One Gender Scholar’s Response to the Gillette Ad Controversy

Susan Dobscha, Ph.D.

Professor of Marketing, Bentley University

The Gillette ad released this week quickly turned into a gender flashpoint, drawing praise from marketing scholars and ire from news reporters, pundits, and Twitter trolls. It even prompted the Guardian to create four parody ads for products like the FitBit monitor that alerts men when they are talking over women that would serve to address the problem of toxic masculinity (The Guardian, Jan. 16th, 2019).

The praise from marketing scholars also appeared in the Guardian and the Washington Post. Interestingly, neither of those marketing scholars have published in the area of gender, and also interestingly, are both white men. My response is not meant to diminish their responses, but merely to point out the systemic issues related to gender in marketing that clearly bleed from the marketplace into academia. Gender scholarship in marketing has held an “other” status since its emergence in the early 1990s. And gender scholars, who have published about the dynamics of gender in marketing in those journals brave enough to support our work, have long been screaming in the forest with no one there to listen. So, when this Gillette ad kerfuffle began this week, it was only a matter of hours after I posted it to the Facebook page for gender scholars in marketing, that two famous names in our field had been contacted to comment and made those comments. They were good comments, one was positive and praised the brand for tapping into “something that’s part of the popular consciousness” and for taking a moral stand against something that has its tentacles in many areas of society, from families to corporate culture, and apparently, in marketing academia as well. The other commentator was very critical of the ad but did not really incorporate gender as part of the critique. The irony here is that two non-gender scholars are now on record as speaking for marketing academia about an ad that is so clearly about gender. “Toxic masculinity” as a term is borne from feminist and gender scholarship and yet, those voices are missing from the popular press discourse about the ad. I posted on Facebook, “Good for class discussion. Actual gender scholars would have warned about the heavy-handedness of this ad when the target market is so obviously entrenched within in “traditional” (rather than toxic) masculinity. Then the backlash begins and sets things back. That’s what most gender scholars would say. If we were asked.” But we weren’t. So I’m left to scream in the woods, from the comfort of my kitchen, and tell the story of this ad from my (not all gender scholars) perspective, hoping that someone is listening.

In 2012, I wrote a very short piece for Ad Age, entitled “Why Do Marketers (Keep) Getting Gender Wrong.” The Gillette ad manages to avoid some pitfalls that my article had outlined: it did not confuse biological sex with the identity-based, performative nature of gender; it didn’t rely on stereotypes (think Bic pens designed for the smaller hand of a woman); and by virtue of living in New England for 25 years, their board of directors seem “pretty woke.” What happened

here was a clear attempt to speak to an emerging moral issue (toxic masculinity) in a way that seemed designed to raise consciousness, while also trying to sell some razors. It is not unlike the Colin Kaepernik Nike ad in relation to race. And identically to this ad, the people asked to comment on the ad and the response by the public were largely white men (see AMA’s response on their website). Race scholars in marketing had their own take on the ad that was visible to our small, private Facebook communities. Screaming in the trees but only the oaks are listening…

The backlash from this ad will probably make it harder for marketers who are trying to do the right thing by men and women. Backlash, in the age of Twitter, comes swiftly and powerfully. Gillette is an old brand with deep roots in New England. It is the name on the stadium of one of the most successful football franchises in history. Gender politics in New England are complicated and nuanced. And this ad failed to understand that Gillette as a parent brand does a lot more than make razors for men (and women, by the way). By taking a swing for the gender fences, Gillette failed to understand that the men who buy their razors are probably not well-versed in the latest feminist narratives related to toxic masculinity. Hell, even masculinity as a term is offensive to some. As Brian Kilmeade from Fox News stated, “Let’s point out all the bad things that you may say about men, put them into an ad, make men feel horrible, and then say ‘overpay for a razor.’” The path from masculinity to traditional masculinity to toxic masculinity is a long one paved with the works of gender scholars from many disciplines. Gillette decided to leapfrog from a very traditional brand narrative (“the best a man can get) to a hyper-progressive, very complicated, somewhat shaming story about the worst part of being a man. This leapfrogging does not allow for the audience, comprised of customers and non-customers alike, to go on the intellectual journey required to raise consciousness. It skipped a few steps that would have allowed their male customers to be open to the idea that perhaps the way they are being men in modern life isn’t so great. Those types of baby steps are critical when anybody is trying to change the way someone thinks about something, particularly when it is something that requires them to be self-critical. Gender scholars know this because we’ve seen these leapfrog failures before. The Dove ads showing “real women” have been shown to have done harm by giving critics a forum to harshly criticize women’s bodies. The Kaepernik ad also leapfrogged over several levels of awareness. Racism, like sexism, has never just changed overnight. It is a long and arduous process, fraught with setbacks.

In the end this gender scholar wishes Gillette had asked some gender scholars how we thought this ad would play. I would have warned them that they were missing some extremely critical steps in getting their audience to the point where they would be talking about toxic masculinity while eating chicken wings and cheering on the Pats this weekend. I would have explained to them that heavy-handed morally-driven ads must take into account the nuances of gender politics, which includes understanding the intersections of race, ableism, inclusion, political affiliation, and particularly in this case, social class and geodemographics. Gillette: call me. I’m local and will work for (almost) free.

Updated Program

14th ACR Gender,  Marketing and Consumer Behavior Conference Schedule*

October 9-11, 2018

Dallas, TX at the Hilton Anatole

 

Tuesday, October 9 Informal gathering at off-site restaurant. Information to follow.

 

Wednesday, October 10

Time Activity Details
7:30am-11:00am Registration Opens
9:00am-9:30am Welcome and Opening Remarks Catherine Coleman, TCU

Susan Dobscha, Bentley University

Linda Tuncay Zayer, Loyola University Chicago

9:30am-10:45am Competitive Session 1: Exploring Cultural Dynamics of Gender and Consumption Domestic Space, and the Gendered Power Dynamics: Pastry Making in Algeria

Nacima Ourahmoune, KEDGE Business School and Amina Djedidi, Université Paris-Est Créteil.

Women’s Empowerment in Shopping: A Qualitative Investigation Among Moroccan Women

Delphine Godefroit-Winkel, Toulouse University and Lisa Peñaloza, KEDGE Business School.
Consumption and Masculinity in Brazilian Barbershops

Natália Contesini Santos, Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro and Severino Joaquim Nunes Pereira, Federal Rural University of Rio de Janeiro.

10:45am-11:00am Break
11:00am-12:15pm Competitive Session 2: Gender, Consumption and Choice The Best of Both Worlds: Androgyny in Consumer Choice

Niusha Jones, University of North Texas and Blair Kidwell, University of North Texas.
Exploring the Category of Gender: Heterogeneity in “Men” and “Women” in Intra-Household Consumption and Implications for Children’s Education

Laurel Steinfield, Bentley University and Maryalice Wu, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
The Mystique of Masculine and Feminine Choices: How Aversive Feelings Underlie Preferences

Niusha Jones, University of North Texas and Blair Kidwell, University of North Texas.

12:15pm-12:30pm Break
12:30pm-2:00pm Changemakers Panel and Luncheon Energizing the Base: This panel brings together changemakers in academia, business, and the nonprofit sector to discuss the movements that are inspiring change with regard to gender, marketing and consumers. Panelists will discuss how they have been a part of initiating and motivating action among academics, consumers, and voters and within organizations.

Featured panelists include:

  1. Professor Linda Price, University of Oregon
  2. Ms. Rose Kaur, Managing Partner of Jester & Genius
  3. Ms. Lucinda Guinn, VP Campaigns at EMILY’s List
  4. Ms. Shannon Moorman, VP Talent at GSD&M and leader in TimesUp Movement

Moderated by Professor Wendy Hein, Birkbeck, University of London

2:00pm-2:15pm Break
2:15pm-3:30pm Special Session: Gender and Feminist Perspectives on the Practice of Body Augmentation
Session Chair: Susan Dobscha, Bentley University
Health Marketing and Aesthetic Imagery: Normalizing Women’s Medicalized Bodies Through Social Media

Jenna Drenten, Loyola University Chicago and Lauren Gurrieri, RMIT University.

Body Modification and Gendered Identity: An Examination of Hourglass Feature Enhancement

Jie G. Fowler, Valdosta State University and James Gentry, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Shaping the Self as Object: Object-oriented Ontology and Feminism in the Gym

Abigail Nappier Cherup, University of Nebraska- Lincoln; Alexander Rose, Idaho State University; Susan Dobscha, Bentley University
Jan-Brace Govan, Monash University, Discussant.

3:30pm-3:45pm Break
3:45pm-5:00pm Developmental Session: The aim of this session is to provide constructive feedback to further develop the authors’ work. Shorter presentations with more time for dialogue and exchange of ideas. The Taming of the Goddess

Nivedita Bhanja, Indian Institute of Management Calcutta.
Breaking Menstruation Taboos Online: Self-disclosure and Period-related Hashtags

Katherine Sredl, Loyola University Chicago and Emily Robertson, Loyola University Chicago.
Real Men Don’t Sleep: Toxic Masculinity and the Sleepless Masculinity Stereotype

Nathan B. Warren, University of Oregon and Troy H. Campbell, University of Oregon.
Is Sustainable Consumption a Function of Gender or Self Concept? Effect of Exchange Offer Type on Offer Preference and Satisfaction

Preetha Menon, Symbiosis Centre for Behavioural Studies
“Skinny White Bitches”: Exploring (Normative) Female Sexual Agency in Advertising

Irina Balog, Gothenburg University
Lorna Stevens, University of Bath, Session Facilitator

5:00pm-5:30pm Break

Poster Set-up

Poster Session and Reception

(light hors d’oeuvres)

5:30pm-6:30pm Poster Session Participants listed below.
Poem by Andrea Prothero and Pierre McDonagh, ‘Death by a Million Cuts.”
6:30-7:30 Mix & Mingle Reception Performance by Emily Blue

https://emilybluemusic.com/

7:45pm Off-site Optional Dinner Event Ferris Wheelers

https://bit.ly/2QzR0ky

 

Thursday, October 11

Time Activity Details
8:00am-9:00am Mentor & Mingle Breakfast: The goal of this breakfast is to provide informal mentorship sessions for doctoral students and junior faculty as well as for others to meet colleagues with similar research interests. All are welcome and encouraged to attend. Mentors:

Fleura Bardhi, Cass Business School;

Eileen Fischer, York University;

Lauren Gurrieri, RMIT University;

Robert Harrison, Western Michigan University;

Wendy Hein, University of London;

Cele Otnes, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign;

Nacima Ourahmoune, Kedge Business School;

Julie Ozanne, University of Melbourne; Marie-Agnès Parmentier, HEC Montréal; Lisa Peñaloza, KEDGE Business School; Kate Pounders, University of Texas Austin;

Andrea Prothero, University College, Dublin

9:00am-10:30am Competitive Session 3: Contemporary Issues in Gender, Marketing and Consumer Behavior Game On! Coping with Gender-Based Microaggressions
Jenna Drenten, Loyola University Chicago, Robert Harrison, Western Michigan University, and Nicholas Pendarvis, California State, Los Angeles.


“Real” Marketing for “Real” Consumers: Impact of Model Gender and Photo Editing on Female Consumers’ Evaluations of Marketing

Amanda Mabry-Flynn, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 
Kathrynn Pounders, University of Texas at Austin, Sara Champlin, The University of North Texas and Chen Chen, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
The Study of Gender 101

Laurel Steinfield, Bentley University and Traci Abbott, Bentley University.
An Assessment of the Gender Discourse and Gender Representation in Marketing’s Journals: 1993-2016

Pierre McDonagh, University of Bath; Andrea Prothero, University College Dublin

10:30am-10:45am Break
10:45am-12:00pm Roundtable Discussion: Setting a Transformative Agenda for Gender Related Research, Practice, and Teaching
Roundtable Organizers: Wendy Hein, Birkbeck, University of London
and Linda Tuncay Zayer, Loyola University Chicago
Participants:

Jan Brace-Govan, Monash University;

Catherine Coleman, Texas Christian University;

Susan Dobscha, Bentley University;

Lauren Gurrieri, RMIT University;

Robert Harrison, Western Michigan University;

Nacima Ourahmoune, Kedge Business School;

Kate Pounders, University of Texas, Austin;

Andrea Prothero, University College, Dublin;

Minita Sanghvi, Skidmore College;

Katherine Sredl, Loyola University Chicago;

Laurel Steinfield, Bentley University

12:00pm-12:15pm Closing Remarks

 

*Tentative schedule subject to change.

 

Poster Session Participants
Yoon-Na Cho, Villanova University; Charles R. Taylor, Villanova University; Carissa M. Anthony, Villanova University It’s Time to Get Real: The Rules of the Digital Retouch Game are Changing
Elizabeth Mamali, University of Bath Same Sex Weddings as Ideological Edgework
Gulay Taltekin Guzel, York University and Eileen Fischer, York University Single Ladies, Buy Condos and Get Liberated!!: Exploring The Cooptation of a Feminist Discourse
Jennifer Takhar, Institut Supérieur de Gestion, Paris; Navdeep Athwal, The University of Sheffield Instapoetry: Exploring Instanarratology and #MeToo Digital Storytelling Strategies
Sevincgul Ulu, Rutgers University; Kristina Durante, Rutgers University; Can Uslay, Rutgers University; Sengun Yeniyurt, Rutgers University The Effect of Review Type, Valence, and Gender on the Online Review Perception
Elina Järvinen, University of Turku Masculinity, Identity and sex toys: male consumption in feminized spaces. Is the future of sex toy retailing gender-neutral?
Yuko Minowa, Long Island University; Pauline Maclaran, Royal Holloway, University of London; Lorna Stevens, University of Bath Femininity ideologies in fin-de-siècle America: The femme fatale in Vogue
Danielle Daley, Montana State University; Caroline Graham Austin, Montana State University; Virginia K. Bratton, Montana State University; Amber Raile, Montana State University Exploring Students’ Perceptions of Gender Pay Equity
Ga-Eun Grace Oh, Open University of Hong Kong; Young Eun Huh, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology Judge Me for What I Eat: Women Choose Low-Calorie Labeled Food to Signal Competence
Carly Drake, University of Calgary; Scott Radford, University of Calgary Be Yourself (But Not Too Much): The Role of the Hair Stylist as a Change Agent in the Service Sector
Melissa Souto, Loyola University Chicago; Klaudia Kondakciu, Loyola University Chicago; Linda Tuncay Zayer, Loyola University Chicago Examining Expressions of Gender and Identity on Social Media
Irina Sukiasyan, Birkbeck, University of London Transnational feminism as a transformative consumer research tool: Applying decolonial framework to ‘the missing’ second world perspective
Nivedita Bhanja, Indian Institute of Management Calcutta; Ritu Mehta, Indian Institute of Management Calcutta Blurring boundaries or fortifying them?
Laura Munoz, University of Dallas; Aniefre Inyang, The College of New Jersey Man and Makeup: Finding Masculinity and Femininity Through its Usage
Minita Sanghvi, Skidmore College Fatties in the Senate: Gender, fattism and political marketing
Richard Kedzior, Bucknell University Alternative Spiritualities in the Marketplace: Consumption Practices and Intersectional Articulations of Identity among the Tarot Cards’ Aficionados
Katherine Sredl, Loyola University Chicago; Claire Smith, Loyola University Chicago Vulnerability and Vlogs: Moms Marketing to Moms

 

Emily Blue

We are excited to have Emily Blue perform at the 14th ACR Gender, Marketing and Consumer Behavior Conference at 6:30 pm on October 10.

Emily Blue

 

Emily Blue’s music is a phone call to another universe. Vibrant, neurotic, and genre-bending, the young artist pulls from some of today’s most eclectic music personalities (think St. Vincent, FKA Twigs, Pussy Riot). Moving far from her previous work, the upcoming record “*69” is less traditional and more character-driven, painting a portrait of Blue as a fiery pop-songstress from another realm.

Lead singles “Falling In Love” and “Microscope” are catchy enough for the pop lovers and crusty enough for an indie crowd, showcasing the cotton-candy meets LSD production style of Max Perenchio (of the Gold Web). Listen to her previous releases Blackberries // Rico Acid, featured on Starbucks Reserve and Spotify’s “Factor Happy” playlist.

Blue’s debut album “Another Angry Woman” was featured in Chicago Tribune, Huffington Post, and NPR Illinois and surrounds themes of gender and womanhood. All profits from record sales go to RACES, a rape crisis center in Champaign, IL.

 

Check out more:

emilybluemusic.com

Instagram

Soundcloud

Facebook

Transportation for Conference

The 14th ACR Gender Marketing and Consumer Behavior Conference will be held at:

Hilton Anatole
2201 Stemmons Freeway
Dallas, TX 75207, US

Here are some helpful details regarding transportation

Airport Shuttle Discount Codes:
Attendees discounts are 10% off all services from DFW Airport and 5% from DAL Airport.  Below are the rates with the discounts.

DFW:
Shared Ride Van- $18.20 per person/direction
ExecuCar Sedan- $61.20 (up to 3 passengers)
ExecuCar SUV-     $75.60 (up to 5 passengers)

DAL:
ExecuCar Sedan- $24.70 (up to 3 passengers)
ExecuCar SUV-    $ 33.25 (up to 5 passengers)

Below is the discount link that can be useed to receive these discounted rates.  If you don’t use the link you can go to supershuttle.com and enter discount code DGLRD to receive the rates.

SuperShuttle Airport Transportation Discount Link

Poster Production and Details

The 14th ACR Conference on Gender, Marketing, and Consumer Behavior and FedEx Office will be facilitating poster production.

Poster sizes can be of the following dimensions:

24″x36″

36″x48″

or

42″x42″

You must send Fedex your request no later than 48 hours before you need your poster.

You will be able to pick up your ready poster in the FedEx Office on site at the Hilton Anatole.

To send in your request, go to: https://docstore.fedex.com/hco5574b

Please note the following:

1- For those that do not want color, please send your requests directly to usa5574@fedex.com;

2 – The pre-selected setting is to have the poster printed one-sided (please ignore the part where it says the poster can be printed on two-sides). For the purpose of this poster session, only one side of a poster will be displayed. If you wish to have the poster double-sided, please send your request directly to usa5574@fedex.com.

For questions please call 214.749.0667 or email usa5574@fedex.com