Washington Post columnist calls Obama girlie

Kathleen Parker manages to insult both men and women in analysis of the president's "tropes of femaleness"

Topics: Gender Roles, Barack Obama, Gender, Broadsheet, Love and Sex,

Washington Post columnist calls Obama girlie

In today’s Washington Post, Kathleen Parker calls President Obama a little girl in 732 words. Parker’s column is titled “Obama: Our First Female President,” and in it she argues that the President doesn’t act like a man during times of crisis. Parker reminds us all that Toni Morrison called Bill Clinton the first black president, so she’s allowed to make this claim about Obama, except that her assertion makes no sense at all and is offensive to both men and women.

First, Parker says that “Obama displays many tropes of femaleness,” but goes on to name just one: his communication style. Obama doesn’t talk like an Alpha male, she says. He is “a chatterbox,” like all those ladies who love to babble and prattle and jabber and yak. On top of that, after the Gulf oil spill, he spent time “weighing” and “considering” what to do instead of immediately grunting like a caveman and head-butting Tony Hayward.

Parker acknowledges that she’s talking about femininity and masculinity “in the normative sense,” which means that she’s oversimplifying everything. Shouldn’t we all strive to communicate well, regardless of whether a particular strategy is associated with a particular gender? Is anyone’s behavior ever 100 percent aligned with gender norms, anyway? No, but Parker shrugs and says that it’s just too hard to separate stereotype from reality. We want our leaders to be “normal.” No girlie men in the Oval Office.

She insults women by saying that Obama blew it when it came to the oil spill by acting feminine, and insults men by making confining generalizations. She suggests that men generally can’t “talk it out” or “cooperate with others.” Instead they just “measure themselves against each other.” Whip ‘em out and get the ruler, boys.

Parker goes on to mention experts who study differences in communication styles. But when they talk about gender patterns, they’re usually talking about women either conversing for an emotional connection or being less assertive. Women hedge more, saying “I think” or “I feel” more often than men and smiling politely in deference more often. But Parker focuses on passive voice constructions, which are commonly used out of laziness or to deflect blame. In his first speech on the oil spill, Obama used 13 percent passive voice constructions, but it seems that has more to do with poor grammar than communicating like a woman.

When Parker says she’s talking about communication and passive voice, she’s really just talking about passivity. Her real problem, as evidenced in the complaints she makes throughout the piece, is with Obama’s reaction to the oil spill — not the construction of his speech. All the references to “rhetoric” and statistics and researchers are irrelevant.

She claims she’s “not calling Obama a girlie president,” but goes on to say that he’s “acting too much like a woman.” Acting, not talking. And then, strangely, she concludes with a huzzah-for-girl-power: “And perhaps, next time will be a real woman’s turn.” So, a delicate chatterbox who defers to others and hesitates to make big decisions?

Parker anticipates criticism and feigns innocence, claiming that she’s making her case “in the nicest possible way.” That sounds pretty passive to me. Maybe her vision of a woman would say, “It seems that President Obama has been called feminine by some.” But I’ll get manly about it: Kathleen Parker just called the president a pussy.

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Burger King Japan

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Burger King's black cheeseburger: Made with squid ink and bamboo charcoal, arguably a symbol of meat's destructive effect on the planet. Only available in Japan.

    Elite Daily/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    McDonald's Black Burger: Because the laws of competition say that once Burger King introduces a black cheeseburger, it's only a matter of time before McDonald's follows suit. You still don't have to eat it.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    Domino's Specialty Chicken: It's like regular pizza, except instead of a crust, there's fried chicken. The company's marketing officer calls it "one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had” -- brain power put to good use.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    Arby's Meat Mountain: The viral off-menu product containing eight different types of meat that, on second read, was probably engineered by Arby's all along. Horrific, regardless.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    KFC'S ZINGER DOUBLE DOWN KING: A sandwich made by adding a burger patty to the infamous chicken-instead-of-buns creation can only be described using all caps. NO BUN ALL MEAT. Only available in South Korea.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Waffle Taco: It took two years for Taco Bell to develop this waffle folded in the shape of a taco, the stand-out star of its new breakfast menu.

    Michele Parente/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger: Only attendees at the San Diego County Fair were given the opportunity to taste the official version of this donut-hamburger-heart attack combo. The rest of America has reasonable odds of not dropping dead tomorrow.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Quesarito: A burrito wrapped in a quesadilla inside an enigma. Quarantined to one store in Oklahoma City.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    Boston Pizza's Pizza Cake: The people's choice winner of a Canadian pizza chain's contest whose real aim, we'd imagine, is to prove that there's no such thing as "too far." Currently in development.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    7-Eleven's Doritos Loaded: "For something decadent and artificial by design," wrote one impassioned reviewer, "it only tasted of the latter."

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>