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Hullabaloo


Thursday, June 14, 2007

 
Bitches Brew

by digby

As regular readers know, I've written many a blog post about the last 30 years of male panic in this country. Indeed, the irrational fear of hippies on the Democratic side and the "feminization" of Democratic candidates on the Republican side has been the sub-text of our politics ever since the 72 campaign. I wrote a piece a while back about this called Tarzan, Cheetah and Jane:

For forty years the Republicans have been winning elections by calling liberals "faggots" (and "dykes") in one way or another. It's what they do. To look too closely at what she said is to allow light on their very successful reliance on gender stereotypes to get elected.

Rick Perlstein recently noted that Saint Ronnie went for it early on:

...he got the tribal stuff right, the us-versus-them stuff--as when he confronted young people harassing him with make love, not war signs. He said it looked like they were incapable of doing either.


Reagan also used to say the hippies "look like Tarzan, walk like Jane and smell like Cheetah." That's not so different than Coulter saying, "my pretty-girl allies stick out like a sore thumb amongst the corn-fed, no make-up, natural fiber, no-bra needing, sandal-wearing, hirsute, somewhat fragrant hippie chick pie wagons they call 'women' at the Democratic National Convention."

A lot of the shrieking aversion to the dirty hippie came from all that "feminine" hair on men's heads and "masculine" hair on women's bodies, if you'll recall. My brother was constantly harrassed about "looking like a girl" in 1966 Mississippi for having hair below his collar. In those days, hair was a political statement and even though forty years have passed and most of those people can only dream about all that hair they no longer have, the right successfully parlayed that gender role anxiety into a political narrative that continues to powerfully effect politics today.

Lately we've seen this effect in the embarrassing fawning of the pundits over the various manly stereotypes they attribute to the Republican presidential candidates and the blatant male panic they show at the idea of a female president.

Here's Chris Matthews yesterday, imagining a female conspiracy to vote for Hillary Clinton and keep it secret from their men:

HARRIS: The whole premise behind this survey I think is actually very bad news for Hillary Clinton because if her entire victory margin is predicated on this notion that she is going to sweep the female vote, like she‘s doing currently, I think once women go through and examine all of these candidates, you know, I think that that actually presents a fairly large problem for her. This early in the cycle...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HARRIS: ... voters—voters tend to look for commonalities. Is the candidate Republican, Democrat, white, black? Very superficial indicators...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HARRIS: ... and superficial levers—levels.

(CROSSTALK)

HARRIS: So, it is not surprising to me that she is doing well...

MATTHEWS: OK.

HARRIS: ... among women.

MATTHEWS: Well...

HARRIS: But as the campaign develops, that could really change.

MATTHEWS: Todd, you won‘t know. You will never know, Todd, because women don‘t have to tell us who they are going to vote for. It‘s a secret ballot.


This isn't the first time he's remarked that he thinks women are going to lie to the pollsters and then stab men everywhere in the back and secretly vote for Hillary. Of course, he says the same thing about men, except that they are going to tell the pollsters that they support Hillary but once they get in that voting booth they will never be able to pull the lever for that castrating bitch. (Ok he didn't actually say castrating bitch.)

Anyway, you've heard this all before from me. But I have treat for you, if you haven't read them already. Both Gene Lyons and Glenn Greenwald, two of the very best, have written sizzling pieces on the subject this week that are not to be missed:

Here's a little bit of Lyons:

That’s how it goes on “Hardball” night after night. Mention a prominent Republican and the courtier-pundits swoon like 12-year-old girls at a boy band show. Matthews goes into virtual meltdown over former Sen. Fred Thompson, another “daddy” figure. Frequent guest Mark Halperin, Time’s version of Fineman, praises his “magnetism.” On TV, he wrote, Thompson plays “a straight-talking, tough-minded, wise Southerner—basically a version of what his supporters say is his true political self.”

Now here’s a guy who’s been a Washington lobbyist and Hollywood actor most of his adult life; campaigned across Tennessee in what turned out to be a rented red pickup driven by an aide; and sports a very un-first ladylike trophy wife younger than his kids. (There’s a funny picture on-line of neo-con guru Paul Wolfowitz peering at lovely Jeri’s low-cut cocktail dress. ) So what’s Thompson to the “Hardball” gang ? Fineman: “A tough guy” with “a strong record on cultural issues as a cultural conservative from the South.”

Heh. And here's a touch of Greenwald:

During the last week, when I was traveling, I spent substantial time driving in a rental car, and thus had the opportunity to listen for large chunks of time to The Rush Limbaugh Show, which I hadn't actually heard in several years. Virtually the entire show is now devoted to an overt celebration of masculinity -- by Rush Limbaugh -- and to claims that Democrats and liberals lack masculinity.

As but one example, Rush claimed that the New York Times buried the story of the JFK terrorist plot on page C30, immediately prior to the Sports Section, because nobody would see it there, because the "wimps and sissies who read the New York Times don't read the Sports section, because it's too macho for them."

And just as Glenn Reynolds has done, Rush has developed a virtual obsession with the book The Dangerous Book for Boys, geared towards teaching "boys how to be boys." Rush spent the week hailing it as the antidote to what he calls the "Emasculation of America."

Identically, Reynolds on his blog has promoted the book a disturbing 17 times in the last six weeks alone. When doing so, he routinely proclaims things such as "maybe there's hope," and -- most revealingly -- has fretted: "Are we turning into a nation of wimps?" It is the identity of the "we" in that sentence where all the meaning lies. Perhaps if "we" torture enough bound and gagged prisoners and bomb enough countries, "we" can rid ourselves of that worry.

Republicans have long tried to exploit masculinity images and depict Democrats and liberals as effeminate and therefore weak. That is not new. But what is new is how explicit and upfront and unabashed this all is now. And what is most striking about it is that -- literally in almost every case -- the most vocal crusaders for Hard-Core Traditional Masculinity, the Virtues of Machismo, are the ones who so plainly lack those qualities on every level.


This is one of the oddest political phenomena out there and this election cycle does seem to be producing a comic overreaction even by their normally neurotic standards. The only thing that makes any real sense is that they have screwed the pooch so badly on the war that they are humiliated --- and the Democrats may just bring in someone who doesn't even have a penis to fix it. Oh the humanity.


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