In a recent appearance perhaps doomed for casual bigotry on Real Time with [known racist and Islamophobe] Bill Maher, Former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry proudly announces a one-liner For The People. “[Trump] really is the rare combination of an 8-year-old boy—” Kerry redirects his rib, “I mean, he’s got the maturity of an 8-year-old boy, with the insecurity of an 8-year-old girl.”
It seems a simple thing, to mock the erratic behavior of hormone-addled teenagers. Everyone’s heard: boys are wild when they’re young, but girls are more difficult as teenagers. Girls grow boobs and hips, they hysterically discover blood and inner aches pulsing from their new awkward, pimpling limbs. Girls peel away from their parents to chase boys, who hurt their feelings and send them right back their homes in sobbing fits of rage. Girls cut up their T-shirts and hike their dresses up past ‘the fingertip!’ rule. Girls are so, wicked.
Maher, perhaps sensing the potential pushback from his long-aggrieved SJWs, adds, “A ‘mean girl!’” The “mean girl”—a stereotype turned into cultural fact. The pervasive idea of exclusive groups of young girls just looking to inflict pain and fuck boys, creates a window of opportunity from those who hate women and love vulnerable targets. If people actually cared about the cruelty of children, perhaps they would look to address the conditions girls have to grow up under: predation and sexual assault, pedophilic beauty standards that uplift youth, hypersexualization of minorities, life under the ceaseless stress of poverty, the prescribed all-day workday for Millenial and Gen X children, homophobia, depression, anxiety. Perhaps, especially in the case of John Kerry, one might express even the slightest opposition against state murder—the bombing of young girls and women abroad.
The list goes on, but instead the ‘mean girl,’ the silly and crying and utterly unimportant teenager—she is who progressives refer to in their quest to humorously deride Trump.
Teenage girls shouldn’t need to be defended, because there’s nothing wrong with simply aging to 11 years old and (surprise!) continuing to age through adolescence and into adulthood. Numerous responses to Kerry’s not-so-unique comment have pointed out that teenage girls are easy targets, that girls are insecure because of bro-y demonstrations of toxic masculinity like Kerry’s, that teen girls are difficult because their worlds are difficult.
Kerry’s comment is completely normal, because sexism and patriarchy are normal. Even as the #resistance announce and re-announce their opposition to the Trump administration, they reinforce those same systems. One day, “Red Maiden” protests decry Brett Kavanaugh’s personal and professional abuse of women. The next, young girls—who are on their ways to becoming women (if they don’t wither in a constant battle against the world first)—are the butt of a former U.S. official’s joke, on a primetime television show that apparently still runs despite its host’s delight in the n-word. (Why does Bill Maher still have an HBO show?)
“Love Trumps Hate,” but hate is pretty popular. Issues of patriarchy transcend claims to ‘liberal’ or ‘Trump,’ neoliberalism and leftism. Literally any viral tweet criticizing Trump, or even the Right more generally, will lead one to meme after meme of Trump with lipstick, Trump kissing Jeff Sessions, Kavanaugh staring dreamy-eyed at Trump, the progressive favorite—Putin and Trump being girlie and fondling each other. NYT even ran a Bill Plympton animation depicting a hyperfeminine, teen romance-inspired romance between the American and Russian oligarchs, the joke being…being gay. John Paul Brammer points out that this punchline is not even remotely as subversive as liberals appear to believe. Such humor not only reinscribes existing stigma, but is an unapologetic demonstration of stigma.
Emasculation as a strategy against powerful bigots, particularly when employed by other powerful bigots, is only a theater of liberal smarm. With the unfortunate side effect of punching down on queerness and femininity. Trump is not a teen girl, or a child at all. Donald Trump is a 72-year-old wealthy white man, acting like most other wealthy white men. Trump is a direct participant in structural violence against women—undocumented women, low-income women, sick women, queer women, minority women. And so are the so-called #resistance in nearly every attempt to undermine him.
Progressives not being so ‘progressive’ is more of the same. This is what matters: an active commitment to destroying gender hierarchies and protecting queerness— in all of its poor or black or brown or trans or nonbinary or femme facets. Not your stupid, terrible jokes.