Adam's blogbox: sissyphobia and the unacknowledged gayness of the GOP
Consider for a moment President Bush’s arrival on the good ship USS Abraham Lincoln in 2003 to proclaim the end of major combat operations in Iraq. He arrived on deck dressed in a flight suit, strapped in some kind of gonad-enhancing codpiece ensemble.
Now I don’t know about you, but to my mind that was an amazingly gay thing to do. He was dressed like a guy from the gay band The Village People, for chrissake. And here’s the rub: it wasn’t a woman who decided he should be dressed like that, but a man: Karl Rove.
In other words, Karl Rove did a gay thing with Bush, and Bush acted out that gay thing.
Hey, boys will be boys. And when boys are hung up about their masculinity, they will act oh-so-butch.
I could go on. The men of the Republican Party, the conservative movement and the Religious Right have a hang-up about their masculinity that is so extreme, it plays gay.
Republicans habitually call the Dems “soft” on stuff: national security, crime, etc. Arnold Schwarzenegger mocks “girly” men. Ann Coulter calls John Edwards a “faggot.” Republicans warn that Nancy Pelosi will impose her “San Francisco values” on us all. The Religious Right rails against gay marriage, gay men, gay anything.
These hyper-masculinists: don’t they realize how gay-bitchy they’re being? What is going on here? Why do Republicans and Conservatives feel the need to pass themselves off as real men all the time? Why aren’t they comfortable with their masculinity? Doth these men not protest too much?
The fear of being thought not masculine enough
The explanation is that something happened to these men that marked them with a lifelong fear of being thought not masculine enough. In our culture, this fear is as endemic as a bug up Ann Coulter’s ass. For instance, there’s the peer pressure among adolescent boys to prove themselves more macho than the next guy. That’s how you fit in, by being macho. The heat of being young men together, and the fear of loving each other, leads to a macho pathology. Young black men suffer from this fear to the point that they encourage violence in each other, and end up in jail disproportionately for violent crimes.
It’s an American dysfunction: The Male Disease That Has No Name. What might we call it? I propose this label: sissyphobia. And I think it’s very telling that Republicans suffer from sissyphobia way more than Democrats do. Sissyphobia fits Republicans as snugly as a condom over a bowling ball.
Sissyphobia, I believe, goes deeper than being afraid of not being thought masculine enough. It’s the fear that deep down, you may actually BE a homosexual. In other words, you’re a man who refuses to come out to himself about his feminine qualities. Sissyphobia happens because many unfortunate men are scared that their feminine qualities – which all men have – actually make them gay. This may seem more idiotic than a penis on a priest, but most American men suffer from this dysfunction to some degree. If you’re a Republican or a conservative or a radical evangelical, your dysfunction morphs into a disease. If you really-really believe that your feminine qualities make you gay, the way these poor bastards do, you’re imprisoned like an enemy combatant at Gitmo in the classic sissyphobic trap.
That’s why a sissyphobe has to harp on his “masculine” qualities: self-reliance, aggression, greed, selfishness, love of conquest, importance of work and worldly achievement, and so on. Conversely, the sissyphobe has to try and suppress his “feminine” qualities: the urge to nurture, nesting, dressing up, thoughtfulness, gentleness, having a conscience, etc. (Note that while some of these qualities are genetic, many others are cultural, and have little to do with what you “really” are.)
At odds with their inner woman
Sissyphobes are at odds with their inner woman. Call it a species of gender confusion. Republicans and Conservatives are confused about their gender, because they confuse feminine qualities in a man with being a homosexual. Not being happy with their feminine qualities, they try to compensate for this by wearing big belt buckles a la George Bush, or shooting defenseless birds a la Dick Cheney. They do the butch thing. The ridiculously somber mien that Cheney affects is but an extreme form of him trying to play it straight.
But I’ve got to admit, to me it all feels very gay -- a male version of gay guys doing Judy Garland or Barbra Streisand imitations. These guys are imitating real men, and look like parodies of it.
Come on, George Bush, you can’t be serious, strutting across the White House lawn in cowboy boots and a big belt buckle like you’re dressing up for a night out at Le Gay Club. And Dick Cheney, what’s with that weird sneer you call a smile? Are you really scared that if you smiled like a normal person, we’d think you’re gay? These guys are doing John Wayne, because they’re scared they’re Ru Paul.
It’s all rather hilarious, but also deadly serious. After all, one way in which sissyphobes show they’re real men is by declaring war on small nations for no good reason. The sissyphobe acts bully-butch to prove he’s not a sissy -- and that’s where the harm to everyone else comes in.
The definition of being an American man
Why do so many Republicans and conservatives have this fear? The bigger question is: why do so many Americans have it?
It’s because the very definition of the American man is so messed up. At heart, being a man in our culture is being the aggressor. The hard man. The tough guy. The warrior. He who goes to extremes. He who will kill for his cause. We see his definition in our movies – the man with the gun: Dirty Harry, Rambo, The Terminator. It gets worse: our fantasy life is often an expression of our real selves. Killing is what America’s men have done from the start – wipe out Native Americans, invade the Philippines, and after the good WW2, start more than twenty wars against weaker nations, of which Vietnam and the Iraq War have been the most egregious examples. Over two million Vietnamese and Cambodians dead. Dead Arabs by the hundreds of thousands. Jesus H. Christ, are we a crazy bunch of sissyphobes gone bully-butch or not?
Where is the other role model for men – the nurturing man, the gentle man, the soft man? As rare as a vacuum in nature.
Sissyphobia is a sickness inside the American soul, which we may be doomed to suffer as long as we remain typical Americans. Some pundit said when it comes to foreign policy, America is from Mars and Europe is from Venus. It may be more instructive to say that Europeans aren’t as sissyphobic as us. Mind you, it took the mega-sissyphobia of Hitler and his lot to remind Europe how to act civilized.
In America, we’re still dangerously vulnerable to sissyphobia. When we get a Republican president and a Republican Congress and a neocon administration, like we had for six years, we have a perfect storm of sissyphobes. And boy, do we suffer the consequences: the world used to love us, and now they hate us. Ironically, our bully-butch ways have lost us power instead of gaining it, as the sissyphobes hoped. We used to have some stature in Latin America – now they think we’re a joke.
Sissyphobia and the GOP
Why are Republicans such bully-butch sissyphobes? It actually works the other way around. The more sissyphobic you are, the more likely you’ll become a Republican, a Conservative or a Radical Evangelical (or even a CEO). The less of a sissyphobe you are, the more likely you’ll become a Democrat.
Republican men have a mortal fear of their inner woman, and Democratic men less so -- a dichotomy hinted at when we call the GOP the Daddy Party, and the Dems the Mommy Party.
Someone should tell these GOP butch bozos that it’s OK to have feminine qualities. That they’re silly to be scared of their inner woman. That we won’t think they’re gay if they come off as, say, nurturing. That they should celebrate their feminine qualities instead of fearing them. That it’s stupid to play to their base by trying to feminize their opponents – they’ll just end up with a shrinking base. After all, at least half the voters are happily feminine.
How likely is it that the GOP will become less Daddy and more Mommy? Less war-mongering bully-butch and more nurturing?
It might happen the day Palestinians ask rabbis to snip the foreskins off their newborns. Still, until our local bozos get a clue, the rest of us will be forced to drink the Kool-Aid of a sissyphobic GOP and conservative movement and Evangelical Right, who will continue to act bully-butch and get the rest of us bitch-slapped, gob-smacked and butt-bonked by the consequences.
There is hope though. Many of today’s young men are way less sissyphobic than their dads. The more we mature as a nation, the less sissyphobic we will become.
Perhaps this means that the GOP will eventually die a natural death, aphyxiated by manliness -- or find a cure for their sissyphobia and enter the civilized world. For their own survival, and for the general good of our nation, let’s hope they end up making nice with their inner woman.