Is Donald Trump Really a Male Icon? I Hope to God Not.

Is Donald Trump Really a Male Icon? I Hope to God Not.

Is Donald Trump Really a Male Icon? I Hope to God Not.

I hate gender stereotyping. But I’m a boomer, and the fake-tanned, fake-haired coward is the opposite of a manly man from our generation.

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A long, long time ago, when Donald Trump first got “elected,” my editors at The Nation asked me to write about what it meant that Trump succeeded Barack Obama as president.

I was furious about Trump’s election, so my first draft was extremely malicious and superficial. The lede focused on the Orange Man vs. the Black Man, and it made an argument about how, in fact, Trump looked less like a “man” than a Sunbelt trophy wife from Ronald Reagan’s era: He was eternally fake-tanned; he wore his hair in a fake-bouffant; he faked his physical appearance when he couldn’t actually alter it; and he was as superficial as can be. The rest of the article was pretty much what we ran. I felt proud of myself that I edited the petty opening on my own.

I think about that petty opening often.

It was mean and shallow, but was it right?

I thought about it again when I read a recent New York Times article about Trump’s visit to an Ultimate Fighting Championship match in Newark, right on the heels of his conviction on 34 felony counts. The article, headlined “After Verdict, Trump Revels in Embrace of His Most Avid Base: Male Fans,” said that visit showcased his “hypermasculine appeal.”

If you’ve ever needed proof of the crisis of masculinity, or the crisis of the Times, this article is it.

According to writer Shawn McCreesh, this celebration of “hypermasculinity” was attended by Trump’s “son and daughter-in-law, Eric and Lara; his son-in-law Michael Boulos, who is married to Tiffany Trump; a small group of donors; his spokesman, Steven Cheung, who previously worked for the U.F.C.; and, as ever, Mr. Trump’s valet, Walt Nauta, who has pleaded not guilty to federal charges of conspiring with Mr. Trump to obstruct the government’s attempt to retrieve classified documents.”

What a murderers’ row of talent and intellect! And masculinity! Walt Nauta, the valet! While all valets have personal dignity, they do not signify “hypermasculinity” the way McCreesh thinks they do.

McCreesh elaborates on what he saw at Trump’s masculinity fest:

It is a violent spectacle, blood-spattered, brutish and brawny. A fighter from California named Kevin Holland and a fighter from Poland named Michal Oleksiejczuk beat each other to a pulp inches from Mr. Trump’s face. The former president watched with interest as the American got the Pole onto the ground, secured his right arm and appeared to yank it out of its socket. (Mr. [Dana] White [chief executive of the UFC] described it as an “absolutely beautiful” moment in his post-match commentary: “The arm clearly, at the very least, dislocated and possibly snapped,” he said.)

All this suggests on Trump’s part is sadism and buffoonery. And also: WTF, NYT? This is the worst of tabloid titillation.

“It takes a lot of balls for someone to walk into a big event like this, after all the stuff he’s been through for the last three days,” Dom Loranger, a 17-year-old who said he worked at the Three Monkeys bar in Northeast Philadelphia, told the Times. Loranger can’t vote now, and I pray he still can’t vote in November. But if he’s eligible, I hope he does, because unlike Trump, I favor democracy. Even when it’s employed by sad-sack boys deluded by right-wing ideas of masculinity.

Obviously, decent and sensible people have gotten over the desire to define “masculine.” But for us old-school folks, with traces of old-school gender definitions still in our subconscious minds, we know Trump isn’t it. According to definitions of masculinity from his generation, he’s a failure. He’s never defended a woman, not even his daughter—he let men make creepy comments about her sexuality in a way that no father I know would. And he made some of his own. He cheated on all of his wives, and probably his mistresses too (I know, some assholes think that’s normal, but in the world in which I grew up, it was pathological).

He is a physical coward, with five Vietnam deferments for “bone spurs.” He takes a golf cart when he golfs, his only exercise. He’s lost any muscle tone he ever had. And he looks more like his mother at this point than his father.

All right, all right, that last is beneath me, though above him. But come on: “hypermasculine appeal”?

This is just another piece by the Times that goes way into unearned empathy to explain to us the POV of the most deranged Trump supporters. Who deserve no empathy, unless we were to find them by the side of the road in need of help. And we would help them, like the Good Samaritan—whom Trump would deport.

That understanding and empathy is something the paper almost never shows everyday New York felons. I really don’t get it. The paper—I’m old-school again, I still call it “the paper”—is trying to find its audience, and it’s turning against those of us who used to love it.

To all the men reading this, and all the women raising boys, and everybody else, I just want to remind you: Trump is despicable by any standard. But for people promoting the idea that this is manhood: They’re all the best argument against it. And so is Trump.

Dear reader,

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Onwards,

Katrina vanden Heuvel
Editorial Director and Publisher, The Nation

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