There is a heavy focus by the mainstream news media on the large(r) number of women candidates running in this year’s midterm elections. Many of the women running are Republican, conservatives and/or Tea Party fools nominees. One of the main newsmakers and agitators is Sharon Angle, the Republican nominee for Senate who recently told her opponent, Democratic Sen. Harry Reid, to “man up.” At first, it made me laugh because I associate that as a hip-hop term. But besides that, it’s the latest in this “Mama Grizzly” movement to promote themselves as tough, no-nonsense badass women fit to rule.
Instead it comes off as pathetic…to me, at least. But some voters are buying it, as Angle is slightly ahead of Reid in the polls. It’s a clear ploy to attack the “manhood” of their competitors by playing on ideas of gender. It actually makes no sense because on one hand they are equating being tough with masculinity, even though their “Mama Grizzly” message is about women being tough in the same way. Sarah Palin used the same rhetoric telling Karl Rove to “buck up” after he made disparaging comments about Christine O’Donnell. Sounds like typical Palinesque (non)logic.
Now we all know that if a male candidate told a woman to “get in the kitchen,” there would be an uproar. Although the language and historical context would be incredibly different, it is based on the same premise: gender roles and stereotyping. Men are supposed to be tough and somehow speaking out against these (crazy) women and their political ideologies is soft, i.e. feminine. The underlying idea is that we want to be like men to get ahead, and that by attacking a male candidates’ “masculinity,” he will appear less competent for the job to both men and women voters.
However, it uses a warped view of feminism and femininity as a ploy to reach female voters and in a twist, to appear competent and attractive to male voters. This has been the crux of Sarah Palin’s time in the limelight (i.e. hockey moms, pitbull in lipstick) and is apparently contagious. The conservative media is eating it up like in a recent Weekly Standard column by William Kristol where he states: “Luckily, there will be a lot of conservative women around to make sure Republicans act like real men.” Good Lord alive.
I’m interested to see if and how this will affect voters and I anticipate as the election gets even closer the lowbrow attacks using gender roles will exacerbate. President Obama has been campaigning specifically to women and that new polls are showing the women voters slightly prefer the GOP to the Democrats. But ladies, this is not empowering. Making gendered slights at men sets feminism, an idea of being equal to men, back. I know Palin, Angle and their cohorts are interesting in advancing feminism. They want to win even at the expense of themselves.