Why Republicans Can’t Stop Talking About Manhood

Katie Fawcett: When I heard these comments from Hawley and Vance recently, given your background and what you study, what did you hear?

Kristen Kobes de Miz: I’ll start with Hawley. Within conservative evangelical spaces, first and foremost, there is the idea that masculinity is something God-given. When Hawley talks about an attack on men and says that the left attacks manhood and that they hate this country and don’t believe in sex… it all sounds very familiar. In white evangelization, this has been a requirement for decades now. In evangelical spaces, Christian masculinity, particularly in conservative circles, has long been equated with a kind of rugged, combative adjective.

Since the 1960s, conservative evangelicals have promoted a more austere model of masculinity, one that presents and protects at the same time. And they argued that God created man to fulfill these roles: He filled men with testosterone to give them strength, and this testosterone makes them aggressive and they need to direct that aggression forever. This is their duty assigned to them by God as men. And so when I heard Hawley talk about courage, independence, and assertiveness, it was very similar to how masculinity is discussed in evangelical settings. Although often in place of assertiveness, they take the place of aggressiveness.

This is a kind of retro masculinity that emerged in the 1960s and 1970s in conservative evangelical spaces and, more broadly, in American conservatism. The context here is important. Coming out of the post-war era, there was the baby boom, and traditional family values ​​were the rage, at least among the white middle class. Then you have this disruptive ’60s moment. You have the Civil Rights Movement, which is particularly upsetting the status quo in the American South. And you have the early feminist wave and the second wave feminism in the ’60s – the full peak of the ’70s – and most importantly, the Vietnam War and the anti-war movement.

All of these things are seen as destabilizing the social order, and conservatives are especially concerned. And in all three of these cases, it is the assertion of white authority or patriarchy that can restore order. They believed that feminism was threatening to castrate American men, making the nation weak and unable to defend itself against communism. The anti-war movement – all these hippies, long-haired men, “make love not war” – was leaving the nation in peril. The civil rights movement, too, was seen as a threat. In the American South, especially for white families, the incorporation of schools was seen as a threat to white children.

Against this background, this kind of restoration of ruthless American masculinity not only becomes popular, but becomes politicized in a highly partisan way.

Fawcett: Why is this happening now? Is this language about masculinity becoming more useful in political messages?

From Miz: I think it has become more useful in the wake of the Trump years. Because, of course, it was there before. There is a lot of history, especially for Republicans, who unfavorably compare Democratic men and masculinity against a stronger, more rugged American manhood. It kind of re-emerged during the Obama presidency. It was very common for Republicans to challenge his masculinity and question his masculinity and strength. Both men and women did so; Sarah Palin followed him in this regard. It’s definitely nothing entirely new.

But I think Trump definitely emphasized that, because when you look back at the 2016 Republican primary season, Trump came on stage and no one really knew what to do with him, but he was able to tap into the idea of ​​strong masculinity, this warrior masculinity, more effectively than None of the other candidates. Most Democrats thought it was funny.

but He was reckless. He was uncivilized. It was rude. It wasn’t for political correctness. He was a bully on a debate platform against other Republicans. And I worked with him. It made him look strong, and it made his opponents look weak. And so I saw them trying to gain the upper hand and trying to play that game, but none of them could play it as well as they could because it was completely unrestricted. And I think because of the success of that, this seems to me to be a playbook, certainly for anyone who wants to take on the Trump mantle.

And then you have J.D. Vance’s comments about the Kyle Rittenhouse trial. I think one thing that’s important to note is that this rude masculinity and this conservative view of American masculinity have, historically, been closely associated with Christian nationalism. “We need a strong man who can rise up and defend America” and from the perspective of Christian nationalism, “defend Christian America.”

When I read Hawley’s book Speech From the conservative National Convention in Orlando, on the one hand, he’s praising this group of african american men who boarded and commanded a Louisiana high school after reports of a fight on campus. On the other hand, he also links the left’s attack on masculinity with their ideas about systemic racism and structural oppression. All of these ideas see us as a threat to America and a threat, as he calls it, to our common culture, which would really resonate, especially with his conservative white base. When we look at Vance, he uses coded language to talk about “outlaw thugs”.

Fawcett: I saw Madison Cawthorne A letter from a recent event Making the rounds on social media a few weeks ago seems to fit this pattern.

From Miz: Yes really. In that speech, he called on mothers to raise their young men to be monsters. It is very similar to Hawley’s letter. He was arguing that the culture was trying to “eliminate the intelligence” of our youth, and it – most likely the left – is doing so because it does not want young people to stand up to it. This resonates with what Hawley said as well; He accused the left of trying to make men tolerant and compliant.

It is really important to put this call for a hard-nosed masculinity into a political context, which is the fight against the left. Hawley and Cawthorn participated in the “Stop the Steal” and Cawthorn invitations He actually gave one of the addresses On January 6, just before the Capitol uprising. He also recorded how bloodshed will be inevitable if our elections continue to be rigged. So it’s a call to action for young people to have the “backbone,” he said in that speech, to stand up and respond to resistance to defend our freedom at any cost. He goes on to say, “There is nothing I fear more than taking up arms against an American citizen.” But he says that basically, that’s where things are headed.

he was there Public Debt Research Institute American Values ​​Survey which were released recently. In this poll, we see that 60 percent of white evangelicals believe that elections were stolen. Of those, 39% believe that violence may be necessary to save the country. That’s what we’re talking about here.

What’s also relevant here is that both Cawthorne and Hawley seem to draw on the work of Jordan Peterson, a Canadian psychologist and YouTube personality. I think Cawthorne’s “The Beast” quote is based on Peterson in particular. Peterson sends the same message to young people that they need to be responsible; They must be firm; They must be aggressive. As is Puts This is, “If you are harmless, you are not virtuous.” And men must be monsters. This is his word. The hero must be a monster. He needs to be a controlled monster. But you have to have that risk – that capacity for danger – and then you learn how to control it. Otherwise, it will be too weak to stand in the face of the oppressors.

So it seems that both Hawley and Cawthorn were influenced by Peterson’s message, or at least resonate with them. Peterson is very popular with conservative white men, disaffected young men, and thus there is a lot of overlap between conservative white evangelical men and fans of Jordan Peterson. Hawley and Cawthorn seem to be taking advantage of both of these flows and stitching them together as a political call to action.

Fawcett: And comment by Vance [about Rittenhouse] Links to this as well.

From Miz: Yes. He says: This is a white young man who intervened when others failed, and when the government failed, it acted using violence to assert order. This fits perfectly with this call to action to defend our freedom at all costs. And as Cawthorne said, it might take bloodshed.

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