One of Australia’s least funny comedians, Tom Ballard, is at it again. No, not of being accused of sexual assault—a claim he strongly denies—but of belittling conservative women, like Miranda Devine, who dare to speak up and challenge the current zeitgeist that men are no different to women. Ballard is no stranger to obscenity masquerading as comedy as his previous failed attempt at ‘comedy’ regarding ANZAC day has already proved. But his latest offering is just as cringe-worthy.
Miranda Devine, you were right. Thank you, men. #thankyoumen
Geplaatst door Tonightly with Tom Ballard op Donderdag 5 juli 2018
It’s pretty hypocritical for Ballard, in particular, to produce something like this because over the years his own personal comments about Devine have been so vile and offensive. But instead of being reprimanded for his selective misogyny, it seems that it more than likely led to the ABC giving him his own TV show. And according to Gerard Henderson, this is not an isolated case. Just note the following example of Ballard’s puerile, “Letter to Miranda Devine”:
I had a couple of jokes about you in my stand up show this year. When I was in front of a Victorian audience, I said the best way to explain who you are is to imagine if Mr Devine and Mrs Devine had a baby, and that baby grew up to be a c**t.
Ballard’s writing is the perfect illustration of what happens when men no longer treat women in a ‘chivalrous’ way — with neither dignity and respect. Ironically, that’s precisely the virtue that Miranda Devine was arguing for in a recent piece. Devine’s main point, though, was:
Gallantry and chivalry were designed to protect women, to harness male instincts and place them in the service of the weaker sex. They are part of a finely balanced interpersonal choreography worked out over countless generations.
Chivalry is one of those conservative moral virtues that is terribly misunderstood by a lot of people, especially today. More often than not, we joke about it being so terribly antiquated—like Tom Ballard tried to do—while at the same time applauding those who treat all women with dignity and respect, which Ballard clearly does not.
C.S. Lewis once wrote a classic article upon the subject, “On the Necessity of Chivalry”. Lewis was an expert in medieval literature at Oxford University, and he saw in chivalry the perfect alignment of the twin virtues of humility and courage. A good illustration of what Lewis is referring to can be found in a statement regarding the famous Sir Lancelot. Sir Ector says over the dead knight’s body:
Thou were the meekest man that ever ate in hall among ladies; and thou were the sternest knight to thy mortal foe that ever-put spear in the rest.
On the surface, the traits of ‘meekness’ and ‘sternness’ would appear to be contradictory, even mutually exclusive. But Lewis understood them to be profoundly complementary. And nowhere was that more so than in personification of chivalry, the medieval knight. A man who was a living manifestation of the chivalrous ideal through his display of both strength and compassion, especially in the way he treated a member of the opposite sex.
But significantly, Lewis also saw the chivalrous ideal as being profoundly theological, grounded in nothing less than the person and work of God in Jesus Christ. Jeff McInnis has written an excellent book exploring this particular theme in Lewis’ writings, titled, Shadows and Chivalry (Paternoster, 2007). McInnis summarises the essence of Lewis’ thought in this regard as follows:
The great Act of which the ideal of chivalry is an imitation is at once tender and severe. Christ in Gethsemane and on the cross is at once God in meekness and God at battle: meek submission but also fierce gallantry in a man who is also God.
What’s more, what Lewis says about chivalry has a great deal of practical relevance for life in the twenty-first century. In particular, it challenges men to relate to women with the timeless qualities of humility and strength, compassion and courage. Which means, in practice, being courteous and willing to put a woman’s needs before one’s own, while at the same time having the courage to lead and protect when the opportunity requires it. In her book, The Mark of a Man, Elizabeth Elliot describes the application as being chivalrous as follows:
Courtesy is sacrificial symbolism because each act is a very small sign that you are willing to give your life for hers. When you pass the salt to her, you’re saying, “You first.” When you help her on with her coat, you’re not saying, “You’re too weak to do it yourself”: you’re saying that you’re willing to take trouble for her… Sir Walter Raleigh’s putting down his cloak in a puddle for the sake of his queen was an inconvenience, to say the least. Love is willing to be inconvenienced.
All of which to say, Miranda Devine was really onto something when she said, “Gallantry and chivalry were designed to protect women, to harness male instincts and place them in the service of the weaker sex. They are part of a finely balanced interpersonal choreography worked out over countless generations.” What’s more, it’s also something that Tom Ballard could learn a thing or two himself.
Mark Powell is the Associate Pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church, Strathfield.
Illustration: ABC iView.
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