Masculinity, Missiles and Donald Trump

In a recent opinion piece for The New York Times, Carol Cohn, director of the Consortium on Gender, Security and Human Rights at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, examines the dangers of “mixing masculinity and missiles.”

C.C. Chapman / Creative Commons

At a time when the U.S. has minimized its diplomatic operations and stripped the State Department of its commitments to diversity, the President has managed to isolate our allies and anger hostile powers. Most notably, he has traded many (insulting) words with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, with his latest containing innuendo so clear it couldn’t pass for clever.

Donald Trump, Cohn explains, has only increased the urgent need for more women’s voices and feminist perspectives at peace-building tables and in war rooms—but a heightened awareness of the ways in which sexism and toxic masculinity shape issues of security doesn’t mean those problems aren’t longstanding.

President Trump makes the job of a feminist security analyst almost too easy. No subtle teasing out of subtexts required with this guy.

Something seemed to click for people across the political spectrum this week, even among those least inclined to see the world through a gendered lens: When Mr. Trump tweeted, “I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!” the nuclear saber-rattling at Kim Jong-un of North Korea sounded a lot like, well, penis-measuring.

Sad. But significant? From most commentators, the response has been an eye-rolling dismissal of Mr. Trump’s tweet as “juvenile”—yet one more impulsive, impolitic, dangerous and unpresidential act by a president like no other. But methinks not only that the president doth protest too much about his “Nuclear Button,” but also that many commentators are still missing the point. This is not simply a trivial, if embarrassing, sideshow.

Ideas about masculinity and femininity matter in international politics, in national security and in nuclear strategic thinking. Mr. Trump—with his fragile ego and his particularly obsessive concern with his reputation for manliness—may have brought these dynamics to the surface, but they have been there all along, if in less crude and lurid ways.

You can read the full piece here.




Carmen Rios is a self-proclaimed feminist superstar and the former digital editor at Ms. Her writing on queerness, gender, race and class has been published in print and online by outlets including BuzzFeed, Bitch, Bust, CityLab, DAME, ElixHER, Feministing, Feminist Formations, GirlBoss, GrokNation, MEL, Mic, the National Women’s History Museum, SIGNS and the Women’s Media Center; and she is a co-founder of Webby-nominated Argot Magazine. @carmenriosss|