Axe body spray’s new commercial takes aim at “toxic masculinity”
After years of playing to some of the most extreme stereotypes about the modern man, an unlikely brand is using its advertising reach to question traditional notions of masculinity.
“Toxic” and “masculinity” go hand-in-hand with Axe Body Spray, but they’re usually not right next to each other.
Axe Body Spray’s new “Is It OK for Guys?” ad is attempting to encourage guys to think outside of the box about their manhood.
The ad has guys questioning things like, “Is it okay to not like sports? Is it okay to be a virgin? Is it okay to experiment with other guys?”, and is part of the brand’s “Find Your Magic” campaign, which started last year and attempts to broaden viewers’ ideas of what it means to be a man.
Axe’s global vice president Rik Strubel commented on the ad. “What we wanted to do is show … that there is this habit of guys going online in the privacy of their own home asking all these questions.”
Knowing Axe’s history, I thought that sentence was going to end a little differently…
Thanks to the brand’s track record of sexist ads showcasing men – and boys – becoming irresistible to women after applying the spray-on scent, they seem an unlikely shepherd for this newly enlightened era of manhood. But they’re making an effort.
And a pretty legit one at that.
Last year, the brand’s parent company Unilever announced that they’re going to eliminate sexist stereotypes from all of its campaigns, and according to Mashable, Axe is also building partnerships with Promundo, The Representation Project, and Ditch the Label — all nonprofit organizations dedicated to combating harmful gender stereotypes.
Axe is working with those organizations to help provide resources to men who Google “embarrassing” questions about self-grooming, in an effort to reduce shameful stigmas.
The cynical observer might consider the convenience of this approach from a demographic perspective.
After all, for a brand that has a pretty narrow range – straight cis males who play sports and watch porn and talk about chicks – appealing to males outside that specific niche is probably a good idea. Especially since Axe body spray is something of a punchline, an easy joke with which to mock desperate teenagers and lonely high school bros.
If you’re anything like me, you might have watched that video above and half-expected a heavy guitar riff to slam in as some tough guy bursts onto the screen and yells “NO!” in response to the questions.
But let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. In an era in which “toxic masculinity” is making a bit of a resurgence, thanks to the ascendancy of Trump and his ilk, we need all the help we can get to resist and beat back those that would undo our hard-fought recent progress in the fight against ignorance, intolerance, and stereotypes.
So kudos to Axe for switching sides.