Kathleen Parker tries for the Big Idea but ends up with a big mess:
If Bill Clinton was our first black president, as Toni Morrison once proclaimed, then Barack Obama may be our first woman president.
OK, it is an attention-getting lead.
It isn't that he isn't "cowboy" enough, as others have suggested. Aren't we done with that? It is that his approach is feminine in a normative sense. That is, we perceive and appraise him according to cultural expectations, and he's not exactly causing anxiety in Alpha-maledom.
Well, not all guys project as alpha, but that doesn't make them girls. My goodness, the first George Bush was a young, decorated, shot-down Navy pilot and captain of the baseball team at Yale, but Newsweek found his inner wimp (and don't even ask about Dukakis).
Women, inarguably, still are punished for failing to adhere to gender norms by acting "too masculine" or "not feminine enough." In her fascinating study about "Hating Hillary," Karlyn Kohrs Campbell details the ways our former first lady was chastised for the sin of talking like a lawyer and, by extension, "like a man."
Could it be that Obama is suffering from the inverse?
OK, does Obama talk like a woman?
Generally speaking, men and women communicate differently. Women tend to be coalition builders rather than mavericks (with the occasional rogue exception). While men seek ways to measure themselves against others, for reasons requiring no elaboration, women form circles and talk it out.
Obama is a chatterbox who makes Alan Alda look like Genghis Khan.
It's a cute line, but saying it's so doesn't make it so. Dare we look for evidence?
His lack of immediate, commanding action [in the gulf debacle] was perceived as a lack of leadership because, well, it was. When he finally addressed the nation on day 56 (!) of the crisis, Obama's speech featured 13 percent passive-voice constructions, the highest level measured in any major presidential address this century, according to the Global Language Monitor, which tracks and analyzes language.
Granted, the century is young -- and it shouldn't surprise anyone that Obama's rhetoric would simmer next to George W. Bush's boil. But passivity in a leader is not a reassuring posture.
Are we about to be offered some study telling us that women are more inclined to use the passive voice? Not exactly:
Campbell's research, in which she affirms that men can assume feminine communication styles successfully (Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton), suggests holes in my own theory. She insists that men are safe assuming female styles as long as they meet rhetorical norms for effective advocacy -- clarity and cogency of argument, appropriate and compelling evidence, and preempting opposing positions.
I'm mystified - now Reagan and Wild Bill are women?
...negative reaction to Obama's speech suggests the opposite. Obama may prove to be our first male president who pays a political price for acting too much like a woman.
What, a woman couldn't have handled the gulf mess? Geez, cleaning up after others is one of the many things they are good at. Sterotypically, of course.
Well, if the idea of Obma as the first woman President takes hold Ms. Parker will get credit for starting it, but this is ludicrously slim servings. And do let's find the bright side - Hillary can run in 2012 on a promise to put a man back in the White House.
MORE: I am not even going to try and imagine Barack wearing the latest from Paris. A picture is worth a thousand words, but here are a few words:
I wanted to like Riccardo Tisci’s laces for the Givenchy man. I really did. There was something interesting about the mock Victorian elegance he seemed to be working, without the reliance on literal references. And there’s a footballer’s bulk to his silhouette, which is at least a consistent point of view for him. And I certainly have no gripe with his skirts, which are actually shorts with a flap in front. Shorts that suggest skirts were a trend of the collections.
Who could have a gripe with men's skirts?