It’s the stereotypes that are toxic

Digby finds some interesting quotes. Did you know that this presidential election is about masculine vs. feminine values?

Harry Enten: I think it has more to do with society overall. A ridiculously high 68 percent of Trump supporters say society is becoming too soft and feminine. Cruz and Kasich supporters come in with 57 percent and 52 percent, respectively. Now compare those numbers with the Democratic side, where Sanders supporters were slightly less likely than Clinton supporters to say that (28 percent vs. 31 percent).

I don’t even…my first objection has to be the equation of “feminine” and “soft”, which is simply taken for granted in the question. I don’t even know what “feminine” means, or should mean — the women I know have all sorts of personalities, as do the men, and it’s simply silly to assign one stereotypical set of traits, especially an implicitly negative set, to an entire group of people and the entirety of society.

In a country where only 19% of the members of the house of representatives are women, 20% of the senate are women (an all-time high!), a third of the Supreme Court are women, and no woman has ever been president, I fully support the increasing “femininization” of our government until representation is fair and equal.

And then Digby finds another quote from a 2003 article that elevates the stereotyping to a new level of ironic absurdity.

In the House, Dennis Hastert is the Republican speaker, Nancy Pelosi the leader of the Democratic minority. Mr Hastert, a hulking former wrestling coach, is a fairly straightforward conservative: he is against abortion, gay marriage, the Kyoto protocol; for the invasion of Iraq, the death penalty. Ms Pelosi, a tiny bird-like woman, is an unabashed, card-carrying liberal.

So is child molestation one of those masculine qualities we want to increase in society?

I’d also like to know how a high school wrestling coach became a multi-millionaire. Perhaps corruption is also manly?


  1. Zeppelin says

    I suppose being firmly opposed to everything good in the world and having no moral compass or conscience of any kind IS straightforward, in a way. It’s certainly, uh, simple.

  2. tbtabby says

    Are the Clinton supporters who said society is too feminine the same ones who attacked Sanders supporters as being sexist because they don’t support a female candidate?

  3. cartomancer says

    The equation of feminine with soft, silly, inadequate and degenerate is an ancient one. The ancient Germans and Celts thought the Romans were effeminate (all that shaving and bathing and public speaking!) Romans thought the Greeks were effeminate, by and large (theatre! philosophy! art!), and the Greeks thought it about the Persians (all that perfume! Eunuchs! Craven subordination to kings!). The Persians thought it about the Egyptians (luxury-loving degenerate lotus eaters! Look at their cushy life of abundance by the nile!). The Egyptians… well, they seem to have been far less keen on using gender to spice their xenophobia and racism, though female pharaohs did try their hardest to present a masculine image as a part of their official ceremonial.

    But… it strikes me as weird that the values traditionally coded as feminine are considered the inferior ones. On the one hand we have softness and gentleness and comfort, nurturing and cooperation and humility, on the other we have harshness and anger and conflict and arrogance and brutality. How are these latter qualities in any way good in the modern day and age?

  4. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    So is Xena and Wonder Woman, contradiction in terms?
    Women were banned from marathon running as being to weak to withstand the physical stress. Now, women practically dominate the run. What exactly is “weak” about women? Is it implying, emotionally weak; rather than physically weak? Flexibility is NOT weakness, ever hear of the parable of “willow vs oak”?
    yes, stereotypes are toxic. ewww

  5. gardengnome says

    Anyone who believes femininity equates to softness or weakness, particularly in matters cerebral, hasn’t met my wife!

  6. says

    “You might call them soft, because they’re very reluctant to kill, and they might agree with you, but they’re soft the way the ocean is soft, and, well; ask any sea captain how harmless and puny the ocean can be.”
    — Iain M. Banks, Use of Weapons

  7. says

    Usually the people who complain about society having become soft and feminine are the ones who are angry they’re no longer allowed to beat people up (and restricted in bullying)
    But there’s another aspect to this discussion: Soft is equated with feminine because feminine and female are the ultimate insult. Whenever such a stereotype comes up people are very quick to affirm that nono, women are a diverse group (we are) and that they know a lot of women who aren’t respective female coded characteristic but respective male coded characteristic without pausing to think about the characteristics themselves, thus often lending unintentional support to the idea that the respective female coded characteristic is inferior to the ,ale coded characteristic.
    Next time somebody claims that women are “caring and nurturing”, don’t just point out differences in socialisation and the examples of women who aren’t, also give a big fat thumbs up to caring and nurturing. Society would be much better if it were caring and nurturing.

  8. Jado says

    I personally think this sort of thing goes back to the simpler unspoken Agreement of Aggression Between Men. In stupid, prototypical “testosterone-heavy” groups, I believe there is an unspoken limit on debate that, when crossed, degenerates into physical aggression. I believe the stupider men can sense this, as well as the men who intentionally downgrade their intelligence in order to play amidst the frat boys and manly men. Women violate this compact by continuing to talk and discuss things that have been agreed upon not to discuss. I believe that’s why a large preponderance of misogynistic attacks will have the fervent wish that the victim must STOP TALKING.

    So much talking hurts the tiny little brains. Much easier to simply smash things, or threaten to smash things. And it’s much easier to determine who is right when you judge rightness by who can smash things the most. “He must be right; he’s got a bigger club.”

    But no man wants to be seen by everyone actually smashing a woman with a club – it’s unseemly, especially because the woman is assumed to not know or understand the unwritten rules of “stop talking now or I will smash you with a club.” So women keep talking, and it makes the manly man’s head hurt, but he knows he can’t just smash the woman with a club; so he rages and rants, all in an effort to get the women to STOP TALKING, and also to bring the rules of the debate back to “he who has the biggest club wins.”

    So when men rant and rage about the “feminization” of the US, i believe that it means that they can’t/won’t engage in fact-based debate of the issues with an eye towards solving the problems in a rational way. Much better to just smash, and do what you want.

    Actually talking to people (especially women) and trying to persuade them to your cause is SO much effort. It’s almost like these people don’t see the size of the maly-man’s club. If they could only see how big it is, they would surely agree that he is right; his club is YUUUGE

  9. unclefrogy says

    such a distorted way to see things
    I have no idea where to start
    except to realize that the truth of the matter that many share that view subconsciously if not openly the right way to see things.

    uncle frogy

  10. Rich Woods says

    @cartomancer #3:

    and the Greeks thought it about the Persians (all that perfume! Eunuchs! Craven subordination to kings!)

    Not to mention the wearing of trousers.

  11. Lofty says

    Well truth be known, the only parts of a woman these guys look at are the soft bits attached to the chest. Move your gaze and there’s plenty of hard bits.

  12. laurentweppe says

    The ancient Germans and Celts thought the Romans were effeminate (all that shaving and bathing and public speaking!)

    Which makes the Roman invasion of Gaul gallows comedy:

    Caesar is trying to invade us? Come On Vercingetorix! Caesar is effeminate by Rome’s own standards! You’re talking about a rich dandy who wastes his inheritance in expensive chinese silk because other fabrics are too rough to his pretty skin, who spent most of his teenage years and a good chunk of his adult ones too singing silly poetry under rich roman girls’ windows! How can such a foppish weakling threaten us?
    Eight years later a fourth of the Gauls’ population was dead and a third of a survivor enslaved. Beware effeminate men with ambition: they’ll stop at nothing, including genocide, in their pursuit of that fabulous regal purple coat.

  13. Golgafrinchan Captain says

    It’s amusing, in a depressing way, how some people need to assign sex/gender to frigging everything (political positions, boats, etc.). I know some of the problem is with our language; it often forces us to choose a gendered pronoun when we’re communicating. I’m old enough that new attempts like ‘ze’ will always seem awkward to me but I hope some variation catches on with future generations.

    I once had a phone survey for cigarettes and, swear to dog, one of the questions was, “is it important to you that your cigarettes are masculine?”. After I stopped laughing, I asked the guy what the hell that even means. Is it that they’re shaped a lot like penises? Of course survey people generally aren’t much fun and they just want to get through their questions, so I chose ‘not at all’. They should really include “what the hell does that question mean?” as an option for all survey questions.

  14. ck, the Irate Lump says

    If I were at all inclined, I could probably write something out portraying Clinton or Sanders as the masculine parties, and Trump or Cruz as the effeminate ones. It’s ultimately very arbitrary (much like the stereotypes themselves), and says far more about the person making the list than about those the list supposedly targets.