Sunday, June 29, 2008

Obama: a dyke's eye view

In honor of Gay Pride weekend, I'm going to try to convey how Senator Obama comes off to this older dyke. I do not expect this post to be popular.

This is not a substantive policy post. Obama is as good on gay rights as we can (yet) expect any national candidate to be. It is not on his other policy stances either -- he's good on lots of issues like making college more accessible to all, full of shit on FISA and the Fourth Amendment, and elusive on the war. But he's a 1000 percent better than the alternative. I'll be working to get him elected.

No, this is about how he feels to me in the realm where we queers are popularly supposed to reside -- the realm of sexual energy, animal magnetism. And on that level I find Obama troubling. Let's see if I can explain why.

No President in my lifetime has struck me as having any great allure. Ike was granddaddy. Kennedy lost me when the Boston accent popped out of his mouth (my pure prejudice). Nixon looked like he had a rod up his butt and didn't like it. Ford and Carter were blurs. Reagan was a phony B movie actor -- I actually saw him up close in 1966 wearing stage makeup while playing Governor among student protestors. Daddy Bush was what preppy guys grow up to be. Clinton always reminded me of Leisure Suit Larry; turned out I wasn't far wrong. Bush Junior is a type I've seen a lot when running road races: talented enough to make it to the front of the middle of the older men's rankings; dumb enough to think that moderate prowess justifies strutting like a little peacock. (There are lots of running guys, talented and not so, who enjoy encouraging the less talented runners, unlike these turds.)

Obama's something else again. He reeks charisma, sexual energy. The Bag posted the image above from the Obama-Clinton rally at/for Unity. Click on it to see the picture full size. (Use your brower's "Back" button to finish reading this post.) The Bag comments:

What it well captures is exactly what's going on now, which is a courtship process.

Well, yes, that is Obama's style. He romances his supporters, and the merely curious, and uses his charm which is at root sexual, to sweep us off our feet.

The energy is wonderful, vital, enveloping. There's an element of dominance in it, as there is in most (all?) sexual coupling. He's courteous; this is not bullying, it is sheer energy. It is strong, beautiful -- and I don't trust it.

Perhaps that's partly because I'm a dyke -- I don't want that energy projected at me from a man, even one I like. Perhaps it is because I'm old (older at least) -- I've seen too many instances of people doing dumb things in pursuit of passion.

But also, I wonder -- does he think he can turn on the Obama charm and bring his detractors to his side? I'm sure he has more than once. But how real is that for a President? What will he do when it doesn't work? How will he govern? Will he be a deflated balloon when charm fails? Or will he find other ways of being in the world that don't depend on personal charismatic salesmanship?

We hope we get to find out.


Jane R said...

Well, as one of the resident straight (-but-not-narrow) women susceptible to male charm, let me say this that this post is right on. Good lesbian wisdom on Pride Day. Thank you.

johnieb said...

Het, but not narrow point of view: I pick it up, and worry about what happens when he can't seduce his opponent.

Fr. John said...

Hmmmmn . . . I certainly agree that sexual energy is a part of Senator Obama's appeal. I think that is something of which he is aware, and while at times he seems a bit cocky about it, most of the time I think he works to contain it within appropriate boundaries. Thus his formal attire, his reticence about flashing his brilliant smile, etc.

I also think that such energy is part of the secret of many people's success - I've seen it among clergy colleagues as well as business people, academics, and athletes. Combined with a certain sense of the forbidden, it can present a powerful allure and has to be handled with great care; not denied or repressed, but channeled appropriately.

At the same time, I'm troubled by the long history of sexualizing black male power in a way that is dehumanizing. I imagine that is why the Senator works so hard to appear serious, so he isn't dismissed as pure animal magnetism. Let's not forget that part of Senator Obama's appeal is the fact that he is smart, articulate, and politically savvy.

You've named something very real and very hard to talk about in our society. Thank you for having the courage to do so.

Jane R said...

John, very good point about factoring in the racial dimension here re: the (over-)sexualizing of Black men. It's clear Senator Obama is not just a pretty face and a sexually magnetic person. It's interesting how this campaign is enabling people (some, anyway -- but more than before) to talk about some of the gender, sexual, racial and other dynamics in U.S. society in ways previously unspoken in public forums. The candidates (Senator Clinton, for instance, as much as Senator Obama) have also been functioning as Rorschach tests as well as challenges to us to think about dynamics we did not address when only White, straight men were running for top leadership.

This happens in the church too, on multiple levels, as you point out...

naomi dagen bloom said...

very complex ideas in this post which is full of courage in the way it risks "the personal" along with the political.

comments also thoughtful...led me to think it would not be possible for a white, hetero,female politician to appear sexual in a similar way.

charliegyrl said...

While I take on board the concern about sexualizing black male leaders/power....did this not apply to JFK, Bill Clinton?...Not being an American I don't get this sexualizing film-starring of candidates.

I want to hear in depth about policy and a candidate who has the integrity to announce Principles and stick with them.

I'm not sure this is Obama.

Any candidate who campaigns advocating 'change' should support change for all of us [gays rights to marriage for instance] not just change for some.

Plus, as a Christian surely he understands the gift God gave was 'free will' or do some Christians claim the right to upstage god and decide that they will judge what rights citizens are entitled to?

On the issue of gay marriage I conclude Obama is a political opportunist who will only make the changes that keep his political career buoyant.

No I would not & do not support Obama after carefully analyzing his campaign and motives. He has not seduced me, the so-called charisma leaves me cold.

Change for all who want change is my motto.
Another Dyke

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