March 7, 2004

Candidate Machismo Watch. This is the first entry in a projected series that will concentrate on the ways the Presidential candidates attempt to gain advantage by portraying themselves as more masculine than the other guy. There are two way to do this: by calling attention to one's own masculinity and by calling attention to one's opponent's lack of masculinity. The background assumption, which is offensive, is that the more masculine person should be elected.

In a "Week in Review" piece in today's NYT, John Tierney collects a list of "bests" and "worsts" from the campaign. After awarding John Kerry the "Best Photo Op" honor for his appearance in Iowa with a veteran whose life he saved in Vietnam, Tierney adds:
But there was one even more valuable photo opportunity generously provided by the White House advance team. To rouse an audience, a Democratic candidate had merely to mention the scene of Mr. Bush "playing dress-up" while "prancing" on that aircraft carrier with the "Mission Accomplished" banner.

Well, first, who used those precise quotes, "playing dress-up" and "prancing"? I assume all the Democratic candidates made what they could out of the aircraft carrier event, but who used those quotes, which go beyond criticizing Bush for attempting to display his masculinity and actually try to make him seem as though he were acting effeminate?

Say what you will about Bush, the guy doesn't "prance." It would make more sense to ridicule his excessively masculine way of walking!

Some research will show that "prancing" was Wesley Clark's word, and "playing dress-up" was a Kerry locution. No candidate used both, I'm going to conclude from the fact that a Nexis search only turned up one article other than Tierney's that had both phrases (and "mission accomplished"). The other article, "It's hip to skip the formalities; Presidential candidates, some anxious to shed upper-crust images, use pop-culture phrases to show they're just regular folks. Ain't it cool?", by Renee Tawa, appeared in in the LA Times, on Feb. 7 (it's not linkable). Here's the key part:
Both Kerry and Clark mention Bush's flight deck appearance as a way to underscore their own military service, noted [University of Maryland communications prof Shawn J.] Parry-Giles. "It's creating this kind of hypermasculine kind of discourse," she said. "Clark talks about Bush's 'prancing' on the deck of the aircraft carrier, and Kerry talks about Bush playing dress up," she said. "Clark and Kerry are trying to de-masculinize Bush and his war preparedness."

Okay! Professor Parry-Giles, I completely agree with you!

By the way, Andrew Sullivan himself used "prance" (in the London Times, February 22, 2004--not linkable):
One of the worst decisions that Bush ever made was to prance around on an aircraft carrier in a jump suit gloating that the war in Iraq was "mission accomplished" when it was anything but.

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