I'm a bit surprised by the reaction I've seen to NC Governor Mike Easley's comments saying that Hillary Clinton would make Rocky Balboa look like a pansy.
A few people are debating the meaning of the word "pansy" in that context, whether it means "faggot" or "wimpy." While someone of my generation associates the word with something along the lines of "weak and feminine," I understand how many people of Easley's generation understand it to be an anti-gay slur.
Not that there's really all that much difference. It's almost as if we can say, with a straight face: Don't use the word "faggot" or any synonym, and you're alright by us. Go ahead, demean women, femininity, flamingness, conventional weakness, and whatever the opposite of Rocky Balboa is, just don't use a bad word!
This is where it gets problematic for me, the connection between what Easley said and Hillary's new image as gun-totin' hawk. She was already casting herself as Rocky Balboa in Pennsylvania....
Remember how everyone pretty much agreed that Hillary's health care plan was better than Obama's? And how she's been working on the issue for ages compared to him? And how many people care deeply about that issue? Wouldn't it, in a sane universe, make sense to run on that, instead of her saber-rattling of Iran, her childhood as Annie Oakley, and her ability to answer the phone at odd hours?
It's almost as if she's taken Chris Matthews's worship of those masculine Republicans to heart, as if she wants to be the object of the press corps' flyboy worship like that oh-so butch John McCain is, as if she thinks that Maureen Dowd has anything valid to say about politics when she's begging Democrats, for the love of God, not to be the "mommy party."
Please. Some us actually like the idea of a politician focused on making our lives better instead of killing others.
That American media understand politics as a gendered narrative in which Republicans are men, Democrats are women, masculinity favors war, femininity favors social spending, and where following your gender is expected but being masculine is better. But I'm fairly certain that's just a small class of Americans, a particularly Beltway understanding of the way "real Americans" (read: not them) know politics.
So that it's come to this, throwing around the P-word to try to get Tarheels to vote for Hillary, it's nothing more than misogynist and vapid political rhetoric as usual. And, yes, that has always been homophobic in a more abstract sense. But it was always a stone's throw away from just saying "fags suck."
(What gets my goat, though, is how many people can only talk about this in the context of the primary contest. A few months ago Jerame told me that we can't talk about anything relating to this contest separate from people wanting to get their preferred candidate through. Even if it isn't conscious, people want to see their candidate as the cooler one, so they bend and twist logic and their normal reactions to support him or her.
As loathe as I am to admit it, he's probably right. As I've seen a certain prominent Obama supporter get offended by the comment, suddenly forgetting his history and his hand in re-creating "masculine, hawkish fopo is better than social spending" to get GWB into office and get American troops into Iraq so that he can decry the use of the word pansy.)
Either way, Easley's comment didn't happen in a vacuum, and whether it's read as associating weakness with gays, women, or femininity, it's still wrong and we shouldn't accept it. Even if we're already swimming in it.
As for Easley, yeah, he should probably release a nicely worded apology about how he didn't really know that that word was associated with the gays, or, if he did, he could say that he spoke without thinking or something. I've been doing this gay blogging thing long enough to know that that's what we'll get in a best-case scenario.
And for reference, here are Easley's comments:
After touring a bio-manufacturing training center, Gov. Easley, First Lady of North Carolina Mary Easley and Clinton held a ceremony at NC State University. The Governor formally expressed his support saying that there was "nothing I love more than a strong powerful woman." Easley concluded his remarks saying Clinton -- "makes Rocky Balboa look like a pansy".