Good morning, Broadsheet readers! The former leader of Scotland is charged with attempted rape, a new study on breastfeeding discrimination contains some eye-opening stats, and a P&G exec shares her insight on that controversial Gillette ad. Have a wonderful weekend.
• Selling the soapbox. The point of Gillette’s recent ‘toxic masculinity’ ad was to “spark a dialogue,” Carolyn Tastad, group president of North America for Gillette parent P&G, told me on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum yesterday.
Well, mission accomplished.
The commercial that urged men to challenge male stereotypes and call out their peers’ bad behavior was nothing if not polarizing; fans praised its moving commentary on the #MeToo era while critics decried it as anti-man.
In addition to its overall message, the ad was provocative in that Gillette used the spot to take aim at itself. A clip of a dated Gillette ad—attractive white woman kisses attractive white man—appears in the spot before being physically ripped in half. The image is a rare instance of corporate repentance; an admission by Gillette that it had perpetrated some of the stereotypes the new ad was speaking out against.
Tastad, No. 44 on Fortune‘s MPW list, said it was an instance of the brand acknowledging its own “evolution.”
A Venus razor commercial released this fall was also a blatant new take on the brand’s past advertising. Previous spots showed women shaving already smooth armpits and legs; the new ad featured body hair. Tastad said she personally crusaded against the white bikini that women in the old ads always wore. Tastad recoiled on Thursday at mention of the swimsuit—a symbol, she says, of tired, irrelevant stereotypes.
The new Gillette ad received such blowback as, “sell soap, not [your] soapbox,” from the likes of Mike Huckabee, a conservative commentator. It is, of course, naive to think that advertising is just about peddling products—it never was and is even less so in the era of consumer demand for authentic, purposeful brands. “Advertising can become pop culture,” Talstad says. With that in mind, it’s fascinating to watch a company with so much sway—P&G is one of the world’s largest advertisers—try to reshape cultural norms it helped create.
ALSO IN THE HEADLINES
• Charges in Scotland. The former leader of Scotland was charged Thursday with multiple counts of sexual assault and attempted rape. Alex Salmond led the Scottish National Party for 20 years and resigned after the failed Scottish independence referendum in 2014.
• The cost of breastfeeding discrimination. A shocking two-thirds of cases of breastfeeding discrimination in the past 10 years led to the employee involved losing her job. That’s just one of the critically important findings of a first-of-its-kind study of breastfeeding discrimination by employers in the United States.
• Protect the protectors. Jennifer Glover, a former security guard at the Energy Department’s Nevada National Security Site, “where researchers and scientists conduct top-secret nuclear experiments and develop responses to chemical, biological and nuclear emergencies,” says she was harassed and sexually assaulted on the job—only to be reprimanded and ultimately fired by her superiors for speaking out. The NYT reports that her accusations point to a culture of discrimination that’s been permitted to flourish under a pair of government contractors, Centerra and SOC.
New York Times
• A senator speaks out. After information about Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst’s marriage became public through her divorce filings, she gave a long interview in which she says she was raped in college and answers questions about her vote to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. (She believes Christine Blasey Ford was assaulted, but not by him.) Ernst plans to seek reelection “as a single woman”—and as one of the highest-profile Republican women to share personal histories of sexual assault. “It’s outrageous to suggest that anyone who has been the victim of sexual assault should therefore be a Hillary Clinton supporter,” she says.
MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Sue Barsamian joins the board of Xactly. Anu Gupta of Target joins Jyve as COO. Sinclair Broadcasting hired Ameshia Cross as a liberal commentator, the first among its stable of conservative pundits.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
• The real deal. After news earlier this week that TheRealReal is pursuing an IPO, here’s a long profile of the consignment company and its founder, Julie Wainwright. Her journey from her role as CEO of Pets.com to a leader of the new “circular economy” is fascinating.
New York Times
• Hello, Roo! Planned Parenthood introduced a new chatbot that will answer questions about sex, birth control, and STDs and help the organization reach more teens in need of its services. It’s called Roo.
Wall Street Journal
• Taking stock. Fortune‘s Susie Gharib sits down with Stacey Cunningham, the CEO of the New York Stock Exchange. “It’s not about climbing a ladder. It’s about what skills you have,” Cunningham says.
• A progressive prosecutor? As Kamala Harris’s presidential campaign kicks off, you’ve probably heard some rumblings about her career as a prosecutor—and how it conflicts with her current stances and aims on criminal justice reform. Two stories to help unpack that: first, a useful explainer from Vox about Harris’s record on criminal justice and what it means. Second, a piece from writer Morgan Jerkins in Glamour talking to black women about their views on Harris’s candidacy.