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This blog is primarily for me to blog my responses to books that I'm reading. Sometimes I blog about other stuff too, though.

I'm currently reading books that I don't feel like blogging.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2019

A strange moral reversal

Gillette, the razor company, has received considerable attention for an ad campaign that talks about how men have to be better in their conduct and their approach to others' conduct.  Many are applauding it while others are recoiling from the criticism of men.  There's no point in me trying to say whether the ad does or doesn't paint with a broad brush, whether the message is or isn't ultimately positive about men (while there's surely criticism, there's also a clear implication that men can be better), because it's very much a Rohrschach test.  You see what you see, not what I argue that you should see.

What fascinates me is that the critics of the ad, many of them nominal conservatives, include in their ranks people who say that the ad is condemning the inherently aggressive nature of men, while those praising it, many of them nominal liberals, speak of the need to teach men discipline and self-control.  In an earlier phase of the culture war, it would have been considered hippie-ish to say that people need to celebrate their own inner nature and do what feels right for them.  It would have been considered conservative to say that discipline and structure and conformity to rules and ethical norms are what matter.  Now, granted, the hippies would have said that people should follow their natural instincts for love, not war.  Likewise, conservatives would have wanted to discipline men to channel their aggressive natures into healthy competition and the use of force for the enforcement of laws and protection of national security.  This just means that while history rarely repeats it often echoes.

Still, the echoes are strong, and inverted.  And they bring to mind a recent chance conversation with someone who turned out to be an elderly professor, and also an outspoken conservative.  The topic of the #MeToo movement came up, causing him to speak quite adamantly about how modern political correctness is denying men the chance to act on their instincts.  I was dumbfounded that a conservative would call for a social order in which men follow their instincts, rather than one in which they are disciplined to submit to the order of society, and channel the best parts of their instincts into worthy pursuits that are governed by rules, while taming and suppressing the worst parts of their instincts. Conversely, liberals have become quite rule-oriented.

I'm not necessarily a fan of every rules-oriented move by liberals, especially on the topic of political correctness in speech and entertainment, but surely some self-restraint in matters of sexual behavior is a necessary prerequisite for civilized society.  Surely we can enjoy some jokes while also keeping our hands to ourselves.

Of course, there are still some hippie types on the left, and some restrained types on the right.  But I think that this era of a genital-grabbing TV star as head of state has caused some on the right to walk away from the virtue of restraint.  I'm not wholly in favor of ever-increasing restraint in all aspects of life, but academic fields are called "disciplines" for a reason, and I am a proud academic.

1 comment:

Philip Ebersole said...

When I saw the Gillette ad, I wondered: What next? An ad reminding men to consult the women in their lives on the need to change their underwear and bathe regularly?