Sunday, December 21, 2008

You Might Want to Read This Before Giving Old Dad Some Old Spice by Anthony McCarthy

My old father used to get some Old Spice aftershave lotion every year. Mostly because he was hard to buy for. A few years I and my brothers got “soap on a rope” probably picked up quickly at the same desperate hour on Christmas Eve. Ironically, it was something we would never use on a school night because it made us smell like we had perfume on. No boy in his right mind would go to school smelling like he had perfume on. The soap, suspended under the drippy shower head, quickly washed away and we went back to our usual Ivory till the next Christmas. I don’t remember my father, who, literally, had no sense of smell at all, using the stuff or asking for it. I don’t know if it’s not still aging in the attic of my mother’s house. Anyone know if there’s a vintage market for stuff like that?

Associating Old Spice with the season it was interesting to have this story now. The "Art of Manliness" - Old Spice competition for the “Man of the Year, got hijacked by a paleo-theocrat of the “women shouldn’t vote” variety.

The obviously blog swarming respondents to the poll thought that Matthew Chancey (a name that, somehow, just fails to ooze rugged manliness to my ears) is the perfect poster boy to fight against the blight of metrosexuality and the public school system.

Winner Matthew Chancey, a marketing and communications consultant from Ashville, Alabama-an up-and-coming Republican politician-topped a field of ten finalists with thirty percent of the vote (3038 votes). He is now honored as one who knows "what it means to be a man," which includes a $2,000 prize "and a manly stash of Old Spice products."

"It was not possible," according to the contest rules, "or even desirable to quiz each candidate about their political, religious, and social views."

Opening up the identity of the “winner” shows some interesting sidelines, some impinging on Suzie’s post the other day.

Key to Chancey's victory were the efforts of both his wife, who nominated him, and an entrepreneur named Doug Phillips, an important figure in the homeschooling movement, and his large family and network of supporters.

Phillips is an old pal of Chancey's and a religious and political co-belligerent from their days on the staff of the Home School Legal Defense Association; he heads a Texas-based organization called Vision Forum, which produces and markets books and other materials for conservative Christian homeschoolers.

But to describe Vision Forum as `conservative' does not tell the half of it. Phillips is a follower of Christian Reconstructionism, a movement whose seminal figure is Calvinist theologian R.J. Rushdoony, who died in 2001. Rushdoony's voluminous, and explicitly theocratic work, (such as the Institutes of Biblical Law) was a pivotal influence in the development of the religious right, and more particularly, the countercultural homeschooling and Christian school movements.

Vision Forum's product line includes the Beautiful Girlhood Collection, which, "aspires, by the grace of God, to encourage the rebuilding of a culture of virtuous womanhood. In a world that frowns on femininity, that minimizes motherhood, and that belittles the beauty of being a true woman of God, we dare to believe that the biblical vision for girlhood is a glorious vision."

Someone with a more reliable electricity supply than I’ve got this morning might want to look into this soi disant “Beautiful Girlholld Collection” to see if it is as disturbingly icky as it sounds.

Since both the blog and the aftershave disavow their role in the choice, it’s not possible to blame them. But, Old Spice, beware of these cheap promotion gimmicks, they might give you more publicity than you were bargaining for. Don’t “be a man”, and stubbornly hold your ground, own up to your mistake and learn from it, dump the phony poll promo. If you’re going to name a MotY, have the courage to choose one yourself. That is if learning from experience isn’t too ‘girly’ for you guys?

Having never seen it before this morning, I can’t claim to have delved into the depths of The Art of Manliness blog. It looks like a somewhat weird and partly innocuous attempt to revive the masculine mystique that was the alternative to “The Playboy Philosophy” in the 50s and early 60s. I have no doubts that the entire thing could give feminists something to work with for quite a while, though I think it’s not going to gain much traction in the greater population.

If you venture into the blog, notice, that a lot of the behavior assigned to “manly” men, actually would be more accurately described as “adult”. Responsibility, bravery, courage, determination, bravery... men never had the ownership of those. Maybe men claiming those virtues of adulthood comes under the heading of “hogging the glory”.

I promise to look closer at this in the new year.