Saturday, March 10, 2007

the republican cult of manliness

As comically absurd as the above image may be, it was -- and is -- a hot item for followers of George W. Bush, particularly the people who attend the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Their ridiculous hyper-masculine fantasy about Bush helps to explain Ann Coulter's speech at this year's event, during which she called Democratic Presidential candidate John Edwards a "faggot." As Glenn Greenwald suggests in this excellent post, Coulter's comment, while obviously offensive, makes a lot more sense if you understand that many conservatives love her precisely because uses this sort of hateful and vitriolic rhetoric, almost all of which is expressly designed to emasculate Democratic men.

I'm not going to rehash Greenwald's entire post. Please read it; it is excellent. But I do want to add a few comments.

The media narrative in the 2008 Presidential campaign will be largely founded on gender stereotypes. How do I know this? Because both the 2000 and 2004 campaigns were gender-based. In 2000, we had to listen to the media's endless fawning over Bush's alleged manliness, while Al Gore endured taunts from the likes of New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, who said Gore "is so feminized and diversified and ecologically correct, he's practically lactating." In 2004, the attacks continued against John Kerry, a decorated Vietnam veteran whose masculine credentials were successfully tarnished by smears from the ironically named Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and incessant jabs from the media about Kerry's supposed "Frenchiness." (And we all know, presumably, how effeminate the French are.)

This time around, the narrative will be similar: the leading Republican candidates (John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, and Mitt Romney) will be cast as real men. According to Rowena Wall, McCain's "male energy -- his masculinity" makes it "clear that he wouldn't back down from a good fight." Giuliani talked tough after 9/11 (though it's a little unclear to me exactly what he did, other than piss off a lot of New York City firefighters). And according to Chris Matthews, Romney has a "great chin."

The Democrats, meanwhile, are girls -- or worse. Edwards is a "faggot"; Rush Limbaugh calls him "the Breck girl." Barack Obama's approach, according to Dowd, is "downright feminine when compared with the Bushies." And Hillary Clinton? Well, she's supposed to be a woman, but really she's not. She's actually a man. She's "ruthless," "calculating," "ambitious" -- all those things women aren't supposed to be. If this were the nineteenth century.

Expect to see much, much more of this storyline: Republicans are real men; Democrats are girlie boys, faggots, and ruthless bitches who don't know their place. Wash, rinse, repeat.

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