Good morning, Broadsheet readers! A MacArthur Genius will use his grant to support his spouse’s work, the new political statement is a hot pink suit, and we examine the rise of toxic masculinity politics. Have a restful weekend.
– Toxic masculinity. As we enter the final stretch of the U.S. presidential campaign, I recommend this new NPR piece by Danielle Kurtzleben, which investigates the role masculinity is now playing in American politics, and the way in which our current President has, as she puts it, “weaponized” these retrograde ideas of maleness and machismo.
It’s no secret that President Trump has built his public persona around hyper-masculine tropes, always presenting himself as the strongest, most aggressive man in the room—unconcerned about stereotypically feminine ideas like caregiving or empathy. For anyone who needs examples of these behaviors, the NPR story is chockablock with them, from Trump’s refusal to wear a mask to his love of belittling nicknames. (Kurtzleben also observes that Joe Biden sometimes leans into the same brand of exaggerated masculinity, as when he’s talked about wanting to “beat the hell out of” Trump.)
While it’s worth noting the ways this stance has affected Trump’s ability to connect with working women (NPR cites his recent trip to Michigan, where he told a crowd: “We’re getting your husbands back to work”), the part of the story that really jumped out at me is how the rise of machismo is being embraced by some of the women in and around the Republican party. Kurtzleben points to a few examples, including conservative commentator Tomi Lahren’s joke that Biden “might as well carry a purse” and GOP House candidates Tiffany Shedd and Lauren Boebert, both of whom have used photos of themselves with guns in their campaign materials.
I can’t help but contrast that behavior with what we saw from a few of the Democratic women running in 2018—remember the ads where female candidates nursed their children or even got an ultrasound on camera?
Gender issues should be an important part of American politics. But wouldn’t it make more sense for that to mean a debate over the policies that affect women—rather than a competition for who, male or female, can be the manliest man?
Today’s Broadsheet was curated by Emma Hinchliffe.