Conservatives are really mad this week. Not just about the fact that racist, homophobic comments can get you suspended from a TV show (although they had no problem boycotting the Dixie Chicks). Nope, they’re mad about men wearing onesies. Obama’s aides posted this pic to his twitter, which set off a viral firestorm.
The men of National Review took a break from chopping down trees in Appalachia or whatever uber-manly things they normally do to pillory the ad on four separate occasions, with Charles Cooke claiming that “pajama boy” is the “id” of the entire left.
First off, it’s “pajama man.” Ethan Krupp is over 18, so he’s a man, and wearing footie pajamas doesn’t change that. Unless you think Samuel L. Jackson is one too.
Onsies are damn comfortable. If it were socially acceptable I would wear footie pajamas all day, every day. But the implication of the criticism is that your masculinity is somehow tied to how you look or dress, which is weird, because my dad always told me it would about being honest, keeping your promise, and devoting yourself to others (just like Jesus). This faux-outrage reminds me of Tony Porter’s “man box,” where men are so busy blustering they forget who they are.
But seriously, does the Republican Party, which polls about as well with women as hunting does with PETA members, have some sort of Freudian death wish? Or is their new criticism of Obamacare that it’s “gay?” In fact, this hyper-masculinity is rooted in Republican politics, from the top down.
Cognitive linguist George Lakoff notes the Republicans think of government in terms of a “strict father,” while Democrats think in terms of a “nurturant parent.” Thus, Rich Lowryworries that a man wearing footie pajamas is “the picture of perpetual adolescence.” The worry is that the social safety net and unemployment insurance will make people lazy and the poor need “tough love” instead (because homelessness is a cakewalk). Therefore Obamacare, which envisions a more compassionate state, must be equated with weakness.
The problem is that the right’s definition of conservativism is, and will likely always be, exclusively popular among white men who would never be comfortable in a onesie. But manly white men aren’t necessary anymore. We don’t need Spartanesque manly men for our 300-style war against the Persians. But conservatives don’t like that. Harvey Mansfield has written a book, Manliness, warning us of the consequences of a society with thumos.
Now that manly white men have to watch what they say and do, they are lashing out. All this hullabaloo at National Review is really just longing for another era, when government generally minded its own business and predation was rampant, when women, workers, and minorities were violently oppressed and the white man made decisions. They want social Darwinism. Instead we have social democracy. But that day is over. Footie pajamas have won. Tolerance is cool. We just have to wait for the ubermen of the days of yore to finish their hyperventilation and we can move on.