How Our Politics Are Defined by Masculinity

Donald Trump

Gage Skidmore/Flickr

Using the Kavanaugh hearings as a backdrop, Jess Zimmerman shares some important insights into how patriarchy affects the current discussion about civility in an article titled, “Why Can’t Democrats Get Angry.”

The left—even the moderate left—is feminized in this country to a degree that I have come to believe actually restricts its avenues for acceptable self-expression.

Our weird cultural commitment to the gender binary goes way beyond actual living men and women—if it didn’t, people wouldn’t freak out so badly when someone declines to choose. Masculinity and femininity are concepts we layer on top of everything from people to pens to political parties. Sometimes there’s a middle ground, but often we seem lost without our familiar patterns…Take any opposed things—Democrats and Republicans, cats and dogs, even the sun and the moon—and you’ll find one of them associated with physical strength, action, and domineering behavior, and the other associated with emotion, reticence, and calm. That’s not just descriptive; it’s prescriptive, and proscriptive too. If we could judge the moon for yelling, we would…

This isn’t just about who’s allowed to scream without consequence; it’s also about who’s expected to be reasonable and who gets to be stubborn, who keeps the peace and who advocates force, who makes compromises and who makes demands, who can and can’t successfully run a human tantrum for president. It’s also about ideology. Democrats’ concerns are those that are cast as feminine: justice, feelings, women’s bodily autonomy, children, the ability to keep a family provided for and alive. Republicans’ concerns are those considered masculine: money, business, repelling those seen as intruders, the wielding of physical and economic brutality. It’s not an accident that people who are deeply invested in the sanctity of masculinity—the right of men…

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