Saturday, October 07, 2006


"Girly-Man" And Other Republican Bon Mots

Love the racism and's so, so, so all-American...

Why is "Girly-Man" acceptable, and "Macaca" not?

by Bill Wetzel

"She maybe is Puerto Rican or the same thing as Cuban. I mean they are
all very hot. They have, you know, part of the black blood in them and
part of the Latino blood in them that, together, makes it." - Arnold

With those comments, Arnold has joined a growing list of Republican
lawmakers who have recently made racially insensitive, if not downright
racist comments. However, unlike George "Macaca" Allen and Conrad
"Little Guatemalan Man" Burns, Schwarzenegger's comments have another
disparaging tinge to them. One that is made even worse when you look at
his own personal history.

You see, anybody can make a stupid comment. In fact, anybody can do a
stupid thing or two. We all have. And, in today's media frenzied
climate, a public figure is in constant danger of stepping on his tongue
for almost any comment on any subject, however innocuous their
intentions may be. It happens.

Although, the problem with Arnold is that he has one consistent running
theme in his background. He has problems in dealing with women. His past
is littered with unwelcome advances and misogynistic quotes. He has
famously devalued women as a way of attacking men, because in his world
associating femininity with masculinity (girly-men) is a horrible

Unfortunately, hardly anybody ever notices or cares about these issues.

Witness the reaction to his comments, which were made about a Republican
female legislator, Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia, who has condoned them.
They almost exclusively were related to the RACIAL aspects of his
comments and not the sexual objectification of women.

This makes me wonder if the problem is not so much Arnold Schwarzenegger
as it is the position of women in society as whole. Because guys like
Arnold would not have gotten a free pass for so long if we were not a
society of like-minded enthusiasts and woeful enablers.

For one thing, men are practically raised as chauvinists. It is not only
okay, it is ideal for us to sexual objectify women. From before we are
even at a sexual age, we are bombarded with advertisements, pornography
and entertainment, all with sexual overtones. Of course, sex is not only
thrown at us, it is also somewhat taboo. Sex is portrayed as both
pleasurable and dirty, so, by proxy, women are shed in this light as
well. It dehumanizes women, and downplays their emotions. Women become
little more than sperm receptacles, although at some point in time they
are needed to cook, clean and bear children.

They live their lives as servants, in some way, shape or form, for men.

Our language is also filled with female denigration. In music, on
television, in film and in our daily lives. Observe how terms associated
with women are utilized to disparage men. Remember the "Girly-men"
comment referenced earlier? Well, that type of negative confluence is
commonplace in our vernacular. How many times have you heard a man/boy
denigrate another by calling them a "pussy" or a "bitch?" How often is
all of this considered a joke? Dismissed as one?

Too often.

As a Blackfeet Indian, I habitually study literature, history, film and
pop culture from a certain perspective. Most accounts of American
Indians, and other minorities, are viewed through a Eurocentric prism,
meaning that the history and portrayals of people of skin color are
recorded through the eyes of Europeans and European descendents. Women
face a similar situation, in that their history and societal roles are
perpetuated by a white male power structure. Furthermore, women are
raised and educated within this hostile power structure. They have to
see the gendering of discourse in all aspects of their lives.

Women live in a world where femininity is weak. Masculinity is strong.
Where being sexist is laughed off as a joke. Where Senators can make
stupid comments on race and get excoriated, but a known misogynist can
make a sexist comment which is virtually invisible to the world.

Is the race aspect of what Schwarzenegger said important? Yes, it is.
Partly because he is dumb enough to look at race from that point of
view, the notion of racial characteristics, explicitly inherent in the
"blood" of someone of skin color. But, it's more important to understand
the sexuality of minority women. There is a white male fetish for the
"dirtiness" of a minority woman. They are dehumanized. Willing and
unrapeable. Female promiscuity and skin color are conflated in the eyes
of men. Hood rats. Ghetto booty. Border Banger. It all means minority
women are lascivious, sexual creatures.

Amerigo Vespucci used to write about the New World, in order to
encourage adventurous men to come and colonize this far off and foreign
place. He portrayed indigenous women as uncontrollably lustful. Naked
and animal-like. These women would defile and prostitute themselves at
the opportunity to copulate with Christians. He specifically noted that
while they were immodest and libidinous, they were still clean and
beautiful. This is a typical male fantasy. The sexy, dirty, yet somehow
clean and beautiful brown woman.

Do not think men are all that much different nowadays.

We aren't.

Unless we recognize this and quit ignoring the problem five hundred
years from now we will still be in the same place.

Bill Wetzel is a Blackfeet Indian and a coauthor of the short story
collection The Acorn Gathering: Writer's Uniting Against Cancer. He has
written for the Arizona Daily Wildcat and Red Ink Magazine. His latest
essay about Blackfeet Indian author James Welch will be in the Studies
In American Indian Literature series.

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