Keeping Women Down

Leave it to Republican House members Eric Cantor, Kevin McCarthy, and Paul Ryan, who call themselves the Young Guns, to try to adapt "Man Up" for the other half of the population. Their effort, which is called the Woman Up campaign, manages to embody pretty much every aspect of machismo.

The logo is the first disaster, with an erect arrow shooting up from the right line of the letter U in “Up”—thus making the symbol for man.

Then there is the fact that the Young Guns, whose stated goal is to “grow the Republican majority in the House,” are still supporting a male cast. According to Rachel Maddow, of the ninety-four candidates the Young Guns are backing for Congress, only fourteen are female.

And there’s the little issue of the Republican War on Women, which, in part, has led to a double-digit gender gap (so far) between Obama and Romney. It seems the Young Guns, and the Republicans in general, are counting on a collective amnesia about all this come November.

But the Young Guns also seem to be promoting something else through their variant on “Man Up”—the ongoing trend (think Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, all the rightwing blondes on Fox News) of trying to make bellicosity and aggression the defining elements of an empowered, Republican version of femininity. In this world, being a “feminist” (a label Palin laughably sought to claim) means packing a gun, being verbally abusive toward anyone you disagree with, intolerant of anyone who is LGBT, anti-choice, contemptuous of the poor, hostile to any government program that doesn’t benefit corporate elites, and, in a nice twist, totally opposed to women’s rights: in other words, Newt Gingrich in a skirt (but preferably hotted up).

The Woman Up campaign is trying to tell us that what is truly empowering for women is to talk and act just like conservative men. Under the rhetorical veneer of female strength and assertiveness, it is really about making patriarchy pleasurable for women.

This is but a short excerpt of Susan Douglas's article. To read the article in its entirety, as well as the whole September issue, please subscribe to The Progressive today for only $14.97--that's 75% off the newsstand price—for a year's worth of this great monthly magazine.