The New York Times calls into question Barack Obama's masculinity.
Amazingly, Susan Faludi is apparently under the impression that she's being *helpful.*
By Moe Lane Posted in 2008 | Barack Obama | The New York Times | You Can't Make This Stuff up — Comments (31) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »
I do believe that I am gobsmacked:
Think the Gender War Is Over? Think Again
By SUSAN FALUDI
FOR months, our political punditry foresaw one, and only one, prospective gender contest looming in the general election: between the first serious female presidential candidate and the Republican male “warrior.” But those who were dreading a plebiscite on sexual politics shouldn’t celebrate just yet. Hillary Clinton may be out of the race, but a Barack Obama versus John McCain match-up still has the makings of an epic American gender showdown.
The reason is a gender ethic that has guided American politics since the age of Andrew Jackson. The sentiment was succinctly expressed in a massive marble statue that stood on the steps of the United States Capitol from 1853 to 1958. Named “The Rescue,” but more commonly known as “Daniel Boone Protects His Family,” the monument featured a gigantic white pioneer in a buckskin coat holding a nearly naked Indian in a death’s grip, while off to the side a frail white woman crouched over her infant.
The question asked by this American Sphinx to all who dared enter the halls of leadership was, “Are you man enough?” This year, Senator Obama has notably refused to give the traditional answer.
Oh, it just keeps getting better.
Sorry, but this is one time where I can't hope to beat the surreality of the facts on the ground. Susan Faludi decided that she really did want to write an Op-Ed that reads like every bad cliche made about feminism (well, every one that's rated PG), and I simply have to accept that. Which means that we get stuff like this:
Senator Obama, for his part, will not be cast as the avenging hero in “The Rescue” any time soon — and not because of the color of his skin or his lack of military experience. He doesn’t seem to want the role. You don’t see him crouching in a duck blind or posing in camouflage duds or engaging in anything more gladiatorial than a game of pick-up basketball. If Mr. Obama’s candidacy seeks to move beyond race, it also moves beyond gender. A 20-minute campaign Web documentary showcased a President Obama who would exude “a real sensitivity” and “empathy” and provide a world safe for the American mother’s son. Mr. Obama is surrounded in the video by pacifist — not security — moms.
“In many ways, he really will be the first woman president,” Megan Beyer of Virginia, a charter member of Women for Obama, told reporters. An op-ed essay in The New York Post headlined “Bam: Our 1st Woman Prez?” came to a similar conclusion, if a tad more snidely: “Those shots of Barack and Michelle sitting with Oprah on stools had the feel of a smart, all-women talk panel.”
Now, if I were to suggest that traditional gender roles were somehow equivalent to the positive traits that we associated with masculinity - well, first I'd laugh half to death, because I'm a stay-at-home father whose wife is an engineer. But after that, I'd be legitimately open to the charge that I was confusing traits with virtues. The fact is that there are things that we expect our leaders to be good at, and one of them involves the application of violence in response to violence done against us; until quite recently, this was assumed to be a sex-linked ability. Given the history of the feminist movement in general, it is highly ironic that Ms. Faludi has decided to implicitly embrace this notion that leading a nation in war is a matter for men* - but then, Obama supporters have already jettisoned an amazing amount of past policy, rhetoric and common sense in order to cling to their guru, so I suppose that this is not very surprising.
And I can't help but wonder whether there's an attempt to put up a smokescreen here, as well. A few days ago, Noemie Emery wrote an article (H/T: see-dubya) discussing Senator Obama. Drawing from Barone's "Academician/Jacksonian" argument, Emery notes:
Obama's problem may be less that he is running while black than that he is running to be the first Academician elected as president, a category that is zero for eight in national contests thus far. He is peering into an abyss not of bias, but a large Jackson Hole of rejection by warrior voters. And this problem is more than skin deep.
Complicating all this are the disparate facts that the voters most imbued with warrior instincts--southerners, rural voters, and many white ethnics--are those most suspected (by Newsweek) of harboring deep racial bias, and that the first credible black candidate to be running for president of the world's greatest power is also one of the least Jacksonian candidates who ever drew breath. The interesting counterexample of course would be to see a black Jacksonian run against a white Academician, and if Colin Powell had chosen to challenge Bill Clinton in 1996, we might have seen this take place. (Whether the black warrior could have been nominated is another whole story, as the centrism that would have made him electable would have given rise to hysterics in the party's activist base.) The charming, war-tested moderate Powell would have presented a fair test of whether an ultra-acceptable black candidate could have been undermined by prejudice. The charming, untested, and left wing Obama will not.
Now let us imagine a different candidate, one who looks like Barack Obama, with the same mixed-race, international background, even the same middle name. But this time, he is Colonel Obama, a veteran of the war in Iraq, a kick-ass Marine with a "take no prisoners" attitude, who vows to follow Osama bin Laden to the outskirts of Hell. He comes from the culture of the military (the most color blind and merit-based in the country), and not the rarefied air of Hyde Park. He goes to a church with a mixed-race congregation and a rational preacher. He has never met Bill Ayers, and if he did he would flatten him. He thinks arugula is a town near Bogota and has Toby Keith on his favorites list. Would he strike no chords at all in Jacksonian country? Does anyone think he would lose 90 to 9 in Buchanan County? Or lose West Virginia by 41 points? For those Jacksonians who would be fine with a black man in the White House (not as tiny a group as Newsweek thinks), Colonel Obama is the one we are waiting for. When we will get him is anyone's guess.
That particular inconvenient truth is always going to be the Senator's main problem in this election; and, Faludi to the contrary, I don't think that redefining himself as the stereotypical female candidate is really going to help him all that much. But I will note this: it'd be a really good way to make people feel better about themselves after he loses.
*You disagree? Real quick, then: the Tripods have just climbed the White Hills of Dover and are igniting the countryside with their heat-rays. Who do you want answering the phone: John Majors, or Maggie Thatcher?
Yes, she does count. That's the point.