What we see in Michelle Obama and Janet Napolitano is worse than a lack of femininity (though it is that too)

Thomas Bertonneau writes:

There are any number of distinctly unfeminine women in Obama’s administration or regime. Janet Napolitano comes to mind, perhaps also Sonya Sotomayor and Hillary Clinton. Yet “unfeminine” somehow misses the point, because the effect is not primarily of a lack of femininity as it is of the positive co-presence of an irremediable irritation with existence and a misanthropy that finds its outlet in sweeping moral condemnations and in ordering people about. These traits are of course incompatible with femininity. In Napolitano’s features, for example, I see no trace of ordinary compassion and little of anything meaningfully human; I see the face of a politicized apparatchik who happens to be female but who is, by virtue of total identification with an ideological cause, de-sexed and in large measure dehumanized. That Napolitano presides over the “scope and grope” regime in our airports I take as evidence in favor of the interpretation. Michelle Obama’s oft-noted scowl tells me a similar story of the disappearance of the person into the ideology, and much else in addition.

Face and body are witnesses of character—a fact of the human scene that people once readily acknowledged. There was even a science called physiognomic that attempted to catalogue and interpret facial and bodily expression and to draw moral conclusions from close observation of aspectual (having to do with the face) traits and bodily dispositions. There are still a few people who analyze what they call “body language,” but theirs is an attenuated vestige of eighteenth and nineteenth century physiognomic. Oswald Spengler described his historical method as “physiognomic.” The decline of physiognomic might well have a role to play in something else that VFR readers have been discussing lately—the diminishing capacity of Americans to see ethnicity.

Regarding the First Lady’s obliteration of her own femininity (or it might be her refusal ever to become feminine), it is worthwhile noting that genuine femininity, which we see in certain Roman portraits of the first and second centuries and which reappears with the Gothic movement of the thirteenth century, represented an enormous cultural achievement, a heightening of humanity through the perfection of the female sex. That perfection then called forth various male traits to complement it. Insofar as one strand of liberalism is an attack on all forms of sexual differentiation, the anti-civilized nihilism of liberalism stands once more revealed.

One more observation on the photographs documenting Michelle and “Barry” in Indonesia: He is entirely dwarfed and overshadowed by her whenever they appear together—almost to the degree of diminution represented in the famous Thurber cartoon of the henpecked husband cowering before the virago-wife who has become the entirety of the house and home.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at November 16, 2010 09:09 AM | Send

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