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No Tucker Carlson, “feminised” is not an insult

The Fox News host said during his interview with Nigel Farage that contracting Covid had, like others, emasculated, weakened and feminised Boris Johnson. But becoming feminine is not a synonym for weakness, nor has it got anything to do with the virus.

Tucker Carlson at a right wing think tank summit on ‘populism and the right’, in Washington DC, March 2019. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

After last week, it’s easy to imagine the public having a few choice words to describe Boris Johnson. Across the pond, Tucker Carlson had some too.

In an interview with Nigel Farage, the Fox News host tore into Johnson, claiming a source close to the prime minister had said contracting Covid in April last year and being admitted to intensive care “emasculated him, changed him, feminised him and weakened him as a man”.

Farage seemed hesitant to jump on Carlson’s bandwagon. He was far more eager to discuss the effect “Carrie Antoinette” had had on Johnson than Covid. He did indulge Carlson with a few comments on how much weight Johnson was carrying, saying that people “who are 50, 60, 70, 80 pounds overweight tend to have fared very badly” with the virus. Farage’s issue was that “no one ever says this”.

For Carlson, there was something else people were neglecting to mention. That the virus takes the life force out of and feminises people. “No one ever says it but it’s true,” he declared.

There’s a reason for this – the rationale isn’t only ludicrous, it’s missing completely. Covid-19 infections have been known to give individuals high temperatures, long continuous coughs and a loss of taste and smell. Long Covid sufferers have faced symptoms from brain fog and dizziness to heart palpitations. Not one scientist or medical expert has called this a process of emasculation or feminisation. Weaker or lacking in force? Potentially, yes. Less of a man and more feminine? No.

Carlson’s insinuation plays into the same toxic rhetoric that defines strength as ‘manning up’, uses ‘gay’ in a derogatory manner and reaches for the word ‘girl’ when attempting to describe something completed to a subpar standard. How many young men over the years were told they threw, ran or fought like a girl when someone wanted their comment to sting? Perhaps Carlson was one of them.

Then again, his comments were hardly surprising. The interview was shot in New York, but in some states, namely Texas, Covid has effectively more rights than women. It’s been permitted to roam and spread freely this year while, in turn, women had healthcare services, such as access to safe abortion, restricted and banned. In other words, a virus received more freedoms, and respect, than women.

No wonder Carlson sought out the word feminised when seeking to insult Johnson’s governance over the last 18 months. To him, it’s clearly quite the jibe.

Still, the logic of his comments is ill-founded. Since Johnson got Covid, he’s put the country back into lockdown twice, received undeclared financial support from a donor to splash out on £840-a-roll wallpaper for the No. 11 flat, and has made countless U-turns including cutting back the proposed eastern leg of HS2. Not to mention delivered a Peppa Pig themed CBI conference speech and took part in Christmas festivities at Downing Street last year that absolutely definitely did not happen…

There are multiple words to adequately describe these actions. Feminine is not one of them.

Feminine isn’t an insult. Equally, nor is it necessarily a compliment – it’s simply a word, an adjective to be precise, used to describe or compare the subject in question to a woman or having womanly characteristics. It is not a synonym for weakness.

It would be interesting to know what Mrs Carlson and his three daughters, Hopie, Lillie and Dorothy, think of their husband and father’s insinuation that it is.