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.

9 thoughts on “Boy Trouble

  1. It’s sick, pathetic and scary at the same time.

    These are some sexually confused cowboys over in Wingnuttia

    Reality means nothing, imagery is everything.

    The adulation of zeros over genuine heroes.

    Take a look at how many GOP leaders served in the military – especially in a combat zone. Very few. McCain would be pretty lonely at a GOP veterans caucus.

    Then look at the Democrats. The list of genuine war heroes in the Democratic Party is fairly long. And yet it’s the GOP that is perceived at the pro-military party, the “Daddy” party.

    A better name for the GOP would be the “He-man Woman Hater’s Club.” At least it would be partially correct.

  2. If Freud hadn’t existed, we would have had to invent him, just for the Modern Republican Party.

    Projection, denial, displacement and reaction formation, anyone?

    At this point, we have the 25% or so who have proven themselves dangerously immature, we just need to figure out what to do with them, as Maha points out.

    Unfortunately, even with extensive therapy, these people don’t change. I say we build a big “Ronny Raygun” amusement park and let them live there.

    Could they tell the difference?

  3. Let’s see. Who else fetishized masculinity? Who else dripped with contempt for the more feminine virtues of compromise, tolerance and mercy? Who else mocked the indecisiveness and weakness (flip-flop) of parliamentary democracy, scraps of paper like treaties and constitutions, international law, and notions of human rights against the state? Who else charged off on unprovoked wars of aggression because of some delusional belief in their country’s superior right/calling to dominate the world? I can’t think of another example. This must be new. Let’s at least hope, when this-all has run its course, that no permanent damage to US power, prestige and wealth has been done, and that we and others learn from our mistakes and not repeat them.

  4. What is it? I’ve no doubt that many women (see Maureen’s on her sister) voted for GWB because they found him attractive (I’ve know women who married one after another who looked like GWB), but, more importantly, so did many men vote for him because of his looks. What is it with this southern republican men and John Wayne, Ronnie, …. televangelical looks?

  5. Whenever I hear the pundits casting Republicans as “Daddies” I immediately think of Sylvia Plath’s poem Daddy. That poem seems to describe them quite nicely.

  6. That also seems to explain why they want Hillary for the Dems. They believe that “Mommy” couldn’t possibly get elected.

  7. Some time back I read that Cheney’s over-the-top hawkishness is because many Repubs he admires basically called him chicken for aborting Desert Storm when he was Sec of Defense under Bush I.

    The image has nagged at him for years – besides which he thinks it will make him look bad in the history books. Could it be said that Mr. Cheney has a masculinity problem to the point where he’ll launch a whole bloody war to prove he’s not chicken?

  8. I just found this great quote by Simone Weil, written in September 1939: “. . . we need first of all to have a clear conscience. Let us not think that because we are less brutal, less violent, less inuman than our opponents we will carry the day. Brutality, violence, and inhumanity have an immense prestige that schoolbooks hide from children, that grown men do not admit, but that everyone bows before. For the opposite virtues to have as much prestige, they must be actively and constantly put into practice. Anyone who is merely incapable of being as brutal, as violent, and as inuman as someone else, but who does not practice the opposite virtues, in inferior to that person in both inner strength and prestie, and he will not hold out in such a confrontation.”

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