Manhood in the age of Trump

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at:, or follow me on Twitter.


For some decades now, since I was a child, I’ve heard people talking about how our understanding of gender would need to change, and how men would need to reinterpret what it needs to be a man. But apparently, open mindedness on this issue is easier for men when they know their wages will be going up for some decades. In the USA, men were tolerant of the surge of women into the workforce during the 1930s and 1940s. In 1937 Dave Packard and Bill Hewlett were comfortable staying at home and tinkering in a garage while their wives supported them by working (Hewlett Packard was launched via “wife finance”). Since 1973, male wages have been in decline. In reaction to this, very large numbers of men have hung to to stricter and more cliched ideas about what it means to be a man.

But the following week, Time’s cover teased an interview with our president, Donald Trump, whose take on gender is decidedly old-fashioned and fixed. He casts himself — surprise! — as a force of nature with untamable appetites. And that persona won him tens of millions of votes, lofting him to the White House, so it can’t have contradicted Americans’ notions of manhood all that much.

A real man lusts. A real man rages. A real man doesn’t chip in with domestic duties. That’s not just Trump’s view — he once boasted that he’d never change a diaper — but also, apparently, the message that many young men in America today still get, according to an intriguing study released a few days ago.

Promundo, a nonprofit organization that promotes gender equity, surveyed roughly 1,300 American men between 18 and 30. Seventy-five percent said that they’re supposed to act strong even when scared or nervous; 63 percent said that they’re exhorted to seize sex whenever available; 46 percent said that they’re waved away from household chores.

Promundo also surveyed British and Mexican men, and neither group described a gender construct as musky, musty and unyielding as the one that Americans detailed. The research suggested that plenty of American men live in what some sociologists call the Man Box, constricted by a concept of manhood that includes aggression, hypersexuality, supreme authority and utter self-sufficiency.

I can’t say that I’m surprised, not when I look at the biggest male movie stars and see such an emphasis on brawn over brain. Dwayne Johnson — a.k.a. the Rock — can open a movie; Daniel Day-Lewis cannot. Tom Cruise’s box-office status owes more to physical pyrotechnics in the “Mission Impossible” franchise than to courtroom fireworks in “A Few Good Men,” just as Hugh Jackman’s currency comes from his bladed fingers in “The Wolverine” and now “Logan,” not from his dulcet voice in “Les Miserables.” Will Smith’s verbal dexterity in “Six Degrees of Separation” may have won him critical regard, but his coolness in “Bad Boys” and “Men in Black” made him box-office gold.

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