Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Girlie Men

The Governor of the state of California, one Arnold Schwarzenegger, recently coined this term in a speech that claimed that Democrats were delaying his budget to cater for 'special interests':

``If they don't have the guts to come up here in front of you and say, 'I don't want to represent you, I want to represent those special interests, the unions, the trial lawyers ... if they don't have the guts, I call them girlie men,'' Schwarzenegger said to the cheering crowd at a mall food court in Ontario.
The governor lifted the term from a long-running ``Saturday Night Live'' skit in which two pompous, Schwarzenegger-worshipping weightlifters repeatedly use it to mock those who don't meet their standards of physical perfection.

The California Democrats didn't like Arnold's taste in insults:

Democrats said Schwarzenegger's remarks were insulting to women and gays and distracted from budget negotiations. State Sen. Sheila Kuehl said the governor had resorted to ``blatant homophobia.''
``It uses an image that is associated with gay men in an insulting way, and it was supposed to be an insult. That's very troubling that he would use such a homophobic way of trying to put down legislative leadership,'' said Kuehl, one of five members of the Legislature's five-member Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Caucus.

But Arnold will not, shall not apologize. Nope. He's holding onto his initial argument that people who obstruct his budget negotiations are nothing better than girlie men. The opposite of girlie men must then be someone who without permission bares the breasts of his female coworkers? What would such people be called?
Boy-e women? Or Arnolds?

Schwarzenegger's insult is not just aimed at women (which the insult identifies with weakness) or gays (which the insult identifies with an insult), it also insults girls. I looked up the definition of the term 'girlie', and my dictionary labels it as 'offensive as a term of address'. So in one sweepingly short statement the Governor of California managed to smear all women, all gays and all girls. What percentage of the citizens of his state did he leave unsmeared? A lot less than half.

That Schwarzenegger's political advisors deemed his best response to the events to be an obstinate refusal to apologize tells us miles about how the society still views women, gays and girls. All rolled into one they still count less as one hypermuscular-male- movie-star-turned-into-politician.

I personally wasn't insulted by Arnold's statement, because it has been obvious for some time that he is some sort of a reversal to possibly prehistoric 'me-need-meat-me-need-pussy" genes. Anyone who goes around groping women who have nothing to do with him has a problem in viewing women as independent human beings, and this problem will not disappear when the person becomes a governor of a state. So I knew that Arnold is not for women. Neither is anyone whose previous career depended on maximum muscle and minimum words likely to regard being effeminate as anything but a serious fault.
But why on earth did he have to go after girls, too?

What's truly interesting about this little non-incident (and I'm not referring just to what Arnold recently said) is how very much it is a non-incident. A governor who thinks of women as a dish between the first and the second course in an average dinner seems perfectly acceptable to the majority of Californian voters. A governor who thinks that 'girlie' is a really mean and manly insult is viewed in a favorable light. Yes, sure Arnold messes up, but he doesn't really mean anything by it. It's just how things are. Well, he's Arnold.

This is the interesting part: that we as a culture still give the arnolds the benefit of the doubt, not those they ravage or insult.
We haven't come a long way at all, baby.

Props to katilinne