Opinion  |  

The greatest shave has been a long time coming

Gillette, the shaving company whose tagline “the best a man can get” normally adorns sleepy ads has scored a viral hit with their newest effort.

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It turns the brand slogan around, asking “Is this the best a man can get?”. Mansplaining, sexual harassment and cyber bullying of women is shown with the narrator stating, “It’s been going on far too long.”

Welcome to the world where the #metoo movement meets capitalism. As the ad explains, “There will be no going back because we believe in the best of men.”

The #metoo movement has had great cultural impact.

Take the furore over the song, “Baby it’s cold outside”. Maybe up to last year, this 74-year-old song from a Broadway musical was just an object of nostalgia, that is now seen as date rape.

“I’ve got to get home,” a woman sings. “But baby, it’s cold outside,” a man whose apartment the song is set in, replies. It goes on.

The neighbours might think (Baby it’s bad out there)
Say what’s in this drink? (No cabs to be had out there)
I wish I knew how (Your eyes are like starlight now)
To break this spell (I’ll take your hat, your hair looks swell) (Why thank you)
I ought to say no, no, no sir (Mind if move in closer?)
At least I’m gonna say that I tried (What’s the sense of hurtin’ my pride?)
I really can’t stay (Baby don’t hold out)
Baby it’s cold outside

That song, acceptable for many years, is being pulled from radio station playlists.

A new sub-genre of cinema is being invented: movies that could not be made today. A Buzzfeed list of “problematic” scenes includes the “did she put up a fight?” line from Grease, and Revenge of the Nerds “packed with both sexual assault and murder.”

The #metoo movement emerging from the African-American community rapidly exposed sexual predation by men with power in the bicoastal centres of the media industry and is beginning to have an impact on the products of Hollywood and New York. After all, #metoo was the Times 2017 ‘person’ of the year.

Christians should be cheering the #metoo movement. It can be seen as a defence of the dignity of women, reflecting the attitude of Jesus who first called Jewish women “daughters of Abraham” (Luke 13:16), and Paul’s radical call that “husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.”

The emergence of a call for our culture to treat women respectfully, in real life and on screen is a “Mere Christianity” moment.

The C. S. Lewis classic work begins with an argument from morality for the existence of God: “Conscience reveals to us a moral law whose source cannot be found in the natural world, thus pointing to a supernatural Lawgiver.”

The #metoo movement has awakened a dormant conscience in our western culture about the rights of women to be free from assault and harassment. If he was Australian, perhaps Lewis would have argued from the idea of a “fair go”.

Writing at a time when the evils of Nazism were all too present, Lewis uses it as an example that atheists and Christians alike could see was morally wrong. An intuitive sense of justice comes with being human. #metoo has allowed our society to regain an appreciation of justice for women.

From within Christianity the response may be mixed – starting with a sense of disappointment that it was not a Christian initiative. That is over-reach – even the greatest example of Christian impact on western culture, the anti-slavery movement, though led by Wilberforce engaged significant non-Christian allies.

As a student I recall allying with the feminist groups on campus to protest strippers at the orientation week ball. We won a fight we could not have won separately.

Other Christians will be wed to a paradigm of cultural decay – that western culture is headed ever downward. It has been ever since Plato suggested that democracy is one of the later stages in the decline of the ideal state.

Yet pessimism is not the natural home for a Christian, who believing that “in him we live and move and have our being” know that God is active in the world. And some social movements, outside of Christianity, like dare I say #metoo, can reflect the echoes of his creation order.
Perhaps a more substantial critique will point to forces aiming at deconstruction of our culture, and its ethics derived from Christianity. Yet that’s simply to say that social forces will be moving towards and away from God’s ideal in a complicated world.

Masculinity has needed a close shave, to get rid of the stubble that comes from men lording themselves over women, from an attitude of superiority, to outright sexual assault. Shaving your face is an activity that men use to get rid of what of what’s no longer wanted. Gillette has done the world a service.

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