Well, for once my hard work has paid off—it seems that Gillette’s gotten the message.
If your reaction is Huh, you’ve obviously been sitting out the culture wars—and more power to you. It definitely makes life easier. Let’s put it this way: if, as we’re often told, corporations aren’t people, Gillette recently did a great job of impersonating one—specifically, an over-the-top campus feminist—with an ad declaring its customers’ defining trait, masculinity, “toxic.” Featuring bullies, sexual harassers, and sociopaths without portfolio, the ad flipped Gillette’s usual tagline to ask: “Is this the best a man can get?” And soon, a Facebook ad followed showing—wait for it—a dad helping his transgender teen shave for the first time.
While Ellen DeGeneres may have declared this last “nothing short of incredible,” lots of us were less delighted with the firm’s overall view of contemporary manhood. Hell: as committed Gillette men, we felt betrayed.
Only most of us just aren’t very good at protest. From do-gooding knitters to Twitter Jacobins, leftists are always ready to mount overnight, all-hands-on-deck campaigns against anything or anyone—denouncing whole fields of endeavor as racist or sexist, launching boycotts of entire cities and states, turning every pol and CEO in sight to jelly, but conservatives tend to be go-it-alone types, not great at getting the point across. Never again that heady feeling I had back as a lefty student of forgoing grapes for a few months, and achieving total victory—and I don’t even like grapes.
It’s not that I’m not equally committed these days, and God knows, I don’t lack for products and services that need to be taught a lesson—from the New York Times to late-night TV propagandists to (this past spring, on behalf of Kate Smith) the Yankees. In fact, as a serious armchair conservative activist, I must make vital choices every day—for instance, whom to root for (or, just as often, against) on Jeopardy. The social worker from Cambridge, whose anecdote involves her trip to Cuba? Not a chance! But then there was James Holzhauer, the Las Vegas gambling pro, who became the show’s uber-champ, via the audacious risk-taking that made America. Take that, Elizabeth Warren!
In our household, standing up to Gillette meant the entire Procter & Gamble evil empire was verboten, with my wife as chief enforcer. No more Cascade, or Downy, for long-lasting freshness; no more Charmin or Bounty, the quicker picker-upper.
Sounds easy enough—but of course, it’s the sticking with it that’s so rough. Back in 1892, striking Homestead miners suffered nine shot dead rather than surrender. In Montgomery, Alabama, African-Americans heroically endured 381 days of brutal cold and searing heat rather than ride segregated city buses before they finally won. Me? I’ve gone nine months without Gillette. Shaved less often. Reused blades until they scrape raw. Haunted estate sales like a junkie at rock bottom, making fast for strangers’ bathrooms to rifle cabinets for unopened Gillette packets—Fusion5, Mach3, Trac2. (No matter, I have handles for them all!)
I told myself that at least it was making a difference. Wasn’t it right there on my CVS receipts, in the steep discounts offered on future purchases of Gillette blades? They were practically begging me to return. Well, screw you, algorithm: not happening!
But I didn’t really believe it—not until the day another guy caught me staring wistfully at Gillette packets, smugly sitting in their Plexiglas lockups.
I glanced his way. He was holding a packet of plastic razors. An ally!
“Great, isn’t it?” Then, off my look—“Their sales are way off!”
Indeed, Procter & Gamble had written down Gillette by $8 billion this summer. Soon they’d be running ads featuring a brawny fireman! Turns out that there were thousands of lone wolves out there, tens of thousands, each the best a man can get.
Of course, if the Left has taught us anything, it’s always to keep the pressure on. Which puts me right back where I was in my grape-boycotting days. If you’re looking, I’ll be the one with the unkempt beard.