Who is Donald Trump? Now that Trump has taken a commanding lead in the Republican presidential race, this question is being debated across the country. What kind of person is he? Why does he behave as he does?
Whatever Trump may be like at home, in public he deliberately projects the image of a thoroughly masculine character, a man’s man, as the now outdated saying goes. Here are some traits which are typically associated with masculinity: competitive, forceful, aggressive, independent, willing to take risks, assertive, acts as leader. These are all qualities which Trump displays at every opportunity, which he brags about in interviews and in his books, and which he tries to personify.
Rarely has anyone outside of the sports world talked so much about winning. Trump believes every aspect of life is a contest that he must win. In September, he said at a rally on Capitol Hill: “We will have so much winning if I get elected, that you may get bored with the winning.” After he won in Nevada in February: “We weren't expected to win too much and now we're winning, winning, winning the country. And soon the country is going to start winning, winning, winning.” He admits to no losses in his past and he constantly calls others “losers”: Ted Cruz, editor Graydon Carter of Vanity Fair, columnist S.E. Cupp, Republican consultant Cheri Jacobus, Karl Rove (4 times in the past few months), all of ISIS, the New York Daily News, and Politico.
Trump’s aggressiveness takes his political opponents by surprise. Any criticism of him is met with amplified aggression. His Twitter account is filled with nasty remarks about the incompetence and low intelligence of anyone who has noted his past failures or present prevarications. His debate performances display verbal aggression unprecedented for a presidential candidate.
One traditionally masculine trait is bragging about sexual power. Soon after Princess Diana was killed in an auto accident, Trump said on radio that he could have slept with her. In “Trump: The Art of the Deal”, he repeatedly wrote about his many affairs with “beautiful women”. In “Trump: The Art of the Comeback”: “If I told the real stories of my experiences with women, often seemingly very happily married and important women, this book would be a guaranteed best-seller.” In “Trump: How to Get Rich”: “All the women on The Apprentice flirted with me — consciously or unconsciously.”
In response to Marco Rubio’s irrelevant and crude remark about his “small hands”, Trump felt it necessary to assure everyone about his genitalia: “I guarantee you there’s no problem. I guarantee you.”
When he criticizes others, he uses the language of inadequate masculinity. “Weak” is one of his favorite taunts, directed at Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Hillary Clinton, Marco Rubio (many times), Barack Obama, European leaders generally, the Democratic Party, the Republican National Committee, and the United States. He thinks of his opponents as “lightweights” – Bush, Rubio, and Megyn Kelly. Most insulting for the super-masculine Trump, he gleefully repeated one of his supporter’s comments about Ted Cruz: “He’s a pussy.”
One quotation that Trump recently retweeted exemplifies this hyper-masculinity: “It is better to live one day as a lion than 100 years as a sheep.” Benito Mussolini was the author, which didn’t seem to bother Trump, perhaps confirming his similarity to a quintessential strong man.
Trump aggressively displays the opposite of the traits which are often described as feminine: sympathetic, sensitive, compassionate, loyal, gentle, understanding.
One stereotypical masculine trait which Trump does not openly display is physical strength. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jesse Ventura used their imposing bodies to attract attention to their political campaigns. But Trump wants us all to know how powerful he is. He released a letter from his family physician in December claiming that his health is “astonishingly excellent” and “extraordinary”. The doctor wrote that Trump would be “the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.”
In December, Fox News host Andrea Tantaros said that American men could “get their masculinity back” by voting for Trump. Trump’s he-man pose, combined with his attacks on women aimed at their sexuality, might well energize some men, especially white men, who feel they have lost their dominance in the modern world. One could suspect that a man who can’t stop touting his masculinity might be less certain than he proclaims.
Published in the Jacksonville Journal-Courier, March 8, 2016