Perhaps the mistake Harris and Nichols are making is positioning their analysis “in the 20th-century tradition.” Gender norms have shifted and broadened since then. Traits of stoicism and self-reliance are not only the purview of men, and, moreover, we’re having overdue discussions about whether they should be the purview of anyone. Maybe cooperation is better than strict self-reliance. Maybeemotions are healthy. Maybe this is true regardless of gender.
The 21st century has sought new expectations for men and new responsibilities: to listen, to yield, to accommodate, to check their hormonal impulses and be held accountable. Looked at one way, this is necessary and dignified. This is adulthood.
Looked at by others, it’s emasculating: When I have talked with Trump-supporting men — specifically the ones who call him “a real man” or “strong” — they’re not referring to any illusions that he is taciturn or chivalrous. Rather, the source of his masculinity is that he fights these 21st-century expectations with every bone in his body. He “tells it like it is,” and he “doesn’t take crap from [“liberals,” “social justice warriors,” “feminazis,” “cucks,” “the mainstream media”].
His complaining, his insults, his pouting, his neediness,his histrionics, his jagged, self-centered emotionalism — none of it is beside the point. It’s what makes him a real man.
Plenty of folks still view masculinity in the traditional, strong and silent way. Plenty view it in a new, expanded way — masculinity includes nurturing, tenderness, etc. But I can’t help but wonder whether there’s a branch of Trump supporters for whom the new primary characteristic of masculinity is resentment.
Take evangelical voters, for example. “Their whole idea of militant masculinity was formed in reaction against feminism and more recently against so-called political correctness,” historian Kristin Kobes Du Mez said in a Vox interview recently, discussing her new book about why evangelical Christians tend to support Trump. “That has been just such a powerful enemy for white evangelicals who feel oppressed by these new standards of behavior. And I think Trump really succeeds by not following any of those rules of civil discourse.”Kristin Kobes Du Mez, Vox
They hear a chorus of voices telling them, Grow up. They hear Trump — short-circuited and stuck in his own wounded adolescence — saying, Oh yeah? Make me. Then they buy a T-shirt.
Monica Hesse. “The Weird Masculinity of Donald Trump.” The Washington Post. July 16, 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/the-weird-masculinity-of-donald-trump/2020/07/15/0dfe3854-c43e-11ea-b037-f9711f89ee46_story.html