No, really. Conservative pundit Kathleen Parker, last seen getting a TV host gig with a certain Client Number 9 former Governor of New York, just elevated the nation’s discourse from the tabloids to the playground by calling Barack Obama a girl:
If Bill Clinton was our first black president, as Toni Morrison once proclaimed, then Barack Obama may be our first woman president.
Okay… so where are you going with this Kathleen? Are you using this as a first awkward step into an insightful analysis of gender dynamics?
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.
Ah. So no then. It’s going to be more one like a whisper campaign that plays off deep-seated cultural views toward the role of women in society. Oh good.
When Parker calls Obama a girlie president, it’s the old “I’m gonna let you finish” trick (Taylor Swift did not get to finish) of saying you’re not saying something when really you’re saying just that (see also: Jay Smooth, via Hella Bus). Parker uses a rhetorical trope similar to the “I don’t mean to sound [insert prejudice here] but… [prejudiced comment]” construction. In this case, the prejudice is sexism, generally, and imposing gender roles, specifically.
Here’s the thing, though: above and beyond the fact that the question of whether gender should be a factor in leadership is so laughable and archaic as to be laughed out of the room, it’s highly ironic that Parker puts emotions/occupations into gendered boxes in her post when, in fact, she herself does a lot to defy the traditional categorizations of gendered professions and emotions. Authoritative, patrician… thought influencer? These are descriptions that break those old gendered social mores.
Who knew Parker was ironic at heart? Post-modernism sure is a tricky sticky business.
Compared even to the brief gender analysis above, the actual column itself isn’t particularly interesting. It’s the usual “Barack Obama doesn’t use rage mode enough” story that the media has clung to for the last couple months. That assertion is kind of played out and didn’t ever really stick in the first place- I think that Obama was elected because he was Mr. Calm and Confident- but here it is still. To which this author replies, “this horse is dead, ma’am. We would rather not continue with the flogging.”
(Editor’s note: at this point, Peter took a break and grabbed a cup of coffee)
…uh, anyway, Parker probably just wanted to make people get wrapped up in the controversy behind this “hot topic” (’cause gender roles are still totally controversial after 1974) to promote her aforementioned new talk show. How better to get attention than to bring up “hot topics” and diss the most visible person in the world? And not even with a worthy, or at least witty, insult. Lame!
Ultimately, it’s just frustrating that we still have to read “you’re a GIRL!” in the (2nd most respected national) newspaper. And that it still works as a publicity stunt.
Gah! And I’m just playing into their hands.