The Second Red Scare and the Unmaking of the New Deal Left

By Landon R. Y Storrson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3
“Pinks in Minks”: The Antifeminism
of the Old Right

In 1951 Jack Lait and Lee Mortimer published Washington Confidential, a racy, sensationalistic account of life in the nation’s capital that within weeks topped the New York Times best-seller list. The two Hearst tabloid journalists characterized Washington as a “femmocracy” of selfsupporting women, whose alleged unhappiness proved that “the emancipation of women is baloney.” The home of the federal bureaucracy, they further claimed, was an incubator of sexual depravity and communism. Women outnumbered men by one hundred thousand, and “g-girls” (government girls) slept their way to the top, sometimes with the help of older female bureaucrats who procured ambitious prospects from the heartland for the few government men who were not “eunuchs” or “pansies.” Communists allegedly took advantage of the situation, using suave male Reds to recruit “sex-starved government gals,” “white girls” to recruit the many “colored men” in government jobs, and “trained goodlookers” to recruit “meek male clerks in soporific jobs at standardized sustenance-pay.” Often cited as an example of McCarthy-era homophobia, Washington Confidential also was profoundly misogynistic, not to mention racist. The book generated such a buzz that the Civil Service Commission launched a publicity campaign to improve the image of federal employees.1

The Hearst columnists who wrote Washington Confidential belonged to a network of conservatives whose influence in the media and government stoked the Second Red Scare. The politicians, investigators, and journalists who drove the “Communists-in-government” crusade were intensely antifeminist, and they used popular antifeminism as a tool in their battle against leftists and liberals. The differences in gender ideology between liberals and conservatives were especially apparent in the press. Although journalists of all political stripes sometimes relied on gender stereotypes that after the 1960s would be considered demeaning toward women, conservative journalists distinguished themselves with their negative portrayals of those women whose words, actions, or achievements challenged male superiority—in other words, feminists.

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