Corralling the Shepherds to Scatter the Sheep

In response to my modesty posts (and to Dalrock’s), there is a consistent refrain that no one gets to set the rules of modesty. Generally it goes thus:

“Modesty is important, and everyone should strive for it..provided that we all understand that modesty cannot be actually be defined or realized. No one gets to set the rules of modesty. Any attempt by an individual to establish what is and what is not modest, is an inherently false attempt. This is because standards of modesty are something that the community establishes…with, again, the important caveat that any such boundaries must be organic, chaotic, and above all unspoken and undecided. Any intentional setting of boundaries–even by the community–immediately disqualifies such boundaries as phony. The worst thing one can do is be deliberate and act as if modesty were real.”

Understand that the opening acceptance of the existence of the thing modesty is meant to sound as if it is a statement in support of it. Rather, it’s establishing the fact of boundaries in general; of which modesty is one sort. Support for boundaries is necessary because the rest of the argument is actually the circumscription to pen in those who would set the boundaries for modesty. The sole purpose of the argument is to hedge the shepherds in and the flocks without.

This argument may be bemoaned, celebrated, or anything in between, but it is so consistent that we must confess it is now the traditional rebuttal to attempts to address immodesty. It is passed from conservative to conservative; most especially by those who call themselves Christian.

It’s a devilishly effective trap that operates in a several ways.The first is that no one is just a shepherd. Everyone beneath God is a sheep to someone, and so out of pride they want those above them to be restrained. They believe that the grass might be greener over there, and they want that option available with minimal fuss.

Secondly, their sheepiness manifests itself as cowardice. Behind the stockade of never shepherding, they can throw up their hands and say, “See? It is out of these! The sheep must, in ignorance, decide for themselves; as we have always done!” Allowing oneself to be hemmed-in is a relief from a fearful thing. To be responsible for someone often enervates and harrows the soul.

Third, shepherds are in favor of boundaries. It’s the nature of their job. Being believers in the goodness of boundaries they desire to not transgress their own boundaries. They are law-abiders who live in a world where the one law they have been told is to not make laws for others. They must be shepherds who must not shepherd.

Then there is the world’s response to us. Dalrock introduced us to Atheno’s (Kraft’s) character Yiayia as a symbol of a female shepherdess. She was created by a an ad agency bolster the Atheno’s brand. Below the linked case study video they write:

We created a story around Yiayia (Greek for grandmother). Specifically, an old-fashioned grandmother who’s not shy about giving her opinion on everything from what’s on TV to who you’ve married, but especially on what you eat. She gets away with it because it comes from love, but it can sometimes be a bit awkward. Yiayia represents old world Greece, Greek values, and most importantly she represents preparing food the right way. And she will intimidate anyone who doesn’t agree with these ways. There is, therefore, no better sign of quality than her approval. This was an idea that captured beloved perceptions of Greek culture but was relatable to everyone.

Yiayia, like plain yogurt, is good for you, but has an odd taste. She was relatable to everyone because we know that grandmothers are supposed to love us, and therefore hold the line because they know better.

The campaign worked. From the case study:

Yiayia launched with a bang: after a critical article in USA Today that got people talking and fans defending, the videos drew 1.6MM views on YiaTube in the first 4 weeks live (this above and beyond what was delivered through television and paid digital media). Within the first week, Yiayia ads mocking Charlie Sheen were produced by a radio DJ in Chicago, and YIayia was mentioned in the Conan monologue.

According to an independent quantitative study done by Ace Metrix for Marketing Daily, the Yiayia spots beat all competitors in effectiveness and overall performance.
But the ultimate proof is in sales results, and a mere 6 weeks into launch, Athenos hummus and Greek Yogurt sales were trending up, significantly more so in markets where Yiayia was on TV.

Despite the success, Kraft could not stand for it. Yiayia was turned into an idiot that could only be rivaled by a sitcom dad on a “family-friendly” station.

If you visit the Athenos YouTube channel, all pro-Yiayia ads are gone, and in their place are eight videos showing what morons are those grandmas; just like all the shepherds. While that message is from the godless world we must recognize that the majority of Christians uphold it just as they do their ambivalence towards the necessity of fathers and husbands leading their families.

To get out of this trap is going to take generations. I suspect that my daughters may be among the first Yiayias in a long time, and they will have a very tough time getting there; as I have had a tough time raising them to be so. We are laughed at and scorned for our choices–my choices–by acquaintances and family. My children believe they are alone in the world, or very near it. Will they stay with me, or will they reject me and choose the false delights of the world? It’s in the Lord’s hands. As for me and my house we will serve the Lord, even if that means my house must diminish to the sound of the sneers of others. God please forbid.

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20 thoughts on “Corralling the Shepherds to Scatter the Sheep

  1. No, it takes zero generations, but the fortitude of the minority within it to say “no”. At best, the appearance of a majority is usually a veneer for a mere cultural Christianity that doesn’t know Christ, but is up to evils away from the village and family, and justifying their particular topic in similar ways. Then it was slavery, or unjust wars, or avarice. Today it is sex. Every president has claimed to be Christian.

    Christians existed under Hitler and Stalin. Maybe even Mao, but they were underground. Same today in the USA, but it is just more subtle. There was a Russian Orthodox church under Stalin, and there is a free market of churches here.

    We need more Christian men too – the yiayias usually only get there with godly fathers and husbands.

    But I agree with your overall point. Either there is authority – which must include tradition – the things long ago adopted or discarded by our forebearers, and breaking with it ought not be done casually, or there is none. If everyone sets their own rules, there are no rules, yet it is strange the same people call for the government to crush some breaking of some other rule, or even pastors – feminized churches have lots of rules. The unwillingness to impose your own morality is silly. Not at the point of a gun in most cases, but it is either true or false, and if it is false, it is not moral and needs to be changed, but if true, it is like preventing someone from drinking poison.

  2. @tz

    No, it takes zero generations, but the fortitude of the minority within it to say “no”.

    I think you’re misunderstanding me. However badly I may be doing it, I am among the minority. So I agree with you that we who are here and now must have fortitude to resist giving in to hopelessness, chaos, and nihilism…and especially the siren call of pleasure.

    But as a society: Yes, it will take Christians generations to rebuild the social structures. God’s design is that it takes a family to raise future families. The anti-modesty crowd is not wrong when they say that the rules must be informed by the community/environment and they are right that it is an organic process. They are wrong because they use that as excuse to let fields become choked with weeds, untilled, unsowed, and they let every plow-shattering rock remain in place.

    For anyone interested in the similarities of the false-dichotomy that “organic means untouched” both in families and in food, I send you to the writers at Empathologism.

  3. The treatment of Yiayia in the latter video you share is obscene. I wasn’t aware of it, and I suspect they didn’t do much of an ad buy for the anti Yiayia spots. The funny thing is, I have no question the original ads were intended to make fun of Yiayia as much if not more than anyone else. But they struck too close to home, so she had to be destroyed, even at the cost of a very successful marketing campaign. Even a little truth is too dangerous to permit.

  4. The funny thing is, I have no question the original ads were intended to make fun of Yiayia as much if not more than anyone else.

    I would say as much, not more. In the aggregate I think they cast her as a positive. The video about the househusband

    is the only one I’ve found that shows all three peoples of the Yiayia world: Yiayia, the target of her criticisms, and also third party observers. The kids laugh when Yiayia says the husband is the wife, and check out the wife’s face. She agrees even as she continues to prepare for work. Of course, it’s only possible to make that commercial because the producers are aware that the safest target for scorn is a married father, but it remains that they show the crowd knows Yiayia is onto something. As you said: Too close to home, and too dangerously truthful.

  5. Well, as I wrote, and didn’t hide it, I agree with your last linked post. There is an in-between between “slut” and “Amish” that we can get behind.

    I’m in college right now, a Catholic college. Not everybody I see is immodest (most are, but we already know that). But the ones who aren’t immodest look perfectly normal to my eyes – jeans and basic shirts. Nothing overly flattering, and nothing completely unattractive. And keep in mind, I am a twenty year old very straight male.

    Standing out because you’re dressing especially modestly isn’t necessary.

    The other problem is that it’s not a strictly bad thing to look attractive to men. If you want men to be interested in courting you a certain level of flattery is not a bad thing, to a point.

    I can see now that the response will be that I’m falling for the trap and giving women an easy way out. I don’t agree. Women may take it that way, but I intend to be as clear as possible. Women also turn “submit to your husband” into “bully your husband into giving you whatever you want”. I genuinely think there’s a middle path, and I’m not going to say there isn’t out of fear that my words will be twisted.

  6. Another reason for the demeaning of elders is that “yiayisms” manifest in every generation after a certain age. Once someone has seen enough of the world, they generally come back to the younger generations with truths. Portraying the elderly as frail, senile, ignorant, prehistoric and dependent encourages children to not listen to experience unless it comes from “cool” elders, like the feminists who never grew up. Of course, they will then grow up to see how the world actually works and produce yiayisms themselves, but that generation of grandchildren will be being taught to ignore them.

  7. @Cane

    I would say as much, not more. In the aggregate I think they cast her as a positive.

    That is probably right. What strikes me is that the people in the commercials clearly represent the target audience. This is always the case to a degree, but these aren’t generic Kraft consumers. They are trendy, modern, foodie types who proudly eat things like hummus and feta cheese. And in the end of the commercial, it says something to effect of “about the only thing which Yiayia approves of”. But the dialing in of the tension that makes it funny leaves you laughing at both. It wouldn’t be funny if you only laughed at Yiayia, which is why the latter commercials would never have gained traction. Yet Yiayia is hard to simply laugh at, even for the modern foodies, which is what both made the campaign so successful and ultimately why Kraft felt compelled to deep six it only after symbolically lobotomizing Yiayia so she no longer posed a threat.

  8. @Dalrock

    What strikes me is that the people in the commercials clearly represent the target audience. This is always the case to a degree, but these aren’t generic Kraft consumers. They are trendy, modern, foodie types who proudly eat things like hummus and feta cheese. And in the end of the commercial, it says something to effect of “about the only thing which Yiayia approves of”.

    Exactly. I linked to the case study video in the OP, but video itself isn’t as interesting as the information in the description; some of which I also quoted.

    My post was getting long already, and you touched on a part that I cut for length. To wit:

    Our target consumers have a particular set of beliefs and values as it relates to food. There is massive social currency around it; they love being the first of their friends to know about a great new restaurant. They also have more exposure to and knowledge of ethnic foods than any generation before them. And they have a particular set of ethics around food; it’s not just being light, it’s being balanced. And it’s not just being sustainable, it’s really knowing where what you eat comes from, having the knowledge to appreciate its quality and authenticity. Above all, it’s about appreciation for food, body, and the world around them.

    Hipster foodies have that “unknowingly conservative” dimension that we’ve talked about before. That’s why Yiayia strikes the right chord. In the ad agency’s own words:

    […]Yiayia bluntly disapproved of everything but Athenos hummus.

    We built a campaign hub on YouTube called YiaTube so that the content would be in a format preferred by the target for viewing, sharing, and commenting. We brought Yiayia’s opinions to life in realtime through the Athenos properties on FB and Twitter, and importantly, we did not censor or engage any negative commentary, instead allowing advocates to do that on our behalf, since their words meant more anyway.

    Making clear that last bit: “Their (of unknowingly conservative hipster foodies) words (in defense of Yiayia) meant more (than an ad agency’s or Kraft’s) anyway.”

    But positive market response be damned: There was no way Kraft was going to stand by and watch hipsters defend Grannie and eat their cheese. First and foremost Kraft sells only feminist feta.

  9. Good insight Cane. All I will add is I think they seem to have expertly targeted the hipster sense of irony. Yiayia’s agreement on their choice of food was a source of pride; it showed that they were “authentic” foodies in a way no one but Yiayia could deliver. Her disagreement with their choice of lifestyle was also a source of pride, because it showed that they were authentic in their modern hipsterness. Yiayia made them proud twice, one of them ironically. Brilliant.

    Yet as you say Kraft has a higher goal than selling products and making their customers and shareholders happy, and that higher goal eventually scuttled a brilliant campaign.

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  12. @Cane, I think I get it now – Christians can have a minority social structure, but if they don’t wish to become like the Amish, the larger society will have to be Christian, perhaps lukewarm but not apostate.

    Women police women, so it might just take a critical mass of daughters who raise the bar for dress like slut shaming.

    Though I have to wonder at the invention history of the bustle.

  13. These things come and go. It should be noted that this is not the first “down” period for Christian morals in the west. It isn’t even in the first five. Nor will it be the last.

    I think there is also something to be said for subsidiarity in this discussion. Moral should be guided by the church but set from the family unit up rather than the top down (with due respect to appellate authority). My daughter at age eleven often checks with me to make sure what she is wearing meets my approval. My wife does the same. Even my son checks in but, given the nature of things, this isn’t required very often (with the exception of the now mostly dead 80’s ultra-short-shorts now dead).

    This makes me hesitant to support hard rules because those rules should be most often set by Fathers. We should also be cognizant that we only hold local jurisdiction in our families and allow for some freedom of administration elsewhere. Where this might cause stumbling for whatever weakness the local church should handle the problem.

    I’m of the firm belief that in theory we should all be able to walk around naked but for:
    1.) Its cold
    2.) Most of us look bad without clothes
    3.) Some of us look _too_ good without clothes

    Most communities are going to settle on some point of the spectrum between Amish and nekkid (ed: intentional use of naked with intent). The trick is the stricter families have to realize that the community has a right to be less strict and the community as a whole needs to recognize that the strict family shouldn’t be a target of derision.

    And the campaign information was fascinating. Thanks for posting.

  14. GK Chesterton says:
    February 20, 2015 at 10:25 pm

    “Most communities are going to settle on some point of the spectrum between Amish and nekkid”

    We’re already there, although a lot closer to the latter than the former.

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  16. I’m not pleased with the Mennonite-bashing at your critic’s. I feel less than fully affirmed in my heritage. Clearly, “diversity” only goes so far in her world.

  17. I’m almost sorry I even bothered to comment. It has set off a firestorm of massive proportions, which I certainly had no intention of doing. Please be aware that I recommended these modest clothing sites (Wholesome Wear, Mary My Way and Lilies of the Field) firstly because I have done business with them and have found them to be honest, conscientious and providers of products with high quality; secondly, because they are small cottage industries which I know I always prefer to purchase from if at all possible; thirdly, because I thought the items were beautiful and wished to share them.

    And of course, fourthly, because I assumed (wrongly) that others would appreciate it.

    I almost feel like I ought to apologize for the firestorm I managed to set off, because that was not my intent. This is a useful lesson that what you may like is not always what others may like.

  18. It has set off a firestorm of massive proportions…

    As somebody who reads a lot of blogs, several fairly controversial and several pretty popular, I actually find it sort of cute that you think this is a “firestorm of massive proportions”. I, a z rate blogger, got into a MUCH bigger conflict over a series of posts a while back on the morality of some of the actions mentioned in the OT.

    Seriously, I think that stretched out over, like, six different blogs. And it got NASTY.

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