I don't agree with Bill Maher about everything - well, why would I? - but he often hits the nail squarely on the head, as he does here.
There's a lot I like about this, so it's hard to pick out my favorite excerpts (note that the full transcript is here), but let me just note this:
None of this is going to get better until Democrats stop letting Republicans claim they've got the big balls, just because. ... Democrats have to start being the party that redefines toughness as restraint. And stop responding to Republican taunts that have goaded Michael Dukakis into a tank, John Kerry into a duck hunting outfit, and Hillary Clinton into Iraq.
Because it's not really masculinity conservatives love, anyway — it's bullying. ...
But bullying isn't a masculine virtue; standing up to bullies is. Ignoring society's least-abled people is not masculine; taking care of them is.
I saw this a lot when I was a kid, and as I got older, I still saw it. Bullies defined masculinity for many boys - probably because they'd been taught that themselves, from other bullies.
But even kids who weren't bullies - not natural bullies, certainly - still bought into that narrative. And if they weren't natural bullies, they might try especially hard to prove their own masculinity, because they'd been convinced of that connection.
It's stupid, of course, and as you get older, many men come to realize that. But some don't. In particular, if you've ever worked in an overwhelmingly masculine environment, you'll have seen this same thing even among adults (most of them desperately trying to prove how masculine they are, even as grownups).
Of course, this is typical among the right-wing, and it's one of the many reasons why I despise them. But it's absolutely infuriating when Democrats get goaded into acting stupid by people like that.
I must say, that's one thing I really like about Barack Obama. He just ignores the taunts. And by doing so, he not only demonstrates his own masculinity, he shows how pathetic his opponents are, in contrast.
As Bill Maher notes, bullying is not a masculine virtue. Standing up to bullies is, and so is helping the less fortunate. If you really want to act like a man, don't tear people down. Help them to stand up. Real men aren't threatened by the competition.
If the only way you can feel good about yourself is by making sure that other people stay down, how is that manly?
PS. I don't like describing courage as having balls, anyway, not just because it's sexist, but also because it's stupid. You don't need balls to be courageous. Ask any woman. You do need a spine, though.
So you won't ever find me using that phrase. And I like how Maher points out how useless big balls really are. Besides making it easier to be incapacitated by a kick to the crotch, what use are they? A spine, though - everyone needs a spine, men and women both.