You may have seen the new Gillette commercial that was released a few days ago.
I have some good words that I want to say about it. But before I do that, there are a few things we should get out of the way first.
I recognise, at the end of the day, that this short film is made by a multi-billion-dollar corporation. I know whoever runs their ad campaigns may be cynically riding on trends such as #MeToo – social justice pretenders capitalising on the politically woke zeitgeist we live in.
And I know the bigwigs in the boardroom may not truly care about the message behind this campaign; perhaps they are only concerned with manipulating consumers and maximising profits.
So while you may already be averse (probably rightly) to taking on moral messages from multinational companies, all I’m asking is that you weigh the value of the short film with me.
Because I think that when we pare away the virtue signalling, theatrics and rhetoric within the film, there are still truths and values worth holding on to.
Men aren’t at their best.
First of all, I don’t resonate with a lot of the anger that’s arisen in response. I don’t see this as an attack on masculinity because it’s objectively true for all – men and women. If we already feel belittled or attacked by such a message, we should brace ourselves for a reading of Romans 3.
Humanity is inherently fallen and bent towards sin — men are just as much in need of Christ as women are. And it is pride that says we don’t have to do better.
Ten seconds into the short film, we see a sequence of a young boy being bullied. He is traumatised by a group of boys ganging up on him. I felt a little strongly for this bit because only 2 weeks ago I was one of those guys.
I teased a good friend over something silly he had said with another acquaintance and we took the joke way too far. My friend reached out to me afterwards and told me he actually felt bullied in that instance. While I apologised, I knew the damage had already been done.
How far I was from the ideal that night:
“Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.” (2 Timothy 2:16)
This one too:
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29)
Boys will be boys.
That’s more of an American saying, but we do have our own versions in Singapore.
- Guys are like that one lah.
- Bo pian, that’s just how we are.
- You know us guys lah, can’t help it.
- We’re just like that.
Same thing, basically saying we don’t have to change. I know a lot of guys like that who would hide behind such excuses and go on the defensive when confronted with wrongdoing.
I remember sitting at a bus stop, waiting for a bus with a male classmate who I had thought was quite amicable. He was one of the cool guys in school – football team and all.
Anyway, as we had nothing to do, he whipped out his smartphone and started showing me a few photos of our classmate he had obviously saved from Facebook. I’ll rephrase his exact questions for your holiness, but he asked if I also found her sexually appealing.
I still regret my response that day. While I didn’t feed his discussion, I didn’t call him out on it either. I just said something like: “Uh, dude…”
That is the kind of culture we’re living in – and mantras to excuse such toxic behaviour will perpetuate it.
“Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves.” (Galatians 6:1-3)
Now, watch the bit where Terry Crews talks about how men need to hold other men accountable.
Subsequent shots show 2 typical examples where male misogyny tends to manifest itself: Hitting on girls at parties and catcalling attractive ladies. In my experience, these examples may be more of a Western thing, but again, we do have our own versions in Singapore.
- Nudging your bro when a “10/10” walks by
- Giving your bro the raised eyebrows — signalling the presence of an attractive lady
- Just generally making stupid faces or sounds at the sight of someone beautiful
What happens next comes close to what Galatians 6:1 is about – restoring a brother gently.
I liked how the more woke brothers handled their fellow man’s bad attitude: By stopping him gently but firmly in words and action. I think that translates in our context to a cringe and a “not cool, bro”.
We can do better. We need to know that. But we won’t unless we keep each other honest.
The boys watching today will be the men of tomorrow.
The gritty voice of the short film tells us precisely what’s at stake if we do not change – the next generation. If our little guys are to stand any chance of becoming men who will be upright and protectors, we need to first be role models for them.
But if they’re looking at us first, who do we look at? Remember all that bad stuff I said about us being inherently fallen and bent towards sin? If that’s true, then what chance do we have?
Well, thankfully, our only shot also happens to be the best one: Jesus Christ. As Christians, we have the best version of a man to model after in Christ – He who was fully God and fully Man. The perfect man.
We can only answer the question of what it means to be a man, by looking at what the Perfect Man did during His time on earth. Here are a few snapshots of Jesus’ life from the Word.
- He came humbly to serve and sacrifice (Mark 10:45).
- He did not discriminate (Matthew 21:31-32).
- He came to reconcile men to each other (Ephesians 2:19).
- He showed us how to love (Ephesians 5:2).
In my little list, I capture but only a small glimpse of the glorious beauty that is Christ. But it’s immediate from this first glance that Biblical manhood looks vastly different from cultural conceptions of what it means to be a man.
Keeping each other accountable is good, but it isn’t enough in the heavenward call He has given to us (Matthew 5:48). If we would be real men, we would be men after His heart.
That’s life change and transformation that only God can do in us.
God, grant us the conviction and might to follow after the example of your Son. Stay us on Your path of righteousness and raise us up as men who will follow You wholeheartedly. May our sons and daughters watching us today surpass us in holiness tomorrow. May our culture align with Your Kingdom’s and our values with Your own. Daily transform us more and more into the likeness of Jesus, Your Son.