Saturday, February 01, 2014


In the NYT today, Charles Blow writes:
If one of the overt Democratic lines of attack against Republicans is that Republicans are conducting a war on women, one of the low-simmering, implicit lines of attack from Republicans is that Democrats are conducting a war on men, or at least traditional views of masculinity.  The idea of the effete, feminized liberals threatening to suffocate the last remaining expression of true manliness is rife in Republican rhetoric.
.....As Glenn Greenwald put it in 2007, “For some time now, it has been commonplace for Democratic candidates to be depicted as gender-confused freaks.” He added, “One can make a strong argument, as some have, that those personality-attack themes have played a far larger role in the outcome of the last two presidential elections than any substantive issues, and liberals simply have nothing close to the potency of the right-wing filth machine in advancing these gender themes.”
But this is not the first expression of such ideas that I've come across in the past few days. Earlier, I came across (PDF) an essay by Andrew J. Rotter, "Gender Relations, Foreign Relations: The United States and South Asia, 1947-1964".
The focus of this essay is on gender, one of the critical skeins in the web of significance deployed by U.S. policy makers and used to explain India.  An analysis of gender illuminates important aspects of relations between nations; here the concern is with the United States, India, and tangentially Pakistan.  Mrinalini Sinha has written, "Empires and nations are gendered ideological constructs", to which one might add nations also construct each other.  For the purposes of this essay, gender, or "gendering", is not a static idea but a transnational process: it is the assignment of certain characteristics based on prevailing ideas of masculinity and femininity to a people and nation by another people and nation.   Masculinity and femininity are not, in this view, biologically determined categories but culturally and socially conditioned constructs.  Nations and the people who constitute them become "gendered", and this affects the policies that other nations pursue toward them.
 In this language, the Republicans have "gendered" the Democrats.  In a comment on a diary, MUST-SEE: Bill Maher takes apart the right-wing's fake machismo, I had pointed to Rotter's essay,
I think it is worth reading; I think the right-wing today has the analogous view of liberals and minorities as the US foreign policy folks had of India.
Charles Blow completed the circle today, which is a satisfactory outcome, whether one believes or is skeptical about the idea of "gendering". 

PS: another quote from Blow's essay:
At the height of the anthrax scare in 2001, Ann Coulter wrote a piece for the conservative site Townhall titled “The Eunuchs Are Whining,” in which she referenced liberals as “mincing pantywaists” and proclaimed that “women — and I don’t mean to limit that to the biological sense — always become hysterical at the first sign of trouble.”