Diary

Citing Male "Gender Studies" Experts, the Media Try to Redefine Masculinity to Support Progressive Politics . . . and Joe Biden

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

JournoList supposedly disappeared after it was discovered. Wikipedia described it as:

JournoList (sometimes referred to as the J-List) was a private Google Groups forum for discussing politics and the news media with 400 “left-leaning” journalists, academics and others. Ezra Klein created the online forum in February 2007 while blogging at The American Prospect and shut it down on June 25, 2010 amid wider public exposure. Journalists later pointed out various off-color statements made by members of the list denigrating conservatives, as well as a seeming conspiracy to prop up then Presidential candidate Barack Obama. Others defended such statements as being taken out of context or simply a matter of private candor.

Even Michael Calderone, on Politico, called it an “echo chamber.”

Well, I have to wonder: has JournoList been replaced with another such group, though one that has been better about keeping itself secret?

Thursday’s Philadelphia Inquirer had an OpEd piece by Zack Rearick, who “studied communications, politics and gender at Allegheny College and the University of North Carolina, and has worked professionally for unions representing steelworkers and nurses,” claiming that “Masculinity is the unspoken undercurrent in Trumpism and the fracking debate”:

I am a son of Pennsylvania’s fracking region. My father and stepfather and generations of men in my family have worked in fossil fuels: first in coal, before the mining companies consolidated then collapsed, and now in fracking. When I hear candidates debating this subject, as Mike Pence and Kamala Harris did last week, I am often struck by what is left unsaid.

Note how the author carefully established his masculinity credentials.

Gender is the unspoken undercurrent, both in the fracking debate and in the specific regional appeal of Trumpism.

After the 2016 election, journalists descended on Western Pennsylvania to try to make sense of Trump’s victory. A Boston Globe columnist toured my hometown: a sort of anthropological field visit on deindustrialization. The storyline on economic anxiety had taken hold, but it never rang true based on my experience as a product of the region, or my subsequent academic and professional work at the intersection of labor, politics and gender.

For the past four years, I have been a broken record: You cannot understand Trump’s rural Rust Belt popularity without understanding the politics of gender, and gendered ideas of work.

Deindustrialization emasculates. It hits at men’s pride and devalues a kind of blue collar physicality that has traditionally been revered (glorified in culture) and rewarded (paid well). As “good” jobs increasingly move to the knowledge and caregiving economies, long-held notions of masculine and feminine work shift under our feet. This threatens longstanding masculine ideals of labor — “getting dirty” and “working with your hands” — that have deep roots in the Rust Belt. A New York Times headline was blunt: “Men don’t want to be nurses.

There’s plenty more of his blather at the original. Robert Stacy McCain noted how our universities are cultural traps for white male students, and pointed out how some of those get-your-hands-dirty jobs are attracting more white men these days.

But I digress. Friday’s Washington Post jumps on the toxic masculinity bandwagon with “Trump, Biden and masculinity in the age of coronavirus”, telling us that the President Trump is just being silly:

President Trump boasted last week that he beat covid-19 because he is “a perfect physical specimen.” Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) distributed a video of Trump at WrestleMania, tackling and beating up a man with a coronavirus particle superimposed over his head.

“President Trump won’t have to recover from COVID,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) wrote on Twitter. “COVID will have to recover from President Trump.”

The president’s emergence from his bout with the novel coronavirus is being hailed by many allies as a sign of his physical strength — the latest chapter in the effort by Trump and his supporters to cast himself as the manliest of men, conflating masculinity and strength and engaging in a dispute of sorts with Joe Biden over the meaning of machismo.

“Now, what is this macho thing: ‘I’m not going to wear a mask’?” Biden said during a town hall meeting last week, held just after Trump was released from the hospital. “Big deal. Does it hurt you? Be patriotic, for God’s sake. Take care of yourself, but take care of your neighbors.”

In response to Biden encouraging Americans to wear a mask, Fox News commentator Tomi Lahren wrote on Twitter: “Might as well carry a purse with that mask, Joe.”

The author continues to tell us that Mr Trump’s masculinity is “bluster,” while Mr Biden’s is “a manly but caring boy-next-door.” “Physical strength is obviously not synonymous with maleness,” the author claims, as though being a weakling is, “but Trump often uses it as part of his broader self-portrait as a dominant masculine figure.”

“Trump is a more caricatured version of masculinity — aggressive, physically tough, physically strong, never back down,” said Jackson Katz, creator of a forthcoming documentary called “The Man Card: Presidential Masculinity from Nixon to Trump.” “What Biden is offering is a more complex 21st-century version of masculinity. It’s compassion and empathy and care and a personal narrative of loss.”

It’s somewhat telling that Mr Katz is “the first man to minor in women’s studies at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

One of Biden’s political calling cards is an expression of empathy with voters, and unlike Trump, he is not afraid to show vulnerability in public.

The Post article calls this a more modern form of masculinity. Mr Biden attempts some old-school versions, having once said, about the President, “If we were in high school, I’d take him behind the gym and beat the hell out of him.” At 6’0″ and 158 lb, Mr Biden would be giving up three inches in height and up to eighty pounds to Mr Trump. No one can say how an actual fist fight between the 77-year-old Mr Biden and 73-year-old Mr Trump would turn out, but the President’s recent bout with COVID-19 demonstrated that while he is definitely overweight, he’s also physically strong.

This is something the Post article tries to undermine. Though granting the President’s greater size and physical presence, it’s attempting to paint Mr Biden as part of a new wave of masculinity, because the editors of the Post are just deathly afraid that the President’s physicality will dominate.

In the end, this might well backfire on Mr Biden. In presenting himself as “a more complex 21st-century version of masculinity” — the Post’s words, but I have little doubt that it was coordinated with the Biden campaign, because that is what the credentialed media are doing these days — the former Vice President is playing right into the image of the kind of guy the feminists say a man should be, but that just might not be what most women really want, and it certainly isn’t that to which most men aspire.
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