Like millions of others, I watched Gillette’s anti-toxic masculinity commercial — the one that asks, “Bullying. Harassment. Is this the best a man can get?” And like many of my fellow viewers, I have strong opinions about the commercial. Apparently, though, based on the many reactions I’ve heard and read, my thoughts about the commercial run somewhat counter to a sizeable number of my fellow conservative Christians. You see, while I adamantly disagree with the foundational worldview of the #MeToo movement, I recognize that the #MeToo movement is responding to legitimate problems and concerns.
Whether conservative Christians want to admit it or not, toxic masculinity has been a scourge on society since, well, Adam failed to be a man and the world was cast into sin and death because of his un-masculine actions. The original toxic masculinity, if you will. However, I argue that the word “masculinity” should be dropped. It’s just toxic and toxic behavior runs rampant.
So, then, how should conservative Christians respond to things like Gillette’s toxic masculinity commercial? Well, for starters, I recommend that you don’t allow the virtue-signaling of a company’s marketing department to dictate how you respond as a consumer. Beyond that, I suggest two responses: 1. Acknowledge that there is a problem. 2. Recognize and embrace the fact that Christianity has the solution. This second step requires rejecting the #MeToo movement.
Make no mistake, the #MeToo movement was birthed and exists within a contra-Biblical worldview. Standing on the philosophical foundation of intersectionality, one of the #MeToo movement’s most sacred doctrines is the autonomy of humans — I am total master over my own body (CT has a good pushback on that). What’s more, the prophetesses of intersectionality teach that knowledge (what’s true) is determined by the individual. Noted feminist scholar and pioneer of intersectionality Patricia Hill Collins asserts in her landmark book On Intellectual Activism that “self-defined knowledge” is a large part of “the continued relevance of Black feminism.”
So, and to be clear, I caution conservative Christians who would align themselves with the #MeToo movement. It is a philosophy that is in rebellion against God because intersectionality denies that humans owe everything, including obedience with their bodies, to their Creator. It’s a movement that also denies the Biblical anthropology that all humans are born in sin. Among other things, being born in sin means that humans cannot be the author of knowledge — think Collins’ “self-defined knowledge.” Thankfully, Christianity has the solution: there is no reason to embrace the #MeToo movement. First, though, we need to acknowledge that there is a problem.
For the sake of space, leaving behind the thousands of years of the exploitation and denigration of women, contemporary society excels at objectifying women. Our society has become so adroit at it that we’ve convinced women to applaud companies that have expanded the exploitation of women to include all body sizes. Companies like Target are held out as progressive examples for using the bodies of women of all shapes, sizes, and weight to make money. Think about that. Target exploits more women, and society applauds them for it.
Look, anyone who denies that men, as a group, objectify women and reduce them to their sexuality is living with their head in the sand. There is a reason why the most popular issue of Sports Illustrated is the Swimsuit Issue. Men lust after women. Sadly, because most men do not submit to God, they allow their lust free rein. A large percentage of men believe that women’s bodies exist for their pleasure. The evidence for this is abundant.
Last year, Tyler O’Neil pointed out in an article for PJ Media that “four of the top 20 websites in America stream pornography. These sites beat the websites for ESPN and CNN, even Pinterest. Three of the four porn websites even beat Netflix.”
According to Webroot, “40 million American people regularly visit porn sites.” That’s a lot of people who “regularly visit porn sites,” and it doesn’t include those who occasionally visit porn sites. I could list porn statistic after porn statistic demonstrating that men in our society dehumanize and objectify women. I could list movie after movie in which a beautiful actress disrobes for no other reason than producers know that male audiences enjoy it. Not to mention that many producers and directors are men who enjoy it, too. I could recount anecdote after anecdote from women I know who have suffered humiliation, invasion of privacy, and unwanted physical contact from men at work, on public transit, and while simply walking down the sidewalk.
If any of that characterizes you — you “admire” the body of a beautiful woman as she walks down the street, you look at porn, you brag about your sexual conquests, et al. — then you are a hypocrite if you are angered by Gillette’s commercial.
The fact is that American men are doing a poor job of treating women with respect and dignity. While I reject Gillette’s embrace of identity politics, their commercial is not incorrect to point out that women have reason to fear men. Thankfully, Christianity has the answer.
In Genesis 1:27 we learn that God created men and women equally in His image. Like men, women were created as God’s vice-regents and tasked with ruling and exercising dominion over the earth. Like men, women are called to be engaged in the job of the Creation Mandate: seeing the world flourish through cultivation, building, and culture making. So, like men, women are deserving of respect and being treated with dignity. In fact, beyond deserving it, it’s a sin against God to view or treat women as anything less than image-bearers of the Creator of the universe. This, of course, raises the question of what does respectful, God-honoring treatment of women look like?
For the answer, we look to Jesus Christ.
Sadly, there is a sizeable group of people in our society who believe that uncouth, aggressive, boorish behavior should be chalked up to “boys being boys.” During the last presidential election the phrase “locker room talk” rolled off the lips of conservatives. Insults, lies, and bullying are glorified. Traits and actions that are the antithesis to Jesus are considered masculine.
Jesus calls us to take up our cross and follow him. Being a disciple of Jesus is a life of preferring others over yourself; it’s a life of surrendering your rights for the sake of the gospel. Did you catch that? Masculinity is characterized by surrendering your rights in the service of others.
Self-fulfillment is not a goal in Christ’s kingdom. Meekness, gentleness, humility, charity, compassion, and service to others are traits and actions that are desirable. And when you bump those traits and actions up against the stereotypical definition of masculinity that many conservatives have, the contrast (and conflict) is obvious.
Setting aside Gillette’s preening identity politics, the things their commercial derides are things that followers of Jesus should disavow. Instead of circling the wagons around an unbiblical definition of masculinity, Christian men should desire to emulate Jesus. If men followed Jesus’ example, companies like Gillette wouldn’t have a reason to produce commercials decrying toxic masculinity.
Truly masculine men are characterized by kindness, meekness, gentleness, compassion, and the desire to serve others, even at the expense of their own rights.