Boy Trouble

Baby Boy HelpDigby’s Frederick of Hollywood and the Tiny Silicone Penis is a look at the "strange phenomenon of anxious Republican masculinity and the way it’s informing our politics".

It’s based on The Wimp Factor by clinical psychologist Dr Stephen J Ducat, and cites as an example, an article in The New Republic, The Masculine Mystique of Fred Thompson.


Here’s a review on Amazon for The Wimp Factor:

This book is an amazing tour de force of the political and psychological landscape in America today. From George W. Bush’s "Mission Accomplished" while adorned in a flight suit to John Kerry tramping through the Michigan woods in a camoflage jacket toting a shotgun, the "politics of anxious masculinity," as Stephen Ducat calls the phenomenon, couldn’t be more pervasive. Ducat’s scholarship shines throughout this erudite, entertaining look at what passes for masculinity in our media-driven culture, surpassed only by his wit and sense of humor. …Ducat’s prescient analysis of who men mistakenly think they are…

Digby excerpts a choice passage from The Wimp Factor:

By far the most compelling confirmation of the phallic meaning of the president’s aircraft-carrier cakewalk was found on the hot-selling George W. Bush Top Gun action figure manufactured by Talking Presidents. I originally ordered one to use as part of the cover design for this book. The studly twelve-inch flyboy not only comes with a helmet and visor, goggles and oxygen mask, but underneath his flight suit is a full "basket" — a genuine fake penis, apparently constructed with lifelike silicone.

And from The New Republic’s The Masculine Mystique of Fred Thompson:

….Thompson stands as the Daddy Party’s dream Daddy–although a Daddy of a very particular type. Forget the nurturing, "compassionate conservative" model of Bush’s 2000 candidacy, which has been roundly discredited on the right. Forget, too, the blustery, "Bring it on!" swagger that W. adopted after September 11, a little-guy machismo one also sees in Rudy Giuliani and John McCain. Thompson’s manliness is laconic rather than feisty, a style more John Wayne than Jimmy Cagney. "He’s a big man," says Duncan. "He has a way of filling or dominating a room." And, as all of us recall from our schoolyard days, big guys like Thompson don’t need to run around picking fights, talking smack, and constantly reminding us of how tough they are because, well, look at them.

Certainly, the Thompson talk in both cyberspace and the traditional media is a study in hero worship, with grown conservatives swooning like cheerleaders smitten over the manliness of the varsity quarterback. There is much rejoicing about the senator’s growling voice, his studly cigar habit, and his physical size. My favorite bit of macho Fred-worship making its way around the Internet is a widely circulated joke about the title of the recent film 300, in which a small troop of Spartans holds the line against the massive Persian army: "If Fred Thompson had been at Thermopylae, the movie would have been called 1." (Reading posts like this, it’s unsurprising that, according to USA Today, 64 percent of Thompson’s supporters are male, the highest percentage for any presidential hopeful.)

Digby closes with:

I’ve been calling them "The Baby Party" for a long time. They are now literally reverting to infancy.

These Republicans need to see some professionals about this problem. Tiny silicone penises on action dolls and fantasies of a big gruff manly man with a "strong pair of hands to hold us" are cries for help and this country needs to hold a massive intervention. November 2008 sound good to you?

The good news is that there are people like Ducat (and Digby) who can connect the dots on this phenomenon, which is as big as the elephant in the dining room – everyone senses it, but few talk about it to any depth. How do you get through to people who want these kind of "leaders", or if that’s not possible, how do you marginalize them?

On a more serious level, this particular Republican anxiety, with its weird, manufactured "solutions", is really a cry for authentic masculine leadership, which truly is, and has been, in crisis for quite awhile in this country. I wrote in an earlier post how feminine consciousness has been in ascendance worldwide, for a century or longer. The anxieties of "The Baby Party", with its desperate grasping at dolls with silicon penises and its swooning embrace of Hollywood Fred, represent the flip side of this same phenomenon.