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.