At the Institute for the Prevention and Treatment of Mascupathy, we work to expose toxic and other wayward masculinities, increase understanding, and help men find a new and healthier masculinity. The ongoing presidential campaign provides an excellent example of what mascupathy – a disease of masculinity – can look like. Donald Trump’s uniquely outlandish and often disturbing words and behavior spotlight the dark side of masculinity. Take, for example, his outspoken misogyny. Misogyny is born out of socializing males to denounce, disrespect, and marginalize their own humanity – vulnerability, need for relationships, emotionality, etc. This then crystallizes into the mocking and hating of all signs of humanity or other masculinities i.e., varying penis size and hands, social anxiety, and introversion (perceived weaknesses), and the projecting of this hatred and disrespect onto women (perceived as weak).
Examining Toxic Masculinity
The good news is, there’s increasing media coverage about Trump’s behavior. The bad news is that so many people, especially Caucasian men, find his behavior attractive and even compelling. Trump’s heavy-handed and bellicose expressions of manhood appeal to the unconscious and base instincts of many men, especially those angry that they don’t have their slice of the American pie. Over the course of this campaign, as the following examples show, there’s been an attempt to illuminate and explain not only Trump’s wayward manliness, but also its appeal.
J.J. Goldberg in Forward, an on-line magazine, writes that “Ever since Trump floated down the Trump Tower escalator to enter the race last June, he’s conducted an essentially policy-free campaign. His central theme has been his own superiority as the alpha male on the stage — smarter, tougher, more successful than all the other losers and weaklings in the arena. His single selling point is the power of his will, his ability to bend others to do his bidding.”
In a blurb about his new book, Man Enough? Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and the Politics of Presidential Masculinity, Jackson Katz asserts that Trump’s appeal is rooted in right-wing populism and know-nothing racism, while also based on the bravado of his performance trumpeting “can-do” white masculinity. Like Ronald Reagan, Trump understands implicitly that the desire for a strong, virile man in the White House runs deep in the American DNA. His supporters have confirmed this every time they’ve opened their mouths: He tells it like it is; He’s his own man; He’s not politically-correct; He’s got balls. In other words, it’s time to return a real man to the White House.
Franklin Foer writes in Slate magazine that there’s one position Trump has never changed. “(But) there’s one ideology that he [Trump] does hold with sincerity and practices with unwavering fervor: misogyny.” Foer continues: “Each demonstration of his caveman views—about Megyn Kelly’s menstruation, about Carly Fiorina’s face, about the size of his member—produces a show of mock-horror …. It fits a familiar pattern. Trump rose to fame on the basis of our prurient interest in his caddishness and amusement at his vulgar provocations.”
Stephen Marche, a novelist and a culture columnist at Esquire magazine, writes in the Los Angeles Times that “Trump is a walking symbol of ‘overdoing gender.’ He is threatened masculinity personified — a balding man who owns the most radical comb-over in history, a man who told one magazine profiler that the only company he enjoyed was ‘a total piece of ass,’ a draft-dodger who openly considers the possibility of using nuclear weapons in the Middle East and killing the families of terrorists.”
And, in Esquire, Marche writes, “Before Trump talked about the size of his dick, Trump called Ted Cruz a pussy, he attacked Megyn Kelly for having the audacity to menstruate, and he claimed that Carly Fiorina was too ugly to be President. It wasn’t just Trump either. There was Cruz saying that Hillary Clinton needed to be ‘spanked.’ There was Jeb (!) tweeting a picture of a .45 engraved with his name under the title ‘America.’ And even outside of the rodeo of self-destruction that is the Republican party, there were the Berniebros, who found no contradiction between their progressive politics and contempt for women as women. [This election] year has been defined by the hollowness of men. Toxic masculinity is overwhelming the election, and, along with it, our national discourse.”
Healing Wounded and Angry Men
While it gives us hope that Trump’s candidacy has increased the discourse and focus on wayward masculinity, we continue to be disappointed that, as Marche points out, American men, in selecting Trump, in supporting Trump, expose just how deep toxic masculinity runs in our nation.
It’s apparent to us that many men are wounded and embittered; they struggle with what Mike Kimmel, in his telling book, Angry White Men so aptly calls “aggrieved entitlement.”
As I stated above, our goal at IPTM is to increase understanding, and help men find a new and healthier masculinity. No matter the results of this election, we will continue to work toward a day when masculinity has been revisioned and the definition of “manhood” reinvented.