In lieu of Lightning Round, lager!

Last week, Dana pondered whether Gates-gate had anything to do with masculinity. While I admit I didn't immediately see the Gates arrest in terms of gender, Obama's choice to defuse the tension by inviting them over for a beer did seem gendered to me. You know, just dudes and brews. Hangin' out. Shootin' the shit. Guy stuff.

Would this stunt have been received the same way if a woman were at the table? Or if it was staged by a female president? Like so many other day-to-day choices we make, booze preferences have gender connotations. Think Homer Simpson with his six-packs of Duff, or Carrie Bradshaw perched on a bar stool with a cosmopolitan in hand. I know men who sheepishly order sugary cocktails, and women who are called tough or manly because they drink whiskey on the rocks. While I don't think beer, in and of itself, is a strictly "masculine" beverage, I do think the idea of putting aside differences over mugs of beer is not an image that we typically associate with women.

Obviously Dana Milbank thought the idea of a woman at that table was also ridiculous, as he suggested in a silly video that Hillary Clinton, were she invited to the summit, would be "served a bottle of Mad Bitch." A screengrab:


Full video here, via Brian Beutler. (As my colleague Adam Serwer quipped, "Obviously, this is the kind of hard-hitting journalism Nico Pitney wouldn't be incapable of.")

In recent political history, candidates have declared their love for beer (and always the cheap, domestic stuff) as a way of signaling they know how to connect with "real" (usually white, working-class) Americans. That's why Adam's assessment -- that the beer summit was Obama's way of assuring white America he was just like them -- is spot on. But there're also a gender slant on this. In the Democratic primary, Obama poked fun at Hillary Clinton's inability to look authentic with a mug of beer:

“Around election time, the candidates can’t do enough. They'll promise you anything, give you a long list of proposals and even come around, with TV crews in tow, to throw back a shot and a beer,” Obama said, stirring laughter from an audience of steelworkers and steel industry executives.

Obama chose dive bars as the setting for his embarrassing faux-folksiness, too. But Hillary got way more mocking for it. I'd argue that's because of the gender connotations associated with certain types of booze -- it was easier to conclude the female candidate looked awkward chugging a mug of Bud Light. Maybe she should have ordered a white zinfandel. At least in my experience with white, working-class America, that's a common female-identified drink.

--Ann Friedman

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