Masculine vs. Feminine coding
After thinking a bit longer, I agree that there's an even deeper problem with McEwan's framing. I don't mean to be overly critical of her -- her core thesis about how squishy stereotypes are used by the partiarchy to feminize==demean certain activities/groups is just about right. And I think I agree with her that in some sense patriarchy is prior to class difference generally. But she doesn't seem to see how Power can redefine activities and groups as masculine/feminine, thereby modulating their social status, depending on whether they serve or oppose the interests of Power.
E.g.: if the Pentagon were to determine that US military supremacy could only be assured by deploying legions of pregnant women dressed in pink leotards quoting Andrea Dworkin and blowing soap bubbles, 1) the Pentagon would deploy such forces, and 2) our culture would immediately redefine pregnant women in pink leotards quoting Andrea Dworkin and blowing soap bubbles as supremely masculine and kick-ass.
For a concrete demonstration of how this works, watch the movies "300" and "Top Gun" and tell me how, since "gay codes as feminine" according to McEwan, a bunch of oiled-up naked gay dudes slapping each other's asses came to be regarded as the ultimate symbol of American masculinity. Or for that matter, if "fat" and "gay" and "weepy" and "nurturing" all code as feminine, how an organization like "The Family" full of obese Christian men all weeping on each other's shoulders and expressing their deep love for Jesus becomes the nerve center of the politics of misogyny in America.
Obviously, I'm indulging in the same deliberate feminization-as-aggression that McEwan calls out. But the fact that it is even possible to do this deliberately should clue her in to the idea that it can be done deliberately, and selectively, by those who control the media discourse regardless of any inherent "masculine" or "feminine" traits of the target. This completely inverts the process McEwan complains about. It's not that Group A is demeaned because they are feminine; they are demeaned because they are a threat to power, and power demeans them by deliberately classifying them as feminine.