" It gives you an erection. It wins the election."
Much is made of the penis. We talk about how to keep it hard, how to make it bigger, and who envies it. The public secret we keep from ourselves -- but at a deep level understand -- is that it is not the penis that matters most. That modest organ is, after all, vulnerable and easily deflated. The phallus is what most men and even some women in a male dominant culture covet, envy, think they possess, fear losing, or try to get back (usually, each of these at different times). In our still patriarchal world, this symbol, in blatant or subtle forms, shows up in our dreams, editorial cartoons, commercials, and political ads. It is often used to represent absolute domination, insensate hardness, omnipotence, unlimited wealth, invulnerability, untrammeled growth, or freedom from all dependency - and sometimes all of these unattainable qualities.
What has become disturbingly evident in the last few months of the primary campaign is that Hillary Clinton is not merely carrying the torch of the "old politics." She is also the ironic bearer of the old masculinity, a knuckle-dragging version of manhood that is defined in terms of domination. In this view, "the man" is whoever can stick it to the other. It is the one who can eviscerate his or her enemy most savagely and with the least remorse. It is the one on top in a zero-sum world. In this curious mutation of patriarchy, anatomy is not destiny. But being a dick is
Stephen J. Ducat, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist from the San Francisco Bay Area, and has published widely on the psychology of politics. His most recent book is The Wimp Factor: Gender Gaps, Holy Wars, and the Politics of Anxious Masculinity.