The confined masculinity of politics

Social etiquette says you shouldn’t talk about politics or religion. I’ve never been that great with social etiquette…

I’ve followed the US Presidential election much more closely than I usually would. The main reason for this is that Donald Trump is the dictionary definition of confined masculinity, an exemplar of how not to be a male leader. I followed the election with the desperate hope that compassion, empathy and grace might once again walk the halls of the White House. Perhaps not to the same extrovert extent but UK politicians are not much better…

Chapter 1 of, Reinventing Masculinity explores what confined masculinity is. It struck me while reading this chapter that Trump wants to be the hero, the saviour, the brave Odysseus figure on adventures and conquests. His slogan in 2016 ‘Make America Great Again’ seemed to ignore the fact that

at the time of the American founding fathers , the culture encouraged intimate friendships between men – two male friends strolling arm in arm , sharing dreams and anxieties, would likely have raised no eyebrows.

Reinventing Masculinity p25

I’m sure his followers might say otherwise but from my perspective, Trump is a man so completely self-absorbed and excessively preoccupied with his own needs that his leadership is entirely based on fear.

The authors of Reinventing Masculinity go on to explore the three roles for men identified within confined masculinity, protector, provider and conqueror. It’s not difficult to see these roles being played out in the Trump administration. This ‘tightly defined approach to manhood’ leads to a reliance on ‘competition, aggressiveness, and arrogant confidence’ which is exactly how I’d describe Trump.

Those stuck in confined masculinity (and it’s worth noting that women sign up to this way of being too), exhibit no vulnerability. I am meeting a growing number of, I’d even go so far as to say there is a growing movement of, people who are willing to talk about their vulnerabilities, particularly mental health which is very encouraging. We need to be able to explore the world with ‘curiosity, compassion, and cooperation’.

Trump is a showcase of how confined masculinity leads men to seek financial fortune, social status, and sexual potency. Confined masculinity sidelines one’s inner life as that might show vulnerability so the ‘landscape of spirit and emotions’ are ignored or hidden.

(Photo by VIEWpress/Corbis via Getty Images)

It’s here that I’d like to comment on religion…

There are millions of Americans who would call themselves religious who voted for Trump. I have never understood this but it makes total sense if they too are held in the prison of confined masculinity. TV evangelists with private jets and huge mansions are another example of confined masculinity (even if they’re female). I’ve also never understood why these people manage to coerce so much cash from the average Joe but it makes sense if the worldview of the average Joe is that of confined masculinity.

Confined masculinity calls for self-sufficiency and independence, the antithesis of what I think faith calls us to be – cooperative, reliant on each other, sharing and hospitable. I can see over the years that I personally have become very self-absorbed. As I’ve explored a life change towards being dad and freelancing as a secondary focus (and with the help of a bunch of counselling) I have begun to be more present as a husband and father. As I read Reinventing Masculinity, it is really chiming true in my own experience and helping me to peel back the layers of confined masculinity in my own life.

Closing the 1st chapter are some things to ponder which I copy here by way of continuing the conversation.

Curiosity: What rules of confined masculinity have you assumed are valid? Can you pinpoint an event or encounter when this version of manhood influenced you?

Courage: Can you acknowledge the ways confined masculinity harms you and others?

Compassion: Can you forgive yourself for actions you took while under the influence of a confined masculinity? Can you better understand a man in your life who hurt you while operating from confined masculinity?

Connection: Is there someone in your life who has reached out to you, but whom you shunned out of anger or fear, or because of some other reason? Can you reach out to them now?

Commitment: Can you pledge to move away from the attitudes and actions of confined masculinity? Can you commit or challenge men who hurt others?

affiliate marketing disclaimer – I will receive funds from Waterstones if you choose to purchase a product from them after clicking on a link within this blog post. I will never suggest a product that I have not read / used myself.

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