The men in the spotlight this political season have been caricatures of machismo, emoting by shouting, insulting, and threatening violence.
Since attention begets attention, I wanted to highlight the other side of the emotional aisle, the “new masculinity” of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland.
Garland choked up behind silver spectacles when discussing his wife and daughters after Obama’s Rose Garden nomination announcement. He’s also visibly moved discussing his work and the US judicial system in his dating-profile-like “Meet Merrick” video on the White House YouTube channel.
Since the departure of high-profile crier and Speaker of the House John Boehner, The Donald’s rabid fury has been the most reported male emotion. The continuous media coverage seems to reassure his competitors, supporters, and staff that the traditional male’s limited emotional spectrum is not only alive, but celebrated.
Even so, Garland’s nomination is a hopeful sign for gender equity.
The White House’s marketing campaign to get Garland on the Court highlights his character, personality, and downright niceness in addition to his jurisprudence. In some ways this treatment is standard. The tone and content of this president’s Supreme Court announcement is similar to what he said about Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
But in this most recent nomination, Garland’s personality was underscored.
Obama recycled the phrase “understanding before disagreeing” from his speech introducing Kagan. This time the president also added that Garland disagreed “without being disagreeable.” In Merrick’s Tinder ad to America his welling up about justice could have been edited out—but was not.
No matter what comes of the nomination, it’s a reality check that there are possibilities in the highest echelons of power for men who reject traditional trappings of masculinity.
Notably, Garland is being proffered as the replacement for Antonin Scalia, an old school man’s man. Scalia’s aggressive badgering, inflated confidence, and sarcasm, are woven throughout C-SPAN’s cache of recorded Supreme Court cases. His blustering is a flavor of manliness that needs to go the way of the dinosaurs.
Merrick Garland lacks the machismo that oppresses women and stokes violence. He embraces family, public service, and even volunteers with children. More importantly, he represents America’s growing acceptance of new masculinity, a pillar on which we can build a more gender equitable future.
Diane Rubino is an activist, New York University instructor, and applied communications professional who seeks to make the world more healthy and humane. Learn More.