of “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly,” must admit that Friedan’s complaints regarding the deleterious effects of aspects of American society have some intrinsic merit. And this brings us to Gillette, the American company hawking a line of shaving accessories that bills its products in myriad television commercials as “The Best a Man Can Get.”

You’ve seen the advertisements before: A strapping, thirtysomething hunk wearing nothing but a towel and a smile stares into his bathroom mirror with smug satisfaction, marveling at the high quality of his tonsorial tools. His wife and (presumably) his little daughter look on with sheer (or is that shear?) bliss: Daddy sure is a handsome fellow, isn’t he? The charming familial scene closes with a dime-store jingle: A handful of C-List singers croon blithely about “Gillette, The Best a Man Can Get.”

We, the crack staff of “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly,” have no quibble with Gillette products. Almost 47 percent of our staff is male, and informal polling around the office water-cooler has found that many of us use Gillette products. In fact, 3 out of 5 male employees of “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly” believe that 5 out of 6 doctors recommend Gillette products over the other leading brand. Which, we suppose, is Bic—a beacon of hygienic mediocrity, if you ask us.

We take umbrage, however, with the lofty catch-phrase Gillette offers the American public; after all, it touts itself as “The Best a Man Can Get.” Although countless Americans have endured the formulaic chanting of this advertising hook time and time again, we, the crack staff of “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly,” don’t believe that the phrase has received an adequate parsing.

This, dear reader, is where the intrepid staff of “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly” steps in. As we see it, the jingle “Gillette, The Best a Man Can Get” could mean approximately two things, which may or may not be mutually compatible:

1) Gillette offers males the highest quality shaving products.
2) The use of Gillette products shall amount to the apex of any and every man’s life.

We don’t have any problems with claim number 1; sure, it may be a bit of an immodest—even faintly incredible—statement, but television advertising has long been known for its blatant braggadocio. We, however, have colossal problems with claim number 2.

And this leads us back to Betty Friedan and her feminist caterwauling. How dare Gillette champion itself as the pinnacle of male achievement! Yes, Gillette offers a razor that has three blades; but certainly some aspects of the male experience make this seem niggling. Why, we, the crack young staff of “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly,” can easily name an assortment of people and items that mean far more to the quality of our lives. To pick a few at random: Henry Winkler, Formica, and suppositories. Okay, our selections weren’t totally chosen at random. Still, we, the crack young staff of “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly,” utterly detest the vile—nay, misandrist—claims of the Gillette company. Without today’s addition to the First Annual Week of Loathing (April 4th-10th, 2004) miring in the depths of a male self-help session, let us suggest that, in sooth, men can do far, far better than Gillette.

In fact, if this weren’t the case, we, the crack young staff of “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly,” know what we would do with our razors.

Posted at April 7, 2004 12:01 AM | TrackBack