“South, south, north, north, east, west—never in a hurry.” That’s the mantra that Samson Bonkeabantu Brown repeats as he prepares to shave for the first time, pantomiming the movements while his father stands by in the bathroom and offers words of support.
“Don’t be scared,” the elder Brown says. “Shaving is about being confident. You’re doing fine.”
It’s an especially important moment for Samson, a transgender activist who’s reached the point in his transition where he needs to shave. “I shot this ad for Gillette and wanted to include my father, who has been one of my greatest supporters throughout my transition, encouraging me to be confident and live authentically as my best self,” Brown wrote in a Facebook post accompanying the video.
“With the help of Gillette, I was able to share an important milestone in every man’s life with my father,” he continued. “This moment overwhelmed me during filming and again today seeing the ad since it’s been launched. I’m keenly aware of how blessed I am to be able to exist in this world being supported by my family in ways that all too often many of my trans brothers, sisters, and siblings who exist outside the binary are not always as fortunate.”
This isn’t the first time Gillette has taken a stand on masculinity this year. Back in January, the brand released an ad that, at its heart, just asked men to be good—to reject the toxicity of a “boys will be boys” mentality and push to improve the world for everyone. Some folks—too many, frankly—freaked out about this, calling the ad “anti-men.”
There’s some blowback to this latest ad, too: a few nasty comments on Facebook, and fragile dudes freaking out on Twitter, as they’re wont to do. I wish I believed that we could just ignore them. But what that reaction really means is that the rest of us—the ones who see real value in videos like these, even if we acknowledge that it’s also a marketing maneuver—need to step up and keep stepping up.
Toxic masculinity, systematically denying people’s identity and personhood—these things are bad for individuals, for men in general, and for society as a whole. And that should be stated loudly and often, in ads and outside of them.
“I am confident that this ad will encourage many of my trans siblings and fill them with the knowledge that our existence in this world can be filled with the love and support we deserve,” Samson wrote in his Facebook post. “Be good to yourselves. Love yourselves. And know that when you greet the world with love, it can and will love you back, often in the places you least expect. I love you greatly.”