Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Barack Obama - ESPN Man or First Gay President?
It's been an interesting week for President Barack Obama's masculinity. Depending on who you read, he is either the ESPN man ("postfeminist in his values, but also thoroughly traditional in style — hypercompetitive, restrained, not given to self-doubt, rarely self-indulgent") or the first gay president ("he intuitively understands gays and our predicament—because it so mirrors his own").
There is something chameleon-like in his ability to be so many things to so many people. For the conservative David Brooks of the New York Times, "he is self-disciplined, traditional and a bit formal. He is willing, with drones and other mechanisms, to use lethal force." In other words, he embodies traditional codes of masculinity. Meanwhile, the liberal Andrew Sullivan of Newsweek/The Daily Beast, was "utterly unprepared for how psychologically transformative the moment would be. To have the president of the United States affirm my humanity—and the humanity of all gay Americans—was, unexpectedly, a watershed."
There is probably no place in American culture (excluding the military) where being gay is accepted and supported less than it is in professional sports, the world that ESPN covers and glorifies. And yet, in one week, Obama is both the ESPN man and the first president who invites gays and lesbians back into the culture that has denied them recognition and equality.
If the election were held based on the characters of the two men involved, it's no contest - Obama is a transforming figure and Romney beat up gay kids in high school. Obama has fought, in however a misguided way, to make healthcare available to everyone, and especially the poor, while Romney is "not concerned about the very poor."
I highly recommend both of these columns for their differing views on Obama. The reality is not either/or in this case, it's both/and. Obama can be both very traditionally masculine in his behaviors and personality and still be post-feminist and supportive of the rights of all citizens, without discrimination.
David Brooks - The ESPN Man
Andrew Sullivan - Barack Obama: The First Gay President