Among the emasculations men most fear

Peter Beinart points out in the Atlantic that Hillary Clinton is hated in a way that other recent Democratic candidates haven’t been.

According to the Public Religion Research Institute, 52 percent of white men hold a “very unfavorable” view of Clinton. That’s a whopping 20 points higher than the percentage who viewed Barack Obama very unfavorably in 2012, 32 points higher than the percentage who viewed Obama very unfavorably in 2008, and 28 points higher than the percentage who viewed John Kerry very unfavorably in 2004.

Some of that, it seems to me, could be because people don’t want yet more Clinton. But the way it’s expressed…yeah that’s just good ol’ misogyny.

At the Republican National Convention, this fervent hostility was hard to miss. Inside the hall, delegates repeatedly broke into chants of “Lock her up.” Outside the hall, vendors sold campaign paraphernalia. As I walked around, I recorded the merchandise on display. Here’s a sampling:

Black pin reading don’t be a pussy. vote for trump in 2016. Black-and-red pin reading trump 2016: finally someone with balls. White T-shirt reading trump that bitch. White T‑shirt reading hillary sucks but not like monica. Red pin reading life’s a bitch: don’t vote for one. White pin depicting a boy urinating on the word Hillary. Black T-shirt depicting Trump as a biker and Clinton falling off the motorcycle’s back alongside the words if you can read this, the bitch fell off. Black T-shirt depicting Trump as a boxer having just knocked Clinton to the floor of the ring, where she lies faceup in a clingy tank top. White pin advertising kfc hillary special. 2 fat thighs. 2 small breasts … left wing.

I blogged about some of that at the time. I also didn’t blog about some of it, but rolled my eyes instead. But, yeah – it’s permanently disconcerting to see how instantly disagreement with a woman morphs into loathing and contempt for her femaleitude.

Standard commentary about Clinton’s candidacy—which focuses on her email server, the Benghazi attack, her oratorical deficiencies, her struggles with “authenticity”—doesn’t explain the intensity of this opposition. But the academic literature about how men respond to women who assume traditionally male roles does. And it is highly disturbing.

To understand this reaction, start with what social psychologists call “precarious manhood” theory. The theory posits that while womanhood is typically viewed as natural and permanent, manhood must be “earned and maintained.”

I’ve noticed that. It’s “man up,” never “woman up.” It’s “be a man” but not “be a woman.” I’ve interpreted that as being because man=good and woman=not so much, but that does make it precarious. If you’re female you’re already second-rate so there’s nothing to fall off from, but if you’re male you can let the side down by not being awesome enough.

Among the emasculations men most fear is subordination to women.

Why is this relevant to Hillary Clinton? It’s relevant because the Americans who dislike her most are those who most fear emasculation. According to the Public Religion Research Institute, Americans who “completely agree” that society is becoming “too soft and feminine” were more than four times as likely to have a “very unfavorable” view of Clinton as those who “completely disagree.” And the presidential-primary candidate whose supporters were most likely to believe that America is becoming feminized—more likely by double digits than supporters of Ted Cruz—was Donald Trump.

No surprise there.

Another troubling omen comes from Australia and Brazil, where, in recent years, pioneering female leaders have suffered a brutal backlash. To be sure, some women leaders—Margaret Thatcher, Angela Merkel, Indira Gandhi—have thrived despite sexist opposition. Still, research suggests that women leaders are less likely than their male counterparts to be accepted as legitimate, a problem that plagued both Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who was ousted in 2013 after only three years, and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who was impeached earlier this year for corruption even though her male predecessors and some of her key male tormentors had likely done worse.

When men do it it’s dashing, when women do it it’s ugh witch harpy demon ball-eater.

I wish Canada would adopt us.

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