Thursday, December 2, 2010

Scarborough's Model of Civility

Previously, we've learned from at least one anti-feminist that it's not okay for female politicians to tell male politicians to "man up." The rules may be different, though, when men tell other men to "man up," especially when the manning-up is to be done in opposition to women.

Recently, conservative commentator Joe Scarborough ordered the Republican Party to "man up" to Sarah Palin, expressing his anxiety about the "reality star" who could "devastate" the GOP in 2012.

Yes, there is a certain sense of schadenfreude whenever conservatives bicker amongst themselves, but inevitably, my feminist sense of no-funnington eventually kicks in to spoil the fun. See, when conservatives bicker amongst themselves, it's often gays or women, or blacks, or immigrants, some other non-white-dude group that loses.

Let's see, for instance, what Scarborough's real angst about Palin's shenanigans is about.

Although he briefly, and aptly, mentions Palin's "thin" resume, his primary beef with her is that she dared ridicule some Great Republican Patriarchs. (I guess her ridicule of liberal and progressive men and women was totally fine). Scarborough writes:

"Adding audacity to [her] dopey dream [of becoming President] is that Palin can’t stop herself from taking swings at Republican giants. In the past month alone, she has mocked Ronald Reagan’s credentials, dismissed George H.W. and Barbara Bush as arrogant 'blue bloods' and blamed George W. Bush for wrecking the economy....

One can only guess what comes next on Palin’s bizarre road show. Maybe the publishing world’s favorite reality star can keep drawing attention and selling billions of books by spitting on John Wayne’s grave or 'manning up' by shooting an American bald eagle."

Putting aside the inconvenient fact that George W did wreck the economy, actually, Scarborough might as well have added that Palin propose cutting down the Washington Monument too given that she's so clearly offended every other swaggering symbol of conservative American machismo. Note that it wasn't Palin's gaffes and misstatements that crossed Scarborough's line, it was her mocking of Republican men. Oh yes, it's clear that Palin's Big Sin isn't that she's incompetent, but that she's Just A Silly Woman who dares to treat VIP men like how women and femininity are treated all the damn time.

Scarborough continues, noting George HW Bush's distinguished and decorated military career and comparing it Palin's non-military endeavors:

"I suppose Palin’s harsh dismissal of this great man is more understandable after one reads her biography and realizes that, like Bush, she accomplished a great deal in her early 20s. Who wouldn’t agree that finishing third in the Miss Alaska beauty contest is every bit as treacherous as risking your life in military combat? Maybe the beauty contestant who would one day be a reality star and former governor didn’t win the Distinguished Flying Cross, but the half-termer was selected as Miss Congeniality by her fellow contestants."

I should probably preface this by noting that I don't think Bush I's military service should be demeaned. And if this is a who-gave-more-to-their-country dick-measuring contest, Bush would clearly win, although I'm also not sure military service in and of itself, just like beauty pageantry, is indicative of whether someone's going to make a stellar, competent politician.

Unfortunately, what's clear from reading Scarborough's piece is that he thinks it's not manly men who serve in the manly military who should be denigrated, but rather, feminine women who do girly girl things like beauty pageants who should be. Indeed, by specificaly contrasting Palin's stereotypically feminine experience with Bush's sterotypically masculine one, he pits femininity against masculinity and judges one the clear and obvious winner.

It's such a classic ploy of patriarchy. You ingrain in women that it's extremely important that men find them attractive, and then when they are, you use their beauty compliance as the primary reason why they are unqualified to do Serious Things.

Scarborough continues:

"I work hard every day to assume the best of Americans who engage in public service. But I am offended by Palin’s attempt to build herself up by tearing down great men like Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush."

It's too bad Scarborough doesn't share a similar concern about men who build other men up by tearing down women and femininity.

Indeed, partly because of the grave offense he has taken at Palin's slams of the Republic Patriarchs, Scarborough has launched a group "dedicated to restoring civility in politics." And here we see two more observations that are just so typical of patriarchy. First, when a woman does something-like say wins an award for Miss Congeniality-it is to be ridiculed; when a man does it- like say, narcissistically brands himself Mr. Congeniality- it is suddenly Very Important Business. And two, men who denigrate women and femininity are civil, but women who denigrate men and masculinity are rude and out of line.

I suppose we've also learned yet again that when feminists are seen as denigrating femininity and stay-at-home moms and beauty pageants, they're out of line. When men do it, they're just stating Universal Truths about the different roles of men and women in society.

We get the message loud and clear, fellas. Men are entitled to aggression; women must apologize for it.

Sarah Palin has reignited a "feminist" movement that some of us cynically view as a movement that aligned with patriarchy's priority of maintaining male supremacy. It is cheap and easy, after all, for conservative women to co-opt the feminist label to support conservative ideologies that align with their own already-held beliefs on issues such as abortion and gay rights. Where these women show their true mettle and integrity to feminism is in their responses to sexist, misogynistic statements uttered by conservative men.

Will they challenge patriarchy? Or, will they leave the criticism of "their men" to progressive feminists so they can remain the patriarchy's good girls? (And yes, I also believe progressive feminists show their own integrity to feminism when they oppose the sexist denigration of women like Palin).

If readers have come across any instances of conservative feminists criticizing Scarborough's article, please link in the comments. I have yet to find any.

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