In a new interview with Men’s Health magazine, former Republican governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger was asked about his past use of the phrase “girlie men” to mock his political opponents, and whether he regretted using it. “At the time it felt like the right thing to do. It was in my gut. I improvised it,” he explained. “They were afraid of everything. Politicians, in general, want to do little things so there’s no risk involved.” Despite this explanation, Schwarzenegger said using the phrase was “shortsighted” and expressed regret for using it. “In the long term, it’s better to not say that, because you want to work with them.”
The origin of the phrase actually comes from a Saturday Night Live skit featuring two fictional weightlifters, Hans and Franz, who use the phrase repeatedly to insult anyone who didn’t have huge muscles like them. So far, I can’t find any instance of Saturday Night Live apologizing for the skit. Despite the origins of the phrase, California Democrats tried to paint Arnold as sexist and homophobic for using it as an insult. Despite the criticism, he refused to apologize for it back in 2004.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is taking some heat this week for mockingly calling Democratic lawmakers “girlie men” in a speech, but a spokeswoman for the governor said he wouldn’t apologize.
The zinger was tossed out at a rally on Saturday, where the Republican governor blamed state Democrats for delaying the state budget by catering to special interests.
“If they don’t have the guts to come up here in front of you and say, ‘I don’t want to represent you, I want to represent those special interests, the unions, the trial lawyers … if they don’t have the guts, I call them girlie men,” Mr. Schwarzenegger told a cheering crowd at a shopping mall in Ontario, Calif.
“The governor used it as an effective way to convey wimpiness,” said spokeswoman Margita Thompson. “Politicians are wimps because they are letting the special interests push them around.”
Clearly, at the time, it was not a big deal and he continued using “girlie men” to mock his opponents in California. He even used the phrase during his speech at the Republican National Convention in 2004.
Now, there’s another way you can tell you’re a Republican. You have faith in free enterprise, faith in the resourcefulness of the American people and faith in the U.S. economy. And to those critics who are so pessimistic about our economy, I say: Don’t be economic girlie-men.
I remember that well because I was there, in the room at Madison Square Garden, as Arnold gave his speech. He’d used the “girlie men” line before in his capacity as governor of California, but I remember being shocked that he was able to use that line in his speech. Surprisingly, everyone cheered. No one really cared. Heck, California voters didn’t seem to care either. He won reelection in 2006 with 56 percent of the vote. Simply put, the hypersensitive climate of today didn’t exist then, or at least it wasn’t as bad.
Has political correctness gone too far? I’ve noticed in the past couple of years when I watch television shows or movies from the ’70s through even the mid-2000s, you hear jokes and dialogue that would never fly today. Even so-called “progressive” television shows like Friends make millennials uncomfortable due to certain plot lines that they think are “transphobic,” homophobic, and sexist. Teen Vogue ran a story last year going through several 199os era shows and various plot lines from those shows that apparently offend the delicate sensibilities of today’s youth and woke leftists, who find everything from fat jokes to jokes about male nannies too much to handle — even in a show that featured a lesbian wedding long before same-sex marriage became legal.
It may be hard to believe this, but jokes can simply be jokes — simple, short quips designed to get a laugh without worrying whether they will offend people 15 and 20 years later. Some might call the new hypersensitive climate “progress,” but it seems to me that when we quibble over the offensiveness of jokes from decades past it only serves as a justification to limit our speech in the present. I’m not sure why Men’s Health decided to even bring up the old phrase, but one thing is for sure: Arnold Schwarzenegger has become one of the “girlie men” he used to mock.
Matt Margolis is the author of The Scandalous Presidency of Barack Obama and the bestselling The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. His new book, Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama’s Legacy, will be published in 2019. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis