Sunday, December 5, 2010

"Man Up"

As I read and hear criticisms of Obama, there is a theme to some of them that I find pretty fascinating - especially when it comes from liberals and Democrats. Here are some examples that I think will be telling:

Obama needs to:

man up
grow some balls
take off the pink tutu

There are others, but you get the point.

The message is clearly that Obama is too feminine.

I suppose that if he had been unsuccessful, there might be a reason to look at a critique like that. But the truth is, he has accomplished more in 2 years than Clinton and Carter did in 12.

I know there are some who are not happy with his accomplishments, but that's a disagreement on substance and not style. The examples I listed above are clearly a critique of his style.

So is Obama "too feminine?" If so, what does that mean? And what does it say about us that so many have a problem with it?

These are questions I'm asking myself these days as I listen to the political discourse. I don't have a lot of answers yet. But I would invite you to listen to the critiques you read/hear about Obama. We all know that there is an underlying theme of racism that permeates a lot of it. But there also seems to be a yearning for a more "manly' response from him. There are centuries of stereotypes that undergird that kind of call. We seem to be a culture that still has a long way to go in recognizing the value of soft power.

I am invariably reminded of the work of Riane Eisler and her book The Chalice and the Blade where she outlines the historical difference between cultures organized around the blade (dominance) and those who value the chalice (partnership). Here's a short video of an interview that will tell you why her thinking about this is so relevant.


  1. If folks have thoughts about this, I hope you'll write a comment. I've struggled with how to talk about this because our language is so limited in terms of things like differentiating between "female" and "feminine."

    But just how is Obama "feminine?" I tend to be able to see more about what that doesn't mean that what it does.

  2. You have raised an interesting point. I think one thing that is going on is using any attempt to degrade President Obama's power and presence.

    And I think another reason it is used is that it appeals to emotions. Manly men shoot from the hip. They tell people off. They use their power and MAKE things happen. On DKos people will refer longingly to President Johnson and his arm twisting to get bills passed. I think they liked George W. Bush because he could bluster and shout and call people out. Bush's blustering was ineffective and got us into two wars, but that's not the point. It made certain people feel better. I see it as people who don't know how to handle their feelings. They are looking for someone outside of them to make it better. So, the GOP and Fox gin up fear against an outside enemy (President Obama) and tell them it will be better if the GOP is in charge. In spite of almost pushing this country into a depression with their policies, the people are responding emotionally and buying into it again!

    President Obama is thoughtful, intelligent, and balanced. He doesn't shoot from the hip. He treats others with respect.

    I think for the manly men and women this just doesn't feel good to them. They don't understand it. They want action! They want results!

    Years ago I read about the differences between patriarchal and matriarchal societies and religions. What I remember is that the patriarchal is about hierarchy, dominance, rules, and often a fear of and suppression of the feminine aspects of themselves and others. Along with this often comes abuse of females.

    I would suggest you look into authoritarian personalities and their relationship with females or the feminine aspects of themselves.

    What you have discovered is about the people who are saying it and has nothing to do with President Obama. He's just the one they are projecting on and blaming for their own fears and insecurities. They feel better when they can blame someone else.

  3. Suanne

    I really appreciate the part your wrote about emotions. While I was writing this I was thinking of the other critique of Obama being that he is detached. His "cool-headedness" is certainly not something most people would think of as feminine.

    But I think you're so right that people want an emotional response. Just this week I was thinking about how liberals built up so much anger over the 8 years of Bush and many are now frustrated that Obama isn't wielding that anger at Republicans. They seem to want an outlet for their feelings more than they want solutions.

    But I do think that Obama has embraced his "feminine." Perhaps that's the legacy his mother left him. For me - that's a good thing. But the vitriolic reaction to seeing that feminine at work in the most powerful man on earth seems to have unleashed pushback from folks who are more comfortable with patriarchal ways.


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