A Theological Response to Gillette

Ahhh the internet. I am incredibly grateful to live in a time where I have access to a broad range of thoughts/perspectives . . . . and at the same time, living in a culture where there is constantly a mob looking for a reason to be angry is tiresome. Insert Gillette.

On Sunday the razor company put an ad online altering their decades old tagline “The Best a Man Can Get” to a more palatable version for the social sentiment of the day: “The Best a Man Can Be.”

The ad harshly critiqued men for their stereotypical shortcomings and, subsequently, set the internet ablaze with hot takes as the youtube video received a harsh resounding rebuke in the form of a like to dislike ratio that—even in its likely altered status—stands two to one in favor of the dislikes. It’s an outrage that I generally would not care about because:

  1. I am not interested in a razor company’s perspective on masculinity. Politicization of everything is exhausting regardless of whether I agree or disagree, I wish that brands didn’t feel the need to inject their stance on social issues into their products . . . so I try to avoid these moments when they come up again, and again, and again, and again . . . is that enough . . . I think that’s enough . . . and
  2. I am a millennial and therefore am a card-carrying member of always having stubble, which already renders the vast majority of Gillette’s products irrelevant.

HOWEVER,

My aversion to the political advertisement changes to interest when I find a strong theological strain running through the advertisement and so here I am writing about a razor commercial . . . what a time to be alive.

I am certain that through this whole controversy what the ad execs at Gillette where truly waiting for was the response of the theologians. Fighting hard to avoid focusing on the irony of an ad that—in part—was designed to object to bullying that has resulted in an onslaught of online bullying from all parties in all directions, there is a more important theological question:

Is one gender more prone to evil than the other?

It could be argued that there is a pretty clear implication from the Gillette ad, and really from our current social climate in general, that men are simply more sinful than women. It is an outgrowth of the “victims and oppressors” mindset and one that deserves theological consideration. If you feel like I am getting out over my proverbial skis with that cultural assessment I’d like to offer a quick thought experiment:

How quickly would a company be boycotted into oblivion after profusely offering every mea culpa they could muster up if they made the same advert about women?

If Gillette, which also sells women’s razors, filled a commercial with the negative stereotypes about women—women gossiping, being exclusionary in their relationships, emotionally unstable, etc.—wouldn’t they be decisively rebuked by our culture at large? They would be perpetuating harmful gender stereotypes and need to be punished.

I am taking a risk in just writing those descriptions and having the word “women” close by.

Now this needs to be qualified: I am not suggesting that the reckoning that has happened in our culture around sexuality was wrong or that the poor behavior of men that is displayed in the ad should be condoned. The question is, have we as a culture bought into an idea that the struggles that stereotypically beset men, the sinful behavior that men typically struggle with, is greater than sinful behavior of women?

There is also a treacherous other side to this metaphorical coin that I believe is less likely but perhaps even more devastating: the belief that women are inherently virtuous. Or, to once again frame these ideas in theological language, a tacit suggestion that women are righteous apart from the atoning work of Christ.

Both of these potential conclusions are in stark contrast to the Christian faith.

The biblical message is direct, it is only through Christ that righteousness is obtained. And in response to the subtle messaging of connecting the Y chromosome to evil, any time a society comes to the conclusion that X group of people is intrinsically more sinful than Y group of people, it doesn’t matter what groups you put in the X or the Y you are treading on dangerous theological and social ground.

There is no one group of people that is closer to righteousness than another. The biblical text is very clear on this issue, ALL have sinned. Sin separates us from God. That doesn’t mean the Bible has no consideration for different sinful behavior having different personal and social consequences, but at a gospel level we need to throw up every red flag we can find when any group of people is in danger of being labeled more sinful than another group.

We all stand before God with flaws deeper than we can even understand. There isn’t a category of humanity that only needed some of the sacrifice of Christ and other categories that needed a double dose. For anyone to be righteous before God we must first come to the terrifying realization of how wicked we truly are . . . right before Christ covers us with his sacrifice and God calls us his beloved sons and daughters.

A declaration that is without a doubt the best a man or woman can be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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