Article from The Spearhead
Masculinity Blamed for Lunatic’s Actions
by Chuck Ross on January 11, 2011
Jessica Valenti – with help from Amanda Marcotte – would have us think three things: Jared Loughner’s attack on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords stemmed from systemic misogyny which targets women; gender norming, “violent masculinity”, and “man up culture” is the cause of political unrest in the States; and conservative men are the cause of the rhetoric coming out of conservative women’s mouths.
At the end of it all, in J.V.’s view, Jared Loughner isn’t the only man to blame for the murder of six people, the near-assassination of a member of Congress, and the wounding of 13 others: masculinity – maleness, men – are the root of this evil.
It is no coincidence that J.V. wrote this article about violent masculinity precisely when a female politician was the victim. One would find it difficult to imagine that J.V. would adopt a similar slant if a male politician – a Democrat as well – was targeted. Precisely because J.V. sees a difference (I am assuming), she informs us of her article’s true intentions which causes us to overturn every rhetorical rock as we proceed.
“This is not the kind of history we want to be making,” writes Valenti, both at the beginning and the end of her article published by a foreign press and consumed by a readership unfamiliar with the feminist. Bookended is the story of a country consumed by “violent masculinity” which exists at the hand of conservative men who have forced conservative women to adopt the gendered behavior as a prerequisite to holding political office.
According to J.V., this demeanor serves as a buoy amid the turbulent political sea which grants political extremists like Loughner the confidence and audacity to carry out their deranged political agenda. At the extreme end – the one-in-a-billion – lunatics like Loughner magically “man up” and take matters into their own hands.
A seasoned Valenti watcher will notice two things about her article. Immediate to her opening and closing salvo, she mentions that Congresswoman Giffords is both the “first female politician in America to be the subject of an assassination attempt” and the youngest woman to be elected to Congress. Another victim mentioned at the end of J.V.’s piece, was nine-year-old Christina Taylor Green. The most salient fact that J.V. could find to eulogize the little girl’s life was “that she loved activities “from ballet to baseball””. She also loved politics at a very young age and was elected student council president at her school. Somehow her norm-defying hobbies were found fit to mention.
I feel bad using the little girl as a sort of prop to drive my point home. I wonder if J.V. felt that way too. My only defense is that I’m mentioning the girl to drive home a larger point about Jessica Valenti. While J.V. didn’t directly say it, she attempts to appeal to the stereotype of the depraved man preying on women precisely because they’re women. Giffords was young and women had never before been targeted for assassination in this country. Somehow that is supposed to lend significance to this assassination attempt and make it worse than any other. Through this, J.V. deftly ties “man up” culture to the attack of a female representative.
What Jessica Valenti won’t come straight out and say, feminist Amanda Marcotte, who served as an aide to John Edwards (a fine upstanding man), does: Jared Laughner targeted Gabrielle Giffords because she is a woman. According to Marcotte, because Giffords joked at Loughner’s expense during a 2007 townhall meeting, and because men can’t handle being upbraided by outspoken women, Loughner sought revenge on the woman who made him feel stupid. Marcotte reads a lot into the exchange, but her theory depends entirely on something that is unprovable: that Loughner wouldn’t have tried to assassinate a congressman if he made the same joke.
By appealing to emotion and chivalry, J.V. hopes that the attempted assassination takes on some quality that sets it apart from others – the ones in which almost all the victims have been men.
But political assassination is an undesirable yet inevitable consequence of politics. It is systemic. Politics are a consequence of the push-pull relationship between representative and constituents which are categories derived from a desire for social order. Thus political assassination, and attempts at it, are a function of society itself. Just as cancer is a function of being alive.
Political assassination is as old as politics itself – which is to say, it is as old as society. The Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, dynasties from China, the Middle East, Africa, and Tudor England had to deal with the problem. In America’s short history, political violence has befallen men who enter public office or the public realm. Nine presidents, one president-elect, three Presidential candidates, eight governors, seven senators, nine congressmen, eleven mayors, seventeen state legislators, eleven judges, and men like Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. have been either killed, maimed, or targeted because of their high public profile.
As women make their way into the public sphere, acts of violence aimed at political candidates who happen to be female are inevitable. While nobody, even a feminist, should cheer assassination attempts leveled at female politicians – none of this “Yay, we’ve arrived” celebration that occurs when women attain other political milestones – it takes an entitled person to believe that any demographic of politician should or would have a protective bubble as Valenti does by insinuating that this event is more significant than it already is merely because Giffords is a woman.
From that we can deduce a strain of entitlement that is often found in feminist rhetoric. That women can have the rose without the thorn. It may be harsh to say it in this manner, but women can’t enter the political realm without some of them falling victim to violent political attack. When those attacks do occur, they happen because the person is a politician – not because they are specifically female.
Now, what about those buoys? What psychological anchor did Loughner latch on to as a reference point to justify his horrific actions? J.V. begins:
“What’s not being discussed, however, is that a fair amount of this violent language and imagery is coming from female politicians on the right.”
She cites the various “man up” castigations uttered by Sharron Angle, Christine O’Donnell, Sarah Palin, and Jane Norton in the recent election campaign. Gendered language and other references to violent rhetoric – like crosshairs on political maps and allusions to the Second Amendment are supposed to outweigh Mein Kampf and The Communist Manifesto (plus Peter Pan) as the impetus towards political violence.
After tackling conservatism as a whole, J.V. deigns to take down the male cohort by citing a reference that “masculine and violent behavior is often used in elections and campaigns – especially by men on the right – because of a fear of being perceived as feminine.” She adds:
In a sexist society, what could be worse than being called a girl? So it doesn’t seem unlikely that conservative female politicians feel the need to peddle their ideas in gendered and violent language in order to fit in with the masculinised right.
J.V. would have us think that politicians who didn’t get elected (none of the four women she cited were elected to office in their most recent campaigns) have such a profound impact on society that male secret assassins in Congressional districts with female representatives are robotically activated – taking to the streets for political justice.
She would also have us believe that conservative female politicians are so incapable of developing their own style that they must adopt that of their masculine betters in order to attract votes. That they must morph into men in order to be elected. But at what point does women’s speech become feminine? Why must the negative rhetoric that comes out of women’s mouths be considered masculine and therefore bad? Why can’t it be feminine and bad as well?
Valenti has to pretend that men are using women as puppets to do the bidding on the part of evil men. Because she draws the connection between the words coming out of the woman’s mouth and the string dangling from the Man’s hand, those women are actually absolved of all of their gender norming sins. That horrible gender norming, the one responsible for the near death of a Congresswoman and the death of a little girl, is laid directly at conservative men’s feet.
J.V. ignores the s0-called violent masculinity emanating from the left during this election cycle. One could only suppose that she ignored female Democrat Robin Carnahan’s suggestion that Roy Blount man up over health care or Democratic Senate hopeful Kendrick Meek’s advice that Charlie Crist act like a man or the Democrat’s use of targets on maps with Republican districts or the gender-shaming liberal magazine articles because such masculine language was tempered by the larger female base of that particular party. Double-standards abound. Whatever is deemed to be “safe” or “feminine” is given a free pass and cannot be considered violent rhetoric.
Jared Loughner is vermin. His actions are deplorable, and I feel sorrow for all of his victims. To a much smaller degree, I feel contempt for Jessica Valenti and Amanda Marcott for theorizing an angle to this story that is only rooted in their biased gender activism. Because their claims are impossible to test, the feminists are able to float wild ideas that only serve to further demonize maleness and masculinity. Just as Valenti posits a buoy of conservative rhetoric that serves as a launch pad for extreme right terrorism, she also posits that masculinity serves the same function for “violent masculinity”. In both cases, if she successfully ties the extreme to the normal, she can sink everything. And that is not the kind of history we want to be making.