Following Judge James Robert’s order Friday night temporarily stopping the federal government from enforcing parts of President Donald Trump’s controversial visa ban, Trump lashed out against the “so-called judge” on Twitter, saying that Americans should “blame him and the court system” should something (presumably a national security disaster) happen.
Appearing on Fox News Monday morning, Christian minister and former Arkansas Gov. Mick Huckabee lobbed a different critique of the courts:
“I think we have had an executive branch that has emasculated itself by surrendering constantly to the idea that once the court says something, that’s it,” he said.
!! Huckabee: Past executive branch “emasculated itself by surrendering constantly to the idea that once the court says something, that’s it” pic.twitter.com/g0kQodDSmy— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) February 6, 2017
This is not the first time Huckabee has invoked masculinity to demean a political foe. Over the weekend, he critiqued Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer for tearing up during a press conference he called to oppose Trump’s refugee ban:
Breaking news from Hollywood! Sen. Chuck Schumer cast in lead role for remake of "Boys Don't Cry."— Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee) February 5, 2017
The tweet seemed to imply that Schumer’s tears were somehow staged, echoing a talking point from Trump, who criticized the senator as “Fake Tears Chuck Schumer.”
Nancy Pelosi and Fake Tears Chuck Schumer held a rally at the steps of The Supreme Court and mic did not work (a mess)-just like Dem party!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 31, 2017
Huckabee and Trump’s remarks are off base for a number of reasons. As Vox’s Matthew Yglesias explained, Schumer is related to multiple people killed in the Holocaust. The refugee ban, signed on Holocaust Remembrance Day, likely conjures a very personal and emotional reaction from Schumer.
His great-grandmother died in the Holocaust, as did seven of her nine children. Virtually every Jewish person in America has stories of family members who fled persecution abroad to find a new and better life in the United States, and of other family members who didn’t make it out and died as a result. For most American Jews — especially those of us who, like Schumer and I, grew up in New York under the shadow of the Statue of Liberty — the sense of the United States as a place of refuge from the blood-and-soil nationalism of Europe is integral to our sense of American greatness.
Moreover, the movie to which Huckabee referred — Boys Don’t Cry — is based on the true story of a transgender boy in small-town Nebraska who was beaten, raped, and murdered for his gender identity.
Both Trump and Huckabee’s rhetoric work to promote a specific definition of masculinity, one in which any sign of tears (like Schumer’s) or “weakness” (like the court limiting Trump’s order) is feminized. It’s likely this toxic masculinity was a crucial component of why Trump won. Vox’s Emily Crockett writes:
Trump’s behavior, [anti-violence advocate Rus] Funk said, is a classic example what advocates call “toxic masculinity” — the idea that to be a “real man” is to be sexually aggressive, unemotional, tough, and even violent, and to view women as objects to be conquered and dominated. It’s an attitude that relies heavily on ideas about traditional gender roles, and warps those ideas into something even more twisted.
We see toxic masculinity in our culture when “women are depicted as submissive, passive, and meek, while men are viewed as strong, dominant, and virile,” Mellissa Withers, a professor at the University of Southern California Institute for Global Health and an expert in gender-based violence, told Vox. “These norms serve to reinforce sexual violence against women. Men’s sexual violence toward women isn’t perceived as deviant if society values male sexual prowess and aggressive sexual behavior.”
Trump and Huckabee may have valid critiques of Schumer’s response to the order or Judge Robert’s decision to halt it. Those points steeped in sexist rhetoric, however, should hold no place in their arguments.