Trump, Gender Rebels, and Masculinities

01 Jan 2019

Since the inauguration of President Trump, most of his Administration’s actions have been sharply conservative: notably, his efforts to ban transgender Americans from military service. There have been exceptions, however, such as proposals to create support for paid parental leave, an issue previously championed by Democrats.

This seeming contradiction of progressive and regressive policies can be reconciled by viewing the Trump Administration through the lens of masculinities theory. Hegemonic masculinity depends upon sharp differentiation between “real” men and everyone else, the latter occupying places in a hierarchy far below men. In this reading, Trump’s version of parental support makes sense: it focuses support solely on women, who in the view of hegemonic masculinity are the only proper caregivers for children. Similarly, masculinities analysis helps to explain targeting transgender Americans, as this group directly challenges a central tenet of hegemonic masculinity — that gender is binary and immutable.

Masculinities thus explains arguably contradictory policies and reveals that both policies reflect the Trump Administration’s hostility to principles of diversity and antidiscrimination. The Administration is not against antidiscrimination in all forms — only those that challenge the hegemonic ideals of masculinities.