As a brother to three sisters I have — just a little — awareness of what women think of and go through dealing with creatures of my gender. A lot of that came flooding back when for some reason I decided to wade through an Atlantic cover story from last fall titled, “What, Me Marry?’, written by Katie Bolick, a bona fide smart and good-looking gal who also posed for the cover shot.
The story was a sprawler, covering easily 10,000 words and with more than a few “Sex and the City”-like sidebar discussions between Bolick and her gal pals on the topic of why modern American men were such immature knuckleheads, louts, whiners and so generally beneath them. But since it was an Atlantic piece, (Bolick is on staff there), its roots were down deeper than Cosmo or, well, pick any of another dozen supermarket favorites.
What Bolick was resting her arguments on were a series of surveys on the widening education, economic and sophistication gap between younger American women and their male counterparts. Beyond that comes the questions of what this means to culture in general as more and more women find themselves not just free of economic dependence on men, but well … bored … with the way so many men think and behave. Where once they had little choice but to put up with sophomoric, over-aggressive male swagger, fewer and fewer have to anymore. Moreover, better-educated, more disciplined women find themselves in a position to leverage their brain power when engaged in sexual politics with men, who largely remain trapped in the amber of some frankly silly lone cowboy, frat boy and/or bull moose Master of the Universe wannabe shtick.
Bolick’s story, her essential point, has become relevant anew in the wake of Rush Limbaugh’s not-all-that-out-of-the-ordinary slandering of private citizen and college student, Sandra Fluke. (While I still think there’s some sweet, easy money to be made suing El Rushbo, the appearance of Gloria Allred in the story pretty well made that idea toxic.) Democrats and a long list of women’s group have leapt on the insult to Fluke and the Republicans’ inability to muster full-throated indignation to demonize the GOP brand (again) and fund-raise for liberal causes, simultaneous with Limbaugh shedding virtually every credible sponsor he had.
In other words, Limbaugh’s treasured “free market”, the one 95% controlled by white male CEOs, (who fully appreciate the buying power of women), is already rendering harsh summary judgment against him without a messy court scene. (If the experience with Tom Barnard here in Minnesota after his 1998 slurring of local Hmong is any indication, some of these companies will trickle back once the heat is off, but only after negotiating significantly lower ad rates.)
The liberal response is of course opportunistic and exploitative, two characteristics of effective politics. But it also benefits from being culturally and intellectually valid. Some may choose not to recognize Limbaugh’s impact on the rhetoric and messaging of the modern Republican party. But those that don’t also fit quite perfectly into Katie Bolick’s portrait of un-evolved, fundamentally insecure men clinging to adolescent notions of male valor and unquestioned, unexamined superiority. Its primary leader/spokesman or not, Limbaugh’s anti-feminist, anti-educated “elite”, anti-environmental, anti-regulatory, anti-social program, anti-liberal, hell, anti-Enlightenment message is in perfect harmony with the GOP base, which is to say the entire Republican party of 2012.
What sort of educated, self-sufficient woman sees a point, much less merit, in any of that?
Beyond the statistics proving this widening education gulf between men and women, I won’t ascribe to women a higher, intuitive moral standard, (even though based on a lot of empirical evidence a strong case could be made). But women, in my experience put more time and effort into analyzing the motivations and behavior of men than men do of women. Women have to pay closer attention to us for reasons of simple survival. We’re bigger and have more tendencies to violence. And lets not get started on all the sexual cues women have to be alert to, all the titles, accessories, false flattery and implements men need to feel “potent”. Any woman who caught the long version of Limbaugh’s Sandra Fluke rant had to fear for her “perv” antennae melting down as he went on … and on … and on about “all the sex” Fluke must be having … to need birth control pills.
The guy screams … “I have a problem.”
For generations, women have tolerated numbskull male behavior because … they had no other viable choice. They were dependent on men for money and physical protection. Today more and more of them have other choices, even if, as Bolick laments, it may mean a life without marriage. And circa 2012, with more and more women feeling both economic freedom and frustration with the brutish, unsophisticated thinking of us “bros”, the GOP is (way) over-ripe for a pureeing, (to use a gender-sensitive cooking analogy.)
Pick a topic: Health care reform,with all its subsets, including Ms. Fluke’s entirely coherent call for full contraceptive coverage, Social Security, Medicaid, over-the-top aggressive military adventures, environmental protection and on and on … and women see issues with direct effect on them being controlled and controlled badly by men, specifically the Limbaugh-looking, waddling, quacking GOP. Where before they’d have to throw their support behind some male and hope, via filtering, their demands for better government service would be met, more and more now have the money, wit and experience to do the job themselves.
Prediction here: A woman will be elected president either in 2016 or 2020. If she wins in Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren will be on a fast track.
The makeup of Rush Limbaugh’s audience is a mirror image of the makeup of the Tea Party, the “base” that is controlling today’s GOP, no matter how much Mitt Romney’s SuperPAC spends. The latest numbers put his radio/internet audience at 72% male, 54% over age 45, 28% over age 55 and … 91% white. In other words, a bubble culture of a fast-receding era.
… that can’t recede fast enough.