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“For girls, becoming women was inevitability; for boys, becoming men was ambition.”
So wrote Kamila Shamsie in her Man Booker-long listed novel, Home Fires.
The past week in international politics was a brilliant illustration of this apparent reality. On one hand, there were two grown men indulging in a silly game of “I’m the Man,” consisting of a series of gestures meant to establish alpha-male dominance of one over the other. There were the prolonged handshakes, the excessive hugs and kisses, the holding hands like they were running across the playground, the brushing of imaginary dandruff off the lapel… Pundits called it a “bromance” between two presidents, both vain and ambitious, but one, lumpy, bellicose, craven, and aging, with an exaggerated sense of his own intelligence and indeed, greatness, and the other, younger, fitter, cleverer, arguably handsomer, perhaps with a slightly grandiose, yet not entirely unjustified, sense of his own importance to history.
But it wasn’t a bromance, it was a gladiator sport. Donald Trump was essentially asserting his top-dog status over Emmanuel Macron—note the strong-arming tactics, the bully-in-the-playground stance, the insult disguised as faux-paternalistic concern over flecks of dandruff and making him “look perfect.” There were moments where you could see Macron start to look a tad fed up, impatient for this farcical display of power to be over. Ironically, Trump’s blatant display of dominance did little to hide his deep insecurity, which meant that the French president, 30 years his junior, was actually the man. And boy, did he really stick it to Trump, after over 24 hours of being a good sport, playing the supreme diplomat, only to deliver a most delicious coup de grace—delivering a potent speech to Congress in which he demolished Trump’s myopic world view, and decisively distanced himself from all that Trump stood for. Without ever once mentioning Trump’s name.
As Vox reported, “At other times, the intimate moments also seemed to be power plays. In the Oval Office, Trump said he was brushing ‘a little piece of dandruff’ off of Macron’s suit, causing Macron to look slightly uncomfortable and then laugh.”
“Body language experts say they saw Trump and Macron’s interactions as a blend of playfulness and subtle attempts to assert dominance over each other. Macron seemed willing to play second fiddle to Trump in most of their public appearances. His speech to Congress, though, showed that he was fully prepared to stand up for himself and his beliefs.”
Macron 1, Trump, 0.
Also, Macron’s body language next to his wife Brigitte clearly demonstrated that they were still very much into each other, and that she was unlikely to ever swat her husband’s hand away. So who’s the man now?
Macron 2, Trump 0.
Meanwhile, over the weekend, a woman, understanding the inevitability of having to assert herself in what is still a man’s world, approached the White House Correspondents’ Dinner as a gladiator sport, slicing through with such precision the room thick hypocrisy, complicity and mendacity, and left everyone crying “Foul!” when all she did, really, was speak the truth.
But oh did she slay. She was harsh, she was brutal, she was merciless. And yet she was attacked and vilified for sticking it to the audience like a man, the kind of man epitomized by Donald Trump—crass, cruel, and without remorse. Her barbs may have stung, but unlike Trump they were dipped in truth, not lies or malice. And while there is an unspoken rule among women that women stick together and support each other, she had the guts to call out the women in the room who peddle the Trump administration’s lies, day in and day out, lies that not even their shockingly dated and unflattering eye makeup can conceal.
Yes, that was a dig at their appearance, but like Michelle Wolf’s attack on Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ smoky eye, it’s not so much about her looks as it is her haughty complicity, emphasized by the excess of eyeliner.
As for Kellyanne Conway, Christ almighty, someone give this woman a makeover stat! There is unfortunately a hardness to her that is most unattractive, and with every lie she spews out, with every deliberate attempt at obfuscation so cavalierly delivered—always deflect by mentioning Hillary Clinton! Or Obama!—her appearance becomes as grotesque as her falsehoods.
So bravo Michelle Wolf for owning Sarah Sanders, for owning Kellyanne Conway, for owning Trump, for owning everyone, for owning the night. In a room filled with oversized egos, savaging a president with the biggest ego of them all, she showed everyone that she was the one person with balls.
As Emily Nussbaum of the New Yorker remarked on Twitter:
The more I think about it, the more impressed I am that Michelle Wolf did such a harsh act WITHOUT insulting any woman’s looks. She aimed straight at the white female enforcers & never once suggested that anyone was a bimbo or a dog—like the man they work for surely would have.
— Emily Nussbaum (@emilynussbaum) April 29, 2018
And Trump? Of course he whined, like the p*ssy he really is.
Michelle Wolf 100, Trump 0.
B. Wiser is the author of Making Love in Spanish, a novel published by Anvil Publishing and available in National Book Store and Powerbooks, as well as online. When not assuming her Sasha Fierce alter-ego, she takes on the role of serious journalist and media consultant.
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Photo courtesy of Time
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