"Can Marjorie Taylor Greene succeed as ‘Trump in drag’?" Alyson Cole in Fortune Magazine on the Versatility of Misogyny

“Can Marjorie Taylor Greene succeed as ‘Trump in drag’?” Alyson Cole in Fortune Magazine on the Versatility of Misogyny

Fortune Magazine

Breaking the glass slipper: Can Marjorie Taylor Greene succeed as ‘Trump in drag’?

March 4, 2021 5:30 PM EST

Forty-six years old, mother of three, devoutly Christian, “100% pro-life, 100% pro-gun, anti–Green Deal, anti-AOC, anti–Black Lives Matter,” QAnon supporter, and misinformation disseminator: The question of what the new U.S. representative from northwestern Georgia represents has garnered a great deal of attention. What remains unexamined are the sexual politics she enacts.
Let’s start with a series of stills making the rounds on social media, from a video of then-candidate Marjorie Taylor Greene on the campaign trail. Greene appears in front of a large cardboard cutout of Donald Trump, her right hand at his crotch. The first picture captures a spontaneous act: Greene looks down as she reaches her hand between the legs of the cardboard cutout. In the second, she has turned toward the camera, her hand shifting from cupping to a gesture more protective of Trump’s lower region. In the last image, her hand fully shields his groin.
Is this the demure behavior required of conservative ladies? Maybe, though it also seems like a crass imitation of Trump’s boasts of genital-grabbing, a disturbing celebration of his alleged predatory sexual behavior and other private and political offenses. But Greene’s movements are neither demure, exactly, nor outrageously transgressive; they are less a ritual to prove she’s one of the boys than a specifically feminine, erotically deferential gesture, as if she were acknowledging that only one of them really has “balls,” and her womanly role is to stroke and protect the family jewels.
Marjorie Taylor Greene is one of several women eager to fill Trump’s shoes, as eager as Cinderella’s stepsisters to force their feet into the slipper of power. Virginia state senator and gubernatorial candidate Amanda Chase, for example, has even described herself as “Donald Trump in heels.” But, given Trump’s trademark toxic masculinity, can women really adopt his persona and politics? Can a woman do Trump in drag?
The answer in the case of Greene is: Yes. Like other conservative white women before her, Greene uses her womanhood to fortify masculine prerogative. But, while Trump’s women wear heels—the sort of stilettos that Germaine Greer made famous—Greene dons the uniform of patriarchy’s female guardians: footwear suited to a CrossFitting, suburban mom. Observe how she emphasizes both her entrepreneurial acumen (though she inherited her business from her father) and Momism in explaining how to balance the federal budget: “If we look at our country as our household, we’re going to go under foreclosure because we’re overspending. I look at it that way as a business owner, and then I also look at it as a mom.”
In other contexts, Greene wraps maternalism together with “femonationalism”—a purported concern with protecting women’s rights and bodies deployed for ethnocentric ends. Of Representatives Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, the two Muslim members of the so-called Democratic Squad, she mused: “I truly feel like, as a woman in America, I really need to go talk to these ladies…As an American woman, as a business owner, as a mother—I have two daughters—I never want to see Sharia in America.”
Greene can press against the boundaries of conventional femininity as long as her mortal enemies remain feminists, effeminate men, and other embodiments of progressive gender politics. Her own gendered performance is central to the appeal. “A woman needs to be up there to counteract some of the women that are there already,” one supporter said of Greene at a campaign rally. “I trust her,” he added. “I just feel it.” How is she so trustworthy and affable when accomplished (Democratic) women suffer a “likability problem”? Perhaps it’s that her supporters see her as their “man”—one who happens to be a woman and so can get away with calling the Speaker of the House a “bitch.” That those who criticize Greene might be labeled “sexist” is an added bonus.
Misogyny, as philosopher Kate Manne argues, is not, as many presume, hatred of women. It is more structural: the social mechanism that upholds patriarchy by controlling women and disciplining those who challenge men’s dominance. Misogynistic culture, therefore, does not keep every woman down. It embraces and promotes those who affirm men’s entitlement to women’s attention and care.
Greene seems to get this. “The party is his,” she recently declared, referring to Trump. “It doesn’t belong to anybody else.” When she was removed from her House committee assignments, she claimed it liberated her to whip her party into shape, a contemporary version of the cult of true womanhood.
The GOP Senate Minority Leader may have called her lies and conspiracy theories “loony,” and Greene herself a “cancer for the Republican Party and…country.” But we’ve seen this act before, especially from Mitch McConnell. Republicans disavow their lunatic fringe just enough to create a prophylactic of plausible deniability, while allowing the tumors to metastasize. After all, Greene is not a political aberration; her genealogy reaches back to another Georgia peach, Newt Gingrich, and further to Richard Nixon’s Southern Strategy.
And we should not forget the Southern belles behind those great men. Greene’s foremothers include all the white women who supported segregation and were often the organizing force behind the erection of public monuments celebrating Confederate generals, women whose racism and incitements too often were dismissed as the behavior of a few hysterical ladies. These “nice white ladies” raised their personal political fortunes by trafficking in white supremacy and conspiracy theories. As their power rose, such ideas moved from the margin to the center.
Greene is not just a nice white lady, however. She cross-dresses in service to patriarchy. And she is not the first Republican woman to do so. That honor belongs to Sarah Palin, whom some suggested was “Bush in drag.” But as the 2008 Vice Presidential candidate, Palin aided the GOP’s ticket in a different way and at a different political moment. She was injected into a flaccid campaign as a stimulant, an identity politics ploy against the first Black presidential candidate. Frank Rich observed at the time that Palin had “more testosterone than anyone else at the top of her party.”
Palin was mocked for her frayed syntax and absence of humility about her lack of knowledge. Such traits are no longer derided. After four years of Trumpian incoherence and alternative facts, willful ignorance and blatant deceit don’t register on the political radar.
While not yet the icon Palin was, Greene is only getting started. And with Trump to help her, she is better positioned than her forebears. Palin ran into a glass ceiling of sorts, but if she can force her feet into the glass slipper of Trumpism, Greene may shatter that barrier.
Alyson Cole is professor of Political Science, Women & Gender Studies, and American Studies at Queens College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York. Her books include The Cult of True VictimhoodDerangement and Liberalism, and How Capitalism Forms Our Lives. Cole serves as coeditor of Polity and philoSOPHIA.
Read the original article here: https://fortune.com/2021/03/04/marjorie-taylor-greene-mtg-conservative-women-trump-momism/