[Marxism] "Our First Female President"
binesi at gvtel.com
Thu Jul 1 16:11:35 MDT 2010
The following analysis might be more convincing if it described Obama as
the first eunuch president.
"Our First Female President"
By Kathleen Parker
Washington Post. Wednesday, June 30, 2010; A17
If Bill Clinton was our first black president, as Toni Morrison once
proclaimed, then Barack Obama may be our first woman president.
Phew. That was fun. Now, if you'll just keep those hatchets holstered
and hear me out.
No, I'm not calling Obama a girlie president. But . . . he may be
suffering a rhetorical-testosterone deficit when it comes to dealing
with crises, with which he has been richly endowed.
It isn't that he isn't "cowboy" enough, as others have suggested.
Aren't we done with that? It is that his approach is feminine in a
normative sense. That is, we perceive and appraise him according to
cultural expectations, and he's not exactly causing anxiety in
We've come a long way gender-wise. Not so long ago, women would be
censured for speaking or writing in public. But cultural expectations
are stickier and sludgier than oil. Our enlightened human selves may
want to eliminate gender norms, but our lizard brains have a different
Women, inarguably, still are punished for failing to adhere to gender
norms by acting "too masculine" or "not feminine enough." In her
fascinating study about "Hating Hillary," Karlyn Kohrs Campbell details
the ways our former first lady was chastised for the sin of talking
like a lawyer and, by extension, "like a man."
Could it be that Obama is suffering from the inverse?
When Morrison wrote in the New Yorker about Bill Clinton's "blackness,"
she cited the characteristics he shared with the African American
"Clinton displays almost every trope of blackness: single-parent
household, born poor, working-class, saxophone-playing,
McDonald's-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas."
If we accept that premise, even if unseriously proffered, then we could
say that Obama displays many tropes of femaleness. I say this in the
nicest possible way. I don't think that doing things a woman's way is
evidence of deficiency but, rather, suggests an evolutionary
Nevertheless, we still do have certain cultural expectations,
especially related to leadership. When we ask questions about a
politician's beliefs, family or hobbies, we're looking for familiarity,
what we can cite as "normal" and therefore reassuring.
Generally speaking, men and women communicate differently. Women tend
to be coalition builders rather than mavericks (with the occasional
rogue exception). While men seek ways to measure themselves against
others, for reasons requiring no elaboration, women form circles and
talk it out.
Obama is a chatterbox who makes Alan Alda look like Genghis Khan.
The BP oil crisis has offered a textbook case of how Obama's rhetorical
style has impeded his effectiveness. The president may not have had the
ability to "plug the damn hole," as he put it in one of his manlier
outbursts. No one expected him to don his wetsuit and dive into the
gulf, but he did have the authority to intervene immediately and he
didn't. Instead, he deferred to BP, weighing, considering, even
delivering jokes to the White House Correspondents' Association dinner
when he should have been on Air Force One to the Louisiana coast.
His lack of immediate, commanding action was perceived as a lack of
leadership because, well, it was. When he finally addressed the nation
on day 56 (!) of the crisis, Obama's speech featured 13 percent
passive-voice constructions, the highest level measured in any major
presidential address this century, according to the Global Language
Monitor, which tracks and analyzes language.
Granted, the century is young -- and it shouldn't surprise anyone that
Obama's rhetoric would simmer next to George W. Bush's boil. But
passivity in a leader is not a reassuring posture.
Campbell's research, in which she affirms that men can assume feminine
communication styles successfully (Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton),
suggests holes in my own theory. She insists that men are safe assuming
female styles as long as they meet rhetorical norms for effective
advocacy -- clarity and cogency of argument, appropriate and compelling
evidence, and preempting opposing positions.
I'm not so sure. The masculine-coded context of the Oval Office poses
special challenges, further exacerbated by a crisis that demands
decisive action. It would appear that Obama tests Campbell's argument
that "nothing prevents" men from appropriating women's style without
Indeed, negative reaction to Obama's speech suggests the opposite.
Obama may prove to be our first male president who pays a political
price for acting too much like a woman.
And, perhaps, next time will be a real woman's turn.
kathleenparker at washpost.com
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