Media Girl (in the comments of XX) points to this interview by Stephen J. Ducat, author of The Wimp Factor: Gender Gaps, Holy Wars, and the Politics of Anxious Masculinity. If you didn’t get the point of Hillary hatred, the recast of war hero Kerry into a Frenchman, or the offensiveness of calling Edwards “the Breck girl,” this book and interview will help you understand the fear of feminine that drives Republican rhetoric.
From the interview:
Stephen J. Ducat: In a culture based on male domination and in which most things feminine tend to be devalued, even if they are secretly envied, the most important thing about being a man is not being a woman. This powerful adult male imperative to be unlike females and to repudiate anything that smacks of maternal caretaking is played out just as powerfully in politics as it is in personal life. In fact, political contests among men are in many ways the ultimate battles for masculine supremacy. This makes disavowing the feminine in oneself and projecting it onto one’s opponent especially important. This femiphobia–this male fear of being feminine–operates unconsciously in many men as a very powerful determinant of their political behavior. It also constitutes a very significant motive for fundamentalist terrorism.
…Femininity, for male fundamentalists, is seen as a contaminant, and there is an attempt to repudiate those aspects of one’s self that seem feminine. This is something that fundamentalists around the world share. As I argue in the last chapter of my book, there is a surprising affinity between Christian fundamentalists in this country and the extreme Islamic fundamentalists elsewhere, when it comes to this kind of devaluation, repudiation and fear of the feminine.
BuzzFlash: You discuss “anxious masculinity” as exhibited by right wing America, the Bush Administration, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and George Bush. Why “anxious?” Is it that their masculinity has got to be constantly reproven?
Stephen J. Ducat: Yes. In fact, the kind of hyper-masculine strutting that we see on display by right wing males is a defense. It’s a defense against this anxious masculinity, against their fear of the feminine. In a culture in which it’s so important to deny the feminine in men, masculinity becomes a really brittle achievement. It’s quite Sisyphean–you know, you can never quite get there. You’re always having to prove it.
Part of the reason is that this type of masculinity is defined largely in terms of domination. The problem is that domination–either in a personal or a global context–can never be a permanent condition. It’s a relational state. It’s dependent on having somebody in a subordinate position. That means you could be manly today, but you’re not going to be manly tomorrow unless you’ve got somebody to push around and control, whether that is an abused wife or another country. So this kind of masculinity is really brittle.
In the meantime, I’d like to point out that the market on “femiphobia” is not cornered by fundamentalists. I see plenty of liberals, radicals, and progressives play out these same ideas on a daily basis, and in the meantime lauding feminist ideals as quickly as they subvert them. Oftentimes, women aren’t involved in these conflicts of masculinity except to serve as the anti-masculine metaphor for the political strut-fest du jour.
Ducat also touches on the paradox of the Gannon/Guckert story:
BuzzFlash: Well, as Jon Stewart said recently in the context of the John Gannon/Jeff Guckert scandal in Washington, if you’re on top, you’re not gay. That may explain the inner circle acceptance of gays within the Republican Party, in spite of the gay-bashing national political line they give to their followers.
Stephen J. Ducat: The Republican homosexuals, especially if closeted, are not only treated as honorary heterosexuals; they become honorary homophobes, as the most recent scandal illustrated.
BuzzFlash: Well, you know, Matt Drudge is gay and yet engages in homophobia. Ken Mehlman, who is the head of the RNC, is reportedly gay and was a leader of the homophobic charge. There are numerous Congressman who have been outed and Senators who are known as gay, and yet who stick to the homophobic line. It’s a strange permutation of anxious masculinity, but maybe, as Jon Stewart said, if you’re on top, you’re not gay.
Stephen J. Ducat: He has intuited something that is actually pervasive across cultures and across historical time–that in male-dominant cultures, homosexuality is only taboo when it’s perceived as feminizing. This has its foundation in ancient Greece, where it didn’t really matter with whom you had sex. What mattered was what position you occupied in the relationship of domination. If you were a penetrator, you were an unambiguous guy. If you were penetrated, you were virtually a woman. That dynamic operates in American prisons, and you can see it in some Middle Eastern cultures. It’s really a question of domination.
BuzzFlash: So with Gannon, who said on his web sites, you know, that he was a military guy, a Marine, and always on top, he’s acceptable because he’s a man’s man?
Stephen J. Ducat: Yes.
BuzzFlash: He’s not penetrated; he penetrates.
Stephen J. Ducat: That’s right. Militarystud.com.
Similar Posts (automatically generated):
- Suicide Girls Quit The Site, Charging Exploitation and Male-Domination by Lauren September 28, 2005
- Bring the binders full of men! by Guest Blogger November 26, 2012