The definition of masculinity once included three traits of kindness, humility, and sense of responsibility, which Obama mentioned last year when he canvassed votes for his former running partner, Joe Biden. Although he did not specify, everyone knew who the former president was talking about. “In the past, it was men who had to take care of others, not bragging about it everywhere,” Obama said.
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So, what should men be like in 2020? Just two days after Obama made his remarks, facing two extreme presidential candidates, the Americans made their choice.
At one extreme is Trump. He boasted that he was outstanding in “sex” and the size of the nuclear button on his hand was amazing. He claimed that the new crown epidemic was under his control, and laughed at the ridiculously large masks worn by his opponents, saying that wearing masks is an act of weakness.
Trump once said that the man who changed the diaper “appears to be a wife.” He ignored the opposition of the Village People group and played the “Man” sung by others at his campaign rally. Kelly Dietmar, a scholar at the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, said: “He tried to make himself look like the most masculine person. In his opinion, such a talent is the most qualified for president. ”
At the other extreme, or only in the middle, is Biden. As the philosopher Kate Manner said, Biden has a “father-like” image. He vowed to combine strength, empathy and compassion to become the guardian of the United States in dark times.
The running partner Biden chose was a woman who broke through many barriers-Kamala Harris. He also summoned the powerful women from all walks of life to his side. Marianna Cooper, a sociologist who studies gender and work at Stanford University, said: “Biden shows a more paternalistic masculinity, which means that you can be strong while retaining empathy and compassion. ”
Trump, who was infected with the new crown pneumonia, took off his mask stubbornly after he was discharged from the hospital.
Previously, Obama had to deal with the complicated public demands for African-American masculinity. To this end, he has established the image of “cool dad”-full of confidence, but he does not reject showing love.
Biden is like a more sensitive grandfather of the new era. He will talk about his family’s affairs in a gentle way, and especially like to show in front of the camera that he is always on the phone from his grandchildren. He is not afraid to express feelings. However, he also drives a sports car in campaign ads, or competes with certain voters (and rivals) with push-ups.
“Biden seems to be the kind of person who will not provoke a fight, but will fight back when faced with provocation,” said Rob Weiler of Stanford University. This sociologist has been studying how factors that threaten masculinity affect male behavior.
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Supporters combined Trump with the image of the strong man in the classic movie.
Remember four years ago? The Democrats originally planned to drop 200 pounds of confetti shaped like shards of glass to celebrate the election of a woman for the first time. This move means smashing the “highest and hardest” glass ceiling for women. Perhaps many people still remember that in 2019, the Democratic Party was still the most diverse and feminine camp in history.
Last year, the global epidemic caused a large number of women to lose their jobs. Polls had predicted that the 2020 general election would show the biggest gender gap in electoral history. But the results show that the presidential election has become a vote on who is more man.
“In the end, we found that masculinity is still important. Candidates still rely on showing masculinity to prove that they are the best candidate.” Cooper said, “So even in 2020, the Democrats still choose the safest bet. ——Send a white man in his 70s against another white man in his 70s.”
Since the founding of the United States, almost every presidential election has been inseparable from white masculinity. “Trump’s performance is just an exaggeration of existing phenomena, and he is not the first to do so.” said author Jackson Katz, who specifically discussed the emphasis on presidential masculinity in American politics in his book. The phenomenon.
From Richard Nixon to Ronald Reagan to Trump today, these three presidential candidates are tall, heterosexual white men who believe in Christianity. They do everything possible to show their masculinity: wearing hard hats and posing in military tanks, arguing over who is the better drinker, suggesting that competitors are weak and “drowsy.”
As a former Hollywood movie star, Reagan spent his thoughts on dressing up (cowboy hat, blue jeans), and Bush Jr., who graduated from Yale University and Harvard University, bought the state of Texas shortly before he announced his candidacy. A large farm (and a bunch of large belt buckles).
David Collinson, professor of leadership and organization at Lancaster University, believes that the Republican Party has always known that “strong men” have great appeal to working-class white voters.
Biden tried to show the “father-like” masculinity.
In 1980, Reagan and Bush Sr. dressed as cowboys (left) greeted supporters.
In 1987, Bush Sr., who mentioned that he wanted to “become a friendlier country,” appeared on the cover of Newsweek, but the title used the word “cowardly” to describe him. As a result, Bush’s advisers immediately adjusted the campaign strategy. “In the summer of 1988, Michael Dukakis led Bush by 17 percentage points.” Katz said, “What did the Bush team do next? They relentlessly criticized Dukakis for his masculinity, saying He is the protector of failure,’weak and incompetent, not’ a real man.”
Ten years later, Bush Jr. also adopted a similar strategy against John Kerry. He laughed at Kerry’s French speaking and said that although Kerry tried to establish the image of a “war president”, he was essentially a nobleman who was divorced from reality.
In 1987, “Newsweek” used the term “cowardly” to describe Bush Sr.
“This happens often,” said Tristan Bridges, associate professor of sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “A man first describes himself as the backbone of society, a friend who can hang out with you, and then talks about opponents. Contrary to yourself, this can greatly weaken the opponent’s masculinity. I think it is of great significance to show masculinity, because it can overshadow everything else.”
In 1988, Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis took a photo on a tank.
He also gave a thought-provoking example. In 1840, William Henry Harrison, who had just been elected as president, lashed out at the then President Martin Van Buren. He called Martin the unisex “Marty”, saying that the other party was weak and greedy.
Although Harrison achieved an overwhelming victory, the situation turned around later. On a cold winter day, Harrison delivered the longest inauguration speech ever in Washington, and refused to wear a jacket at all times. Three weeks later, Harrison had pneumonia. He passed away just after a month in office.
In Bridges’ view, speaking to voters without wearing a jacket or rolling up their sleeves is a small-scale contest of dignity among candidates. However, a small contest can also bring serious consequences.
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Dietmar has studied stereotypes in political strategy. She explained that the first concern of political strategy is the voters’ expectations of candidates. They will check the poll data, and they will inevitably hear words like “tough”, “strong”, or topics like “national security”. There is no gender distinction in such words, but people have always associated them with men in history, and they are often associated with specific types of men.
In 2002, George W. Bush was cleaning up his large farm.
As a result, not only men, but women also have to show masculine qualities, even if it is more difficult for them. And once women show traits related to male leadership—such as toughness—people think they are too aggressive, but they can’t be too “weak” to avoid lack of leadership. It seems that female candidates are in a dilemma.
Dietmar also specifically mentioned Mark Payne, a former adviser to Hillary Clinton. In 2006, the latter wrote in a memo to Hillary Clinton: Although voters are not ready to accept the president as the “first mother”, they may be open to “women as the first father.”
Cooper believes that part of the reason why the role of gender in politics is so complicated is that women are still trying to squeeze into the frame of men, and men must constantly prove that they are “men enough.”
Social scientists call this phenomenon “unstable masculinity”, that is, people believe that masculinity must be proved in a lifetime, while femininity is fixed. As a result, girls receive the message that they “become” women after experiencing certain physiological events such as menstruation. Men, on the other hand, have been listening to others admonishing themselves to “be a man” or “show like a man” all their lives, as if masculinity easily disappeared.
Cooper said: “Whether you are a man or show a man, you don’t use that tone to say, “Be a woman.” She also pointed out that it is precisely this life-long need to prove oneself. Will have a profound impact.
Trump has the support of many female voters.
Rob Weiler found through research that once men’s masculinity is questioned, they tend to increase support for masculine things and make over-compensatory behaviors, such as supporting war or wanting to buy an SUV.
In 2016, Daniel Cassino, a political scientist at Fairleigh Dickinson University, found that just mentioning women’s breadwinners was enough to make many men give up supporting Hillary Clinton and instead support Trump.
In 2018, a survey conducted by Cooper and four colleagues showed that proving masculinity in the workplace can encourage unreasonable or unnecessary risk-taking behaviors, such as bragging, opportunism, bullying, and even sexual harassment. This type of behavior is most likely to occur in a male-dominated environment. In that kind of “victor is king” environment, the winner often shows toughness or coldness.
In Cooper’s view, the core of today’s US presidential election is this kind of trait. “Trump symbolizes a culture of masculinity,” said Cooper. “This kind of culture is bad for the organization and bad for the country.”
Since the 1980s, the proportion of female voters in the United States has been higher than that of male voters. Perhaps women are the target audience for the tough fights. Whether it is exaggerated or standardized, the pursuit of masculinity may disappoint many people. However, this does not mean that there is no hope: Americans, at least American women, may finally see the limits of masculinity.