In her last essay on the new politics of masculinity and migration, Pierrette Hondagneu-Sotelo, sociology professor at the University of Southern California (USC), wrote that the current presidential election in the US has an extraordinary dynamic, as one of the most important discursive categories is (traditional) masculinity, supported by misogyny and xenophobia, which at certain point dominated Trump’s campaign (Hondagneu-Sotelo 2016). As a critical men and masculinities scholar, I couldn’t agree more, since everything that I’ve read, seen and heard from and about the (American) male electorate in the last few months has led me to the conclusion that Trump’s masculinity is a crucial factor influencing the election results.
I’m aware of the fact that some of you might think that my specialization is impacting my judgment too much, and that masculinity, although it is never meaningless, cannot necessarily explain every single election result. I agree with that and consequently, both in the case of the last Polish parliamentary election and the Brexit referendum, I focused on underscoring the importance of the issue of class. I claimed that this particular social category was the most crucial, and it was the winners’ ability to fulfill the need for recognition articulated by certain social groups that tipped the scale and allowed them to win. In the case of the American election, however, as much as class counts as well, the most important factor remains masculinity and its framing, not only among Trump’s supporters, but also his secret admirers and his opponents. Thus, let me introduce you to my typology of the (American) male electorate with regard to Trump and (his) masculinity:
First we have TRUMPISTS, who are Trump’s open supporters. According to the media, they are mostly men who, obviously, share not only his wider political views but, most of all, his ideals regarding masculinity, femininity, power relations and gender order. In their eyes, Trump represents the endangered “real” man who is not afraid of anyone and confidently does what a “real” man is supposed to (and wants) to do. For them (and Clint Eastwood), he is the antithesis of the “pussy generation,” and its ultimate proof was #pussygate itself, which in my opinion has only strengthened their support, as this exposure of Trump’s behavior has ultimately proven that he is fulfilling all four standards of American masculinity, as described by Deborah David and David Brannon (1976). According to their Blueprint for Manhood model, the man cannot do “sissy stuff,” must distance himself from femininity (e.g. by offending them constantly), should be “a big wheel” and strive for success at any price (e.g. by evading taxes), must act like “a sturdy oak” and be tough and independent (e.g. by saying whatever he wants with no regard for political correctness and by minimal use of manners) and, last but not least, should “give em hell,” which means that he should act aggressively and dominate others (in basically everything he does). In 1976, David and Brannon “suggested that no particular man would be likely to achieve all these four themes” (Kahn 2009). Forty years later, Donald Trump nailed it, and his supporters love it.
However, not only open supporters seem to appreciate Trump’s masculine performances. The second type in this framework are ALTERTRUMPISTS, aka his secret admirers. Among them, two sub-categories can be found. The first one, let’s call it hard-core, consists of men who do not share Trump’s political views, are able to point out his racism and lack of competencies with regard to being in charge of U.S. politics, but support his views regarding gender order. In their world, the idea that a woman may lead one of the most powerful countries in the world is simply outrageous. Therefore, they support Trump and try to argue that Hillary Clinton is a bigger threat than Trump. One example of an altertrumpist can be seen in Slavoj Zizek, (erstwhile) guru of the European left-wing milieus, who recently said that Clinton is by far more dangerous than Trump, and if he could, he would vote for Trump. Luckily, he can’t.
Unfortunately, the other sub-category of altertrumpists can, but the problem is that… they won’t. The soft-core altertrumpists neither support Trump nor plan to vote for Clinton. They simply refuse to support her and argue that she is an equally bad choice, as she represents all the sins of the Democratic Party: she is corrupt, supports global corporations and does not care about society. Surprisingly, the same people did not have a problem with supporting any other male democratic candidate as, apparently, the evil is a female trait (Bible, The Book of Genesis). And in my humble opinion, these people, not the open nor secret Trump’s supporters will make his victory happen eventually.
Last but not least, we still have the ANTITRUMPISTS. Similar to the previous type, they can also be divided into two groups. The first one consists of men who, in Connell’s terms (Connell 1995, Connell and Messerschmidt 2005) represent marginalized/subordinated masculinity. Among them one can find men of non-white ethnic backgrounds, non-heterosexual men (except a disturbing and yet, fascinating LGBT for TRUMP group) and any other men who cannot or refuse to fulfill hegemonic or complicit masculinities standards, and do not experience that much of an advantage from the patriarchal dividend (Connell 1998). The ultimate subcategory consists of men who simply support Hillary Clinton and believe that regardless of the shortcomings of her candidacy, campaign and political past, but NOT gender, she will be, by far, a much better president than Donald Trump.
Good night, and Good luck!