Hyper-Patriarchy vs Covid
Updated: Jul 12
Below is the transcript for our podcast on July 11, 2021
Recent articles in our local paper here in St. Louis Missouri laments the fact that Missouri has failed - and continues to fail - in its response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Several opinion pieces ask the question; how could we have failed? How could it be that Missouri is now the number one state in the nation for the recent rise of the Covid delta variant?
I've come to understand why Missouri failed in its response to this pandemic. A majority of our politicians never considered Covid as a medical emergency; rather, it was viewed as an opportunity for the existing hyper-masculine political power structure.
Okay, I’m being a little cynical here, but allow me to explain: The image of a strong patriarch has, over recent years, become central to the Republican mindset. Keep in mind that the Missouri Legislature consists of a super-majority of Republicans in the House and the Senate, and our governor, Mike Parson, is also a Republican.
The mindset of what I would call the hyper-patriarch conflates power with masculinity, and therefore it is incapable of acknowledging any vulnerabilities; such emotions will erode the vision of strength and power of the patriarch. This vision doesn't tolerate women's rights because it challenges the authority of the virile male leader. This image further demands that the leader shamelessly pursue power through any means possible, even if it means lying and cheating, because in this distorted manly world, a fight is a fight, and the ends justify the means. Fighting for gun rights is popular because guns themselves are manly - they signify brutal and ultimate strength. Sexual misconduct is not only overlooked, but it is rewarded because it fits this exaggerated definition of masculinity. So the escapades of President Trump as well as lesser players such as former Missouri Governor Eric Greitens are not only tolerated, but embraced by the hyper-patriarchal Republican mindset.
Scientists and medical experts are not manly. The pursuit of science is a challenge of the mind. It doesn't require physical strength. Scientists don't win arguments in brutal physical conflicts, but by conducting civilized intellectual peer reviews. That being the case, the hyper-patriarchal leader does not respect unmanly intellectuals and certainly does not bow to them. Indeed, at some point, the pandemic had to be acknowledged, but the hyper-patriarch refused (and continues to refuse) to bow to the unmanly. That puts the leader in a difficult position; how to cure the virus without help from the intellectuals. As a result, we've seen our leaders push alternative cures, such as injecting bleach, shining a light into the body, hydroxychloroquine, etc. These are all desperate attempts of the hyper-patriarchy to maintain the appearance of power and control.
This disturbing mixture of hyper-patriarchy and intellect came into full view when President Trump, during a Covid press conference, suggested injecting bleach. Rather than standing up to the obvious bad advice, Dr. Deborah Birx sat in silent obedience, cracking an uneasy smile. She knew that standing up and challenging a hyper-patriarch would certainly have gotten her fired. Women don't dare stand up and assert their authority to hyper-patriarchs. So she kept her silence and played the part of the obedient subservient woman. I can't imagine the humiliation she felt at that moment.
When it comes to Missouri, Governor Mike Parson has coldly calculated that playing along with this hyper-male-dominated power structure would allow him to keep his job as well as his popularity. It seems to me that he's not the typical virile "man's man" that most Republicans worship, but he's learned nevertheless how to play the game. He therefore delegates the big decisions to the local authorities, and then participates in the political pile-on when the inevitable mask mandates and social-distancing guidelines roll out over the cities and counties. For that matter, Republicans in the Missouri Legislature also participate in this show of manly power. They criticize mitigation efforts and urge people to man-up and face the virus. "Herd immunity" is bandied about, because those that survive the virus are considered somehow stronger and therefore more manly.
The bottom line is that Missouri, like many other states, failed to contain and mitigate Covid because that was never the priority to begin with. On the contrary, Covid presented an opportunity for the hyper-patriarchy to further assert its power and influence. In an article appearing in the St. Louis Post Dispatch, Dr. Alex Garza, the director of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, recently expressed a certain level of exasperation. He said, “It’s starkly obvious how the pale colors on the vaccination map line up with the rising rates. (Republicans) spent so much energy pushing back on these very common-sense public health measures, now it’s almost too hard to switch course. It’s really difficult for them to go back on their line of thinking. They put the political platform over everything, even over the protection of human life. I don’t understand that. I just don’t.”
Perhaps what Dr. Garza doesn't understand is that our entire nation - including Missouri - has been swept into the hyper-patriarchal political power machine and is well beyond the point of caring about individuals.