The Masculine Mystique Of Republicans: Charles Blow On Governor Chris Christie

Are we Americans in the midst of another culture war featuring the Republicans’ war on women versus the Democrats’ war on men?

Hey, the feminists in the women’s movement of the 1960s and 1970s (also known as second-wave feminism) was famous for their anti-male spirit. But has their anti-male spirit become the official party-line of the Democratic Party today as it carries on its war on men? Maybe it has.

Charles Blow, an African American columnist at the New York Times, suggests that it has in his op-ed column titled “The Masculine Mistake“. However, he makes no reference to the women’s movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Instead, he refers only to events since 1992.

Charles Blow was prompted to write his piece because of the controversy swirling around Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, a Republican who is described as a tough-talking guy’s guy and who is considered to be a leading contender for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in 2016. The controversy swirling around Gov. Christie involves the closing of certain access lanes to the George Washington Bridge, which of course created a massive traffic jam each day that the lanes were closed.

The George Washington Bridge connects a certain part of the State of New Jersey with a certain part of the State of New York. In that certain part of the State of New York, there happens to be a large metropolitan area, which just happens to include the media center in the United States, including of course the New York Times. Therefore, closing the access lanes to the George Washington Bridge was guaranteed to get media attention.

When it came to light that Gov. Christie’s staff had initiated the lane closings as political payback, the media were all over the story. Then Gov. Christie held a two-hour press conference in which he claimed that he didn’t know about the lane closings that his staff had arranged. Echoing President Richard M. Nixon’s Watergate crisis, the media have referred to Bridgegate. So what did Gov. Christie know, and when did he know it?

FUN AT THE EXPENSE OF THE REPUBLICANS AND GOV. CHRISTIE

In any event, Charles Blow is not a Republican. Wouldn’t it be great fun for Charles Blow if he could help knock Gov. Christie out of contention for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016? Of course it would be great fun.

In the spirit of having great fun at the expense of Republicans and Gov Christie, Charles Blow includes a lengthy quotation from Brit Hume of Fox News:

“When the Chris Christie bridge scandal erupted, Brit Hume, the Fox senior political analyst, said in Christie’s defense: “I would have to say that in the sort of feminized atmosphere in which we exist today, guys who are masculine and muscular like that [i.e., like Gov. Christie is] in their private conduct, kind of old-fashioned tough guys, run some risks. By which I mean that men today have learned the lesson the hard way that if you act like an old-fashioned guy’s guy, you’re in constant danger of slipping out and saying something that’s going to get you in trouble and make you look like a sexist or make you look like you seem thuggish or whatever. That’s the atmosphere in which he [Gov. Christie] operates. This guy is very much an old-fashioned masculine, muscular guy, and there are political risks associated with that. Maybe it shouldn’t be, but that’s how it is'”

I agree with Brit Hume that “that’s how it is” today. However, Brit Hume to the contrary notwithstanding, I’m not sure that all Republican “men today have learned the lesson the hard way that if you act like an old-fashioned guy’s guy, you’re in constant danger of slipping out and saying something that’s going to get you in trouble and make you look like a sexist or make you seem thuggish or whatever.”

Case in point: After President Obama’s State of the Union address, Rep. Michael Grimm, Republican from Staten Island, a former Marine, threatened to throw a television reporter off the balcony — with the television camera recording his threat. He had a few other choice things to say to the reporter — all recorded by the television camera.

Fortunately, not even Republicans defended Rep. Grimm’s threat. So maybe this shows that there may be a wee bit of hope for the Republicans after all.

But back to Brit Hume and Charles Blow.

In the spirit of having great fun at the expense of Republicans and Gov. Christie, Charles Blow points out that Brit Hume’s comments about Gov. Christie being a guy’s guy fit with the more general pattern of “[p]ortraying Republican men as manly and Democratic ones as effete.”

But what does it mean to be manly? And do Republicans somehow have a monopoly on saying what counts as manly, and what doesn’t?

n the spirit of having great fun at the expense of the Republicans and Gov. Christie, Charles Blow says, “The problem with having your message powered by machismo is that it reveals what undergirds such a stance: misogyny and chauvinism.”

In the spirit of having great fun at the expense of Republicans and Gov. Christie, Charles Blow says, “The Republican Party is in danger of becoming a man cave of cavemen and the women who can abide them.”

Now, in the spirit of having great fun at the expense of Republicans and Gov. Christie, I would correct Charles Blow’s sentence by deleting the words “is in danger of becoming” and adding the words “has become.”

However, fun aside, conservatives in the Republican Party are reactionaries. Unfortunately, their masculine mystique is loaded with sexist and racist views. As a result, for decades now, they have been reactionaries to the black civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s and to the women’s movement of the 1960s and 1970s — and especially to the political correctness that has emerged in subsequent decades.

THE MASCULINE MYSTIQUE OF WHITE MEN IN THE 1950S

Many highly vocal Republican men and certain Republican women have a culturally conditioned sense of masculinity that has become old-fashioned. Our sense of masculinity is a social construct. Their social construct of tough-talking masculinity has been deeply influenced by John Wayne movies and other Hollywood movies.

As everybody knows, Betty Friedan’s book The Feminine Mystique (1963) contributed to the emergence of the women’s movement in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s (also known as second-wave feminism).

I’d like to borrow her terminology and refer to the masculine mystique of the 1950s that Republican men have embraced. They need to undertake to examine and reflect on their culturally conditioned masculine mystique.

Men and boys need to develop a specifically masculine sense of identity, as Walter J. Ong, S.J., notes in his book Fighting for Life: Contest, Sexuality, and Consciousness, the published version of his 1979 Messenger Lectures at CornellUniversity. The culturally conditioned masculine mystique of Republican men has undoubtedly helped them to develop a specifically masculine sense of identity. Nevertheless, they need to reflect on certain elements of their culturally conditioned mystique of masculinity, because certain elements need to be discarded.

In his book Tough, Sweet, and Stuffy: An Essay on Modern American Prose Styles (Indiana University Press, 1966, Walker Gibson in English at New York University shows that tough-talking masculinity has been cultural conditioned in American culture by Ernest Hemingway’s prose styles in his novels, which became the prose style of Time Magazine and of other forms of American journalism for decades.

Now, the Kindle edition of my minibook titled Walter J. Ong: On How and Why Things Are the Way They Are, which is now available at Amazon.com, includes a lot of short sentences. In this way I pay homage to Ernest Hemingway and tough-talking masculinity. In light of my own deliberate prose style in this minibook, I am not going to undertake a critique here of tough-talk as a prose style — not even for American politicians such as Gov. Christie.

Incidentally, I usually tend to use what Walker Gibson styles stuffy talk — and so does Charles Blow and so does President Obama and so does the New York Times.

In Walker Gibson’s view, sweet-talk characterizes advertising. But American politicians also have to sweet-talk voters into voting for them — or at least try to sweet-talk voters into voting for them. In other words, a political campaign is an advertisement designed to get voters to vote for the candidate. So the candidate wants to sweet-talk the voters into voting for him or her. The candidate is supposed to have some ideas to sell the voters on supporting, but the candidate shouldn’t overdo the stuffy-talk about those ideas. So a candidate who is a tough-talker might sound refreshing to voters, provided that he or she also has appealing ideas to sell them on.

In any event, tough-talkers could purge their tough-talk of sexist expressions and racist epithets — and still manage to sound like tough guys, if that’s what they want to do. In addition, it’s not a good idea to threaten to throw somebody off the balcony — or make similar threats.

In conclusion, I want to return to Brit Hume’s words that Charles Blow quoted: “if you act like an old-fashioned guy’s guy, you’re in constant danger of slipping out and saying something that’s going to get you in trouble and make you look like a sexist or make you look like you seem thuggish or whatever.”

Exactly!

Now, old-fashioned Republican men can take two diametrically opposed attitudes toward what Brit Hume says is a “constant danger” they face:

  1. they can launch themselves on a nostalgic longing for the good old days when old-fashioned guys could get away with being sexist and/or thuggish, or
  2. they can clean up their act and stop being sexist and/or thuggish.

The example of Rep. Grimm shows that Brit Hume’s words about the “constant danger of slipping out and saying something that’s going to get you in trouble and make you look like a sexist or make you look like you seem thuggish or whatever” are true.

However, it may be challenging for Republican guys to undertake cleaning up their act. After all, they have often berated Democratic guys for not being manly, or at least for not being as manly as the Republican guys imagine themselves to be.

But I do not want to imply that all Democratic guys have cleaned up their act and have stopped being sexist and/or thuggish.

So perhaps I should say that all Democratic guys and all Republican guys need to undertake to clean up their acts and stop being sexist and/or thuggish. TC mark

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