In the last two weeks, "Man up" has become the rallying cry of the self-proclaimed conductor of the Tea Party Express and Mama Grizzly-in-Chief Sarah Palin. First at a rally held in Reno, Nevada on October 18th, Palin demanded that her fellow Republican politicians "man up" and support the roster of Tea Party candidates endorsed by her including Christine "I'm not a Witch" O'Donnell and Nevada Tea Party candidate for US Senate, Sharron Angle. And then on Halloween, the day after Palin's disgust for various members of the Alaska media bubbled over and caused her, the mother of a daughter who bore a son out of wedlock, to ironically describe these reporters as "corrupt bastards," Palin fumed on Fox News that reporters citing anonymous Republican sources criticizing her in a recent Politico article should "man up" and "cite themselves" so she could publicly debate them.
Some think Palin's choice of phrase was inspired by Angle who days earlier told Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in their only debate to "man up" and do something to replace the Social Security funds that had been mysteriously replaced by IOU's backed up by "special Treasury bonds... kept in a filing cabinet in Parkersburg, West Virginia." As Senator Reid pointed out during the debate, Angle's fanciful statement was not only factually incorrect but in direct contravention of her earlier public statements that Social Security as well as Medicare should be abolished altogether. Unfortunately, at this point, all anyone really remembers from the debate is Angle's challenge to Reid's masculinity.
Some think Sharron Angle was inspired by Christine O'Donnell's more colorful turn of a phrase in early September when she warned her opponent in the Republican primary, Congressman Mike Castle, to stop using such "unmanly" tactics as filing a complaint against her with the Federal Election Commission and to get his "man-pants on" because the election wasn't "a bake-off." These comments were made after a particularly nasty ad campaign paid for by one of O'Donnell's supporters alleged that the married Castle had cheated on his wife by having a homosexual affair.
Or Angle may have been inspired by another self-proclaimed Mama Grizzly, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who as early as September, 2009, exhorted her fellow freedom fighters to "man-up" and make a covenant by slitting their wrists and becoming blood brothers in their fight against Obamacare.
The first definition of "man up" offered by urbandictionary.com is "don't be a pussy" and the second is "to fulfill your responsibilities as a man." Ben Zimmer in his "On Language" column in the New York Times on September 3, 2010, traced the etymology of this phrase to football and rodeos but insists that "man-up" can be a call for the exercise of machismo or a call to perform a worthwhile action, such as the fight to end violence against women proposed by The Man Up Campaign.
Regardless of what meaning of "man up" Tea Partiers Palin, Angle, O'Donnell, and Bachmann say they intended, these emasculating taunts mark a significant u-turn for women in American politics. It took women 147 years after the first Tea Party to gain the right to vote and another 88 years after that to field female candidates from each party in the presidential election. And this year, only one in eight Tea Party-endorsed candidates running for the House or Senate are women. Democratic, Republican or Tea Party, women clearly are not yet equally represented in elected politics in this country.
Throughout American political history, the ascent of female political figures has sometimes been caused by early widowhood, as was the case for example with Margaret Chase Smith and Mary Landrieu, but more often than not, victory has been won after hard fought campaigns where gender discrimination against the female candidate gave the male candidate an automatic leg up in the race.
Two years after making history as the first female Republican to run for nationwide office, Sarah Palin is making her mark on this year's political landscape by using gender-demeaning rhetoric. Gender bashing of men by women doesn't level the political playing field for women any more than reverse racism creates more opportunities for people of color.
Perhaps Palin & Co's Tea Party politics of disrespect and disregard for any and all people who disagree with them, is what led Republican Party stalwart Karl Rove to question Palin's gravitas and ability to serve as leader of the free world in a recent interview with the London Daily Telegraph. When even Karl Rove believes Sarah Palin doesn't exemplify Republican Party values, it is time for her to have a "sister souljah" moment and either return to the Republican playbook or leave the Republican Party and commandeer the Tea Party Express to its own station and create the nationwide third political party joe six pack and others like him think this country needs.