Nancy Mace learns the lesson of Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene: MAGA is not for ladies

GOP women are supposed to be sexy but chaste, aggressive but submissive. It is a conundrum that can't be beat

By Amanda Marcotte

Senior Writer

Published November 3, 2023 6:00AM (EDT)

Lauren Boebert, Nancy Mace and Marjorie Taylor Greene (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Lauren Boebert, Nancy Mace and Marjorie Taylor Greene (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

It's been a challenging few months for the ladies of MAGA in the House of Representatives.

Even before she was caught on video getting handsy with a date in public in September, Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo. faced tough re-election prospects, having nearly lost her once deep-red district in November 2022. Now she's facing cringeworthy headlines like, "Outraised and embattled, Lauren Boebert heads back to Colorado with a revamped campaign strategy." Even in this beat-sweetener, the Associated Press reporter can't quite make "vaping and groping with a date during a musical production of 'Beetlejuice'" sound like a mere "embarrassing moment" instead of a full-blown faceplant. 

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., was once perceived as the far-right power behind the throne of Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. But she lost some MAGA cred this year when she was ousted from the ultra-right Freedom Caucus. Then McCarthy lost his job as speaker, leaving Greene cut off from both the mainstream GOP and the increasingly powerful radical right. Now Greene spends an inordinate amount of her time in incoherent Twitter beefs with Republican colleagues. 

And while Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., has succeeded at her goal of being on TV all the time, she's really only defined herself as an empty-headed attention addict. She never could coherently explain why she joined 8 Republicans to oust McCarthy, even as she grabbed at every microphone to share her non-reasons. Her stunt of marching through Congress in a skintight "scarlet A" T-shirt only reinforced the narrative that her only goal is getting on camera. Now her own staff has leaked internal documents to the Daily Beast thar expose her as "a politician obsessed with her public image and fixated on winning herself as much exposure as possible."

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It all seemed so promising for these three women when they first came to Congress in January 2021. Just combine the "who me?" innocent-sexy act of a pageant queen with the belligerence of the nastiest troll on Twitter, and voilá! Instant MAGA stardom. Activating the lizard brain bigotries of the GOP base works even better in conjunction with titillating their gonads, something Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes figured out a long time ago, when they put a "leg cam" on Fox News so male viewers could ogle the female anchors in their miniskirts.

Misogyny is the main MAGA recruitment tool.

But it does seem that, for these three, the novelty of being lady MAGAs is wearing off rapidly. On the GOP side, their popularity is diminishing and the enemies lists are growing longer. Part of this is that their power to "trigger the liberals" is fading. The reactions they're getting are less outrage and more of the pointing-and-laughing variety. This must worry them, as the strength of the MAGA celebrity is directly proportional to their perceived ability to offend. But ultimately, these three women seem done in by the impossible dilemma of trying to be a female leader in the deeply misogynist world of MAGA. 

There can be no doubting the ability of conservatives, aided by right-wing propaganda, to endure the cognitive dissonances caused by their own contradictions, from claiming Donald Trump is an honest man to justifying their own sadism in the name of Jesus Christ. But when it comes to gender, it really is hard to avoid the conflicts between the sexist expectations of the MAGA ideology and the lives of their provocative female celebrities. 

Put more simply: The lady MAGA is expected to be sexy, to thrill the boorish desires of her Trumpian audience, but also chaste, to prove her "Christian" bona fides. She is supposed to be a loud-mouthed troll, which is the lingua franca of the movement, but also to remember that her role as a woman is to be accommodating, submissive and placating to men.

These three women seem done in by the impossible dilemma of trying to be a female leader in the deeply misogynist world of MAGA. 

Paradoxical expectations bedevil most women in a male-dominated society. But the rest of us reserve the right to resist, through feminist thought and protest. The entire point of being a conservative woman is the rejection of feminism. Even in the GOP world, where hypocrisy is the norm, it's a tough sell to be all for sexism, unless you're the target. That's the most confounding contradiction facing the MAGA lady of all: She is there to justify the very sexism that is holding her back. 

Boebert's dilemma, of course, is the most obvious and hilarious. As historian Claire Potter wrote in her newsletter, Boebert's entire brand has been "Gun Chick," "a popular erotic figure on the right who we might tentatively define as 'the slutty girl next door—with a gun.'” The brand allows these women to technically be members of Congress, Potter noted, "but they don’t have to be taken seriously because it’s all just a joke" to their voters. She puts Greene in the same category. I'd argue Mace also belongs, especially after the "scarlet letter" stunt. 

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That she's pretending to be "surprised" just shows how much Mace is committed to the bit, because the only point in saying something so stupid is to capture that "Christ, what a bimbo" coverage. It's reminiscent of how Mace gave a speech at the National Prayer Breakfast where she carried on about how she skipped sex with her boyfriend to be there, pretending to be too dim to know that was inappropriate. 

But of course, Mace isn't Marilyn Monroe playing a dumb blonde in a movie. She's a member of Congress, and of a party that has constructed its identity around a conservative Christianity that is obsessively sex-negative. Mace herself just voted for Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., a man who blames the "sexual revolution" for mass shootings and whose wife equated all pre-marital sex with bestiality. Of course, none of these people are anti-sex for straight men. They love Trump in all his shameless sleaze. The relentless efforts to ban abortion and restrict birth control show that it's women they want to punish. Women in MAGA-land are expected to be sexy but not sexual. 

Boebert is tripping across that impossible expectation, of course. She's on an apology tour, trying to placate Republican voters who complain that her behavior is not "Christian." They aren't talking about how rude she was, either, since being rude to those urban liberals was always her major selling point. As Greene, who hates Boebert now (women can't really be friends in the sexist environs of MAGAland), ranted on Twitter, it's the "vaping groping." But Greene herself doesn't have a leg to stand on. She dumped her husband with haste after getting to Congress and now is running around with a loud-mouthed pig of a boyfriend.

Greene is navigating the contradictions a little better than Mace and Boebert, who just seem pathetic these days. Part of it is that she was never quite as much a "Gun Chick" as the other two, presenting a mix that was heavier on the trolling and lighter on the cheesecake. But even so, her recent flailings suggest her act is getting a little threadbare. For the base, there was something initially thrilling about a woman performing the typically male role of the belligerent right-wing jerk. But as her recent erratic behavior shows, she's lost her Freedom Caucus buddies and her McCarthy squad has been pushed out into the snow. The GOP preference for women who are soft-spoken and submissive will always prevail. 

The MAGA movement would be nothing without misogyny. Male resentment over women's growing equality is what propelled Trump to victory over Hillary Clinton. Misogyny is the main MAGA recruitment tool, especially with young men. It's why ending abortion rights is their lodestar, even as it's incredibly unpopular. January 6 was an event where a group called the "Proud Boys" roamed Congress in hopes of assaulting female Democrats like Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York. Along with racism and queerphobia, hating women is central to the MAGA brand. Of course there would be hard limits put on how far women could go with the movement. Not that anyone should pity them. They sold out other women for their own gain, making this a case of just desserts.

By Amanda Marcotte

Amanda Marcotte is a senior politics writer at Salon and the author of "Troll Nation: How The Right Became Trump-Worshipping Monsters Set On Rat-F*cking Liberals, America, and Truth Itself." Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMarcotte and sign up for her biweekly politics newsletter, Standing Room Only.

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Commentary Gop Civil War Lauren Boebert Maga Misogony Mtg Nancy Mace Republicans Sexism