A ‘Masculine’ Debate? Seriously?
Megan McCardle and Mark Kleiman have been discussing on their respective blogs whether Barack Obama will be seen as “masculine” enough when pitted against John McCain for the general election. Kleiman thinks that Obama will come off as “more manly” than McCain because he’s black and plays basketball. McCardle isn’t so sure, because he thinks that Obama is taking the “woman’s role” in the campaign:
On the one hand he’s tall, but he’s kind of, well, scrawny looking. But also, the political space I think he’s trying to occupy — building understanding and reconciliation between hostile voter grops — is generally seen as a woman’s role. And he’s running against a much-decorated fighter pilot renowned for chasing women until his walker started getting in the way.
This isn’t the first time that this issue has been brought up on the blogs, and it never ceases to make me shake my head in genuine bewilderment. First off, I don’t see why political pundits seriously waste their time with this kind of trite banality, such as this “masculinity” discussion, or the first half or so of Wednesday night’s Obama-Clinton debate. These issues are circular — they are campaign issues because they are discussed by the media and the punditry, and they are discussed by the media and the punditry because they are campaign issues. It’s tiresome.
Equally bewildering, though, is how the discussions about “masculinity” in this campaign are not actually about “manliness”, but rather about a high-school jock mentality. Nobody in the media seems to question John McCain’s “masculinity” because, according to the media’s picture of him, he likes to get into fights, chases skirts, lacks tact, brags about his military service, and has a nasty temper. To which I say only goes to show how far our ideas about how a man should behave have degraded. Apparently, humility, quiet dignity, being faithful to one’s spouse and a desire to avoid violence are seen as “un-manly.” Which says a lot about our virtues as a people. Not good things, to be sure. But it’s definitely revealing.