New Blog in Huffington Post - Lynx, Your New Advert Is Great - But Where Is Our Apology?
I can still recall the Lynx cavemen adverts that were on when I was a fat, un-sporty, braces-and-glasses-wearing (and, unbeknownst to me, queer) teenager, and the lack of self-worth they instilled in me as a young man. In fact, it was probably that lack of self-worth that made me run out and buy it - desperate for the "Lynx effect" that would validate me in my all-boys school.
While I was pleased to see the new Lynx campaign showing a masculinity that is modern and diverse, I can't help thinking that for older millennials, like myself, the damage is already done.
As a queer man, Lynx has been a brand that wasn't designed for me and belittled the women in my life as prey in a hyper-masculine world. After all, the cavemen language from the adverts is the dogma of pick up artists, lauded by their audience of lonely heterosexual men. It's held up as their misinformed justification for treating women as property and deifying hyper-masculinity.
'Pick up artistry' is one aspect of toxic masculinity that Oonagh Murphy and I are currently exploring in our new interactive show called Give Me Your Skin at the Battersea Arts Centre. One of the impetuses for the show was the Isla Vista Shootings by Elliot Rodger which killed six people. In his video, he explained his motives: "I've been forced to endure an existence of loneliness, rejection and unfulfilled desires, all because girls have never been attracted to me."
Is it just me or does that sound strangely familiar to the subtext of pretty much every Lynx advert to date? I realise that to blame Lynx for something as heinous as this would be too far, but in our show we argue that it's media like this which creates an environment of entitlement that does contribute to the execution of hugely violent acts.
So surely I should be overjoyed with Lynx's rebrand? Honestly, it is very welcome, and I'm sure that through this advert more discussions about gender and men's mental health will be had. I just can't help feeling a little cynical...
I really do think there is no way that Lynx would have released this advert had "the modern man" not been in vogue. Advertisers know that millennials prefer brands that are socially conscious. So whether that means hijacking campaigns like BLM for Pepsior tackling toxic masculinity, it's fashionable to be "worthy".
I'm not equating the new Lynx campaign to the incredibly poor taste of that Pepsi advert, but there is something similarly tokenistic. Over the past few decades, Lynx has played a major role in contributing to a culture of hyper-masculinity. So to position themselves as the saviour just really sticks in my throat. Where's the apology for the decades of damaging content they've put out?
Lynx is so synonymous withy hyper-masculinity that it is one of the go-to brands I use when running workshops with the Great Initiative for young men in schools to challenge gender stereotypes.
We cover a myriad of topics, from men's mental health to body image and consent, and one of the games we play is an advert quiz where we take print adverts and cover up the product name, with the boys guessing what it is being advertised.
This one for Lynx always causes real uproar. The advert, which was famously banned by Watchdog, shows a woman in her underwear taking a chicken out of an oven. The boys usually guess it's an advert for chicken, or for underwear, or - understandably - for an oven.
When we reveal the tagline "can she make you lose control" and that it's for Lynx, they shout as if they've been cheated - which of course, they have.
This then brings on a discussion about objectification, representations of women in the media and misogyny, as well as who this advert is alienating - i.e. women, gay men and really anyone beyond the readership of LadBible.
As someone who has long been a campaigner for gender equality, of course I think it's brilliant that the new Lynx advert represents men that defy gender norms and will foster conversation.
But in my mind, they've got a lot more reparations to make.
I'm not trying to rain on anyone's parade. I'm delighted that the advert has had such a positive reaction, but here's hoping their next campaign tackles their history of sexist representation, and teaches a whole new generation that "real men" apologise when they've done something wrong.