Gender-Policing Ron Paul


My best friend from Harvard is gradually winning me over to support Ron Paul’s presidential candidacy over Obama’s. The feisty libertarian is holding his own in the GOP race despite derision from self-styled experts in both parties and some suspicious poll-doctoring by the major news networks. Anyone with so wide a range of ideological enemies is probably putting his finger on some uncomfortable truths about our country’s asset bubble, military over-spending, creeping police state, and substitution of “culture wars” for genuine solutions. The site Ron Paul Myths gives a good overview of his actual positions and how they’ve been misrepresented.

This morning my friend called my attention to this generally favorable Washington Post article, which nonetheless treats the Texas congressman as something of a sideshow act. As Hillary Clinton found, gender-policing is one of the tools that commentators use to undermine a candidate, making it seem ridiculous, even unnatural, for this person to inhabit the office of Big-Daddy-in-Chief. Because we’ve unconsciously imbibed these stereotypes for so long, we don’t even realize the commentary is biased.

From the headline, “Ron Paul’s slight stature and high-pitched passions set him apart at debates”, a suspicion of effeminacy is cast over everything that follows. (Not that I perceive anything wrong with effeminacy, but most readers would.) Though the piece fairly summarizes his positions, and notes that he has the most enthusiastic supporters of all the GOP candidates, we’re told that “experts” have written him off, in part because he doesn’t perform masculinity in the same way as Romney and Gingrich. The article mentions his “high-pitched voice”, “smaller” and “weaker” build, and “excitable hands”. Hello, Dolly!

The reporter, Sarah Kaufman, isn’t actually saying that she thinks these traits make him un-presidential–merely acknowledging that the hypothetical average voter could feel that way. Nonetheless, by pointing out Paul’s image problem without discussing sexism as a factor, the article subtly perpetuates these slurs.

Ron Paul, you just became the queer candidate.

4 comments on “Gender-Policing Ron Paul

  1. Andy Winternitz says:

    Obama ended don’t ask don’t tell.

  2. Hank Rodgers says:

    Jendi:

    Enjoyed, and much agree with, your comments about the Ron Paul candidacy (this seems to be your first, “Big-P political” comment here); and with the Post article too.

    As a rather ..ummm.. “compact” fellow myself, I also have strong sympathy and some experience with Paul’s problem. Reminds me of another hopeless candidate I once liked and supported; i.e. the “dwarf”, as his opponents called Ross Perot.

    Still, Ron Paul comes from the old, much outdated, “libertarian” position, so much behind our modern age. Most of us gave up Ayn Rand, after about Sophomore year; and then later too the author and Libertarian Presidential candidate, Harry Browne (“How I Found Freedom in An Unfree World”).I’ll stick with the Dems for now (sometimes holding my nose).

    The real problem for democracy and economic security today is not the “1%” vs the “99%” INDIVIDUALS, but rather the struggle between voting individuals and large, monolithic, private corporate ORGANIZATIONS; between which we are trapped with a growing government on the other side; i.e. Citizens United, etc. “Nature abhors a vacuum”, which the private orgs are ready, willing and trying to fill.

    My own, modest, personal political answer is something I have called “LIBERTARIAN SOCIALISM” which, in summary, advocates increased regulation and taxation of all organizations (for the public good, and based on size), while reducing regulation and taxation of individuals. I’ll send your e-mail something on this.

    Take care, and have the greatest of holidays.

  3. Jendi Reiter says:

    It’s true, Obama has done more for gay rights than any previous president. That’s why I’m still undecided. I don’t think Ron Paul is against gays, but his states’-rights fervor may blind him to the need for federal civil rights protections. On the other hand, how should we balance that against all the people who are being deprived of their civil rights by the war on drugs, Guantanamo, and the prison-industrial complex? I haven’t seen real progress on this in the past 4 yrs.

  4. Andy Winternitz says:

    Guantanamo is a tough one.

    I do think that we’re missing out on possible leaders when we look for tall fellas with baritone voices. Gravitas and gravel-y voices eventually need to be divorced from each other in the minds of the electorate. I support your critique of the absurd comments of a man’s voice and his height. Little men and women with high voices have wisdom that should be given due consideration.

    Guantanamo…darn.

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