Trump's Toxic Masculinity
One of the guests on Wednesday’s Morning Joe was Mick Mulvaney, the director of Trump’s Office of Management and Budget. Before introducing him, host Willie Geist noted Trump’s proposed budget gouges education, the environment, the arts, and requests a corresponding swell in funding for military and xenophobia-related concerns.
“I could point to you speeches that the President gave during the campaign that said exactly those things,” Mulvaney responded to Geist’s questioning. “In fact, that’s how we wrote the budget. We went back and pulled lines out of speeches out of interviews talked to the president and talking to him. And turned his words, his policies, into numbers. So, folks who voted for the president are getting exactly what he voted for. Those are the numbers that he campaigned on.”
The budget was made from speeches and off-handed remarks the president gave to interviewers.
On Thursday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer spent several minutes yelling at the top of his lungs at a room full of journalists, some of whom had pointed out that Donald Trump’s tweet claiming that President Obama had wiretapped him was contrary to the findings of a congressional investigation. Donald Trump was not being wiretapped by President Obama. Trump had made a wild claim based on something he misunderstood from television; Congress devoted resources to following up on it and found nothing. Rather than admit the president was mistaken, Spicer insisted—despite the most recent set of facts—that Trump would be vindicated. Trump was right; it was reality that was wrong. The leaks were real, the news was fake.
Earlier this week, Trump surrogates celebrated positive jobs report numbers after decrying the jobs report for being fake when Obama was in office. The jobs reports were fake back then, said Kellyanne Conway, but they’re real now.
During his joint press conference with Angela Merkel on Friday, Donald Trump made several interesting claims that may have made him feel good about himself, but weren’t true. The American Health Care Act, which guts Medicaid and defunds Planned Parenthood and is massively unpopular, even among Republicans, likely doesn’t have the votes to pass as-is. Even Paul Ryan, once-proud architect of the stinker of a bill, admits that’s true.
But Trump claimed that the bill was beloved, and very close to passing. It’ll be an example to other countries, he promised. “We have a great plan,” the president said before a room of reporters. “We have a plan that’s getting more and more popular.” On this weekend’s Sunday political talk shows, some poor White House schmuck will be tossed to the network political media sharks to defend that set of untruths. And they’ll do it. They’ll do it just as hard as they can.
We are reverse-engineering reality to protect Donald Trump’s sense of manhood.
The President’s budget, like everything he talks about, play into his conception of over-the-top manliness. Cuts to education, the environment, are cuts to feminized concerns, really. After school programs and meals-on-wheels, those are caretaking programs. Education (and really, all childcare), also the purview of women. The arts, not for men like Trump (especially when the “safe and special” place of the theater is violated by opinions).
Trumpcare (a name the White House doesn’t like) also reflects Trump’s concerns. CBO estimates that it would harm lower-income Americans between 55 and 64, people he likely doesn’t think about unless they’re voting for him. It would hurt poor women, who are of no use to him. It would hurt those women’s children. Again, of no use to Trump. Men like Trump are for the military, for walls, big, big buildings, big, loud airplanes. Fighting, sabre-rattling. Yelling nonsensical but brave-sounding garbage like “SEE YOU IN COURT!” after losing in court. Putting one’s name on things.
Presidential budgets are more a wish list than a mandate, but a person can learn a lot about a president’s priorities from their proposed budget. Nothing on Trump’s agenda should be a surprise. He does not care about women, or the environment, or childcare, or anybody or anything that does not make Donald Trump feel more manly, and so Donald Trump’s ideas for America will not reflect a concern that is not there. If he doesn’t think about it, it doesn’t exist.
Donald Trump’s personal brand has always been a cartoonish version of what he fancies as “masculine,” a metastatic cousin of what he fancies as “success.” It is all pride, fear, and spite. At best, it tolerates the feminine, at worst, it actively despises it.
To say Freud would have a field day with Donald Trump is an understatement. Freud would have an entire Olympic Games. The biggest, fattest, most beautiful and throbbing Olympic games of all time. For example: ties. Rather than take the fact that no tie is manufactured to be worn that long as a hint that he is incorrect, President Trump has concluded that in fact all of the manufacturers are incorrect. He uses scotch tape to correct this mass-oversight, so he can wear his tie the way his idea of how Business Man, The Brand would wear a tie. His suits. They are too big. Maybe he likes looking at them hanging on the hanger. Maybe they make him feel bigger. The way he is fat yet does not tolerate fatness in women. The way he described his wife as somebody whom he is pretty sure doesn’t have a functioning anus. His lack of care bordering on disdain for his less-pretty daughter. His propensity to use words to describe things he likes, things he attributes to himself, the same way a man might describe his penis to a women with whom he is having phone sex. Big, strong, fat, powerful.
I think a lot about how Donald’s world is custom-made by Donald to make Donald feel good—like when I watch Donald parade Ivanka around like everything about her was his idea. I think about this a lot when every public appearance by the president ends up veering off into a soliloquy about how nobody thought he could win, but he did win, so bigly. I think about how he can’t talk about anything without bringing up things that remind Donald Trump that Donald is a very good and big and strong boy. I think about the men at Donald Trump rallies in MAGA hats, mad as hell they weren’t living in gilded penthouses like their hero, sputtering angry the world denied them that to which they were entitled, yearning to live in the world Donald Trump had constructed for himself. Donald Trump’s ego compulsively pleasures itself, and now, his policies do too.
Trump’s oeuvre was amusing back when he just a goofy celebrity starring in McDonald’s ads alongside a purple mischief-making character named Grimace (whom I must point out shares a rounded broad-side-down triangular body shape with 2017 Donald Trump, another thing that would be funny in a different universe, or maybe will be funny when this is all over). But now that Trump is trying to fashion the country he’s been elected to lead into his toxic image and likeness, the people he has disregarded personally will become people who are cast aside socially. In Trump’s egocentric world, if Trump doesn’t care for or think about it, it shouldn’t matter to anybody.
He’s not the first man to demand the world bend to him. North Koreans were taught that Kim Jong-Il was born by magic on top of a mountain, that he was an international fashion icon, and that he invented the hamburger. An entire movie designed to prove that Idi Amin was a frequent haver of sex was made before the dictator’s death. Russians are taught that Vladimir Putin is 5’7” inches tall, when photos of him beside President Obama prove that he’s maybe 5’5”. Maybe sometimes it’s easier to pretend to agree with a tyrant’s self-conception than it is to challenge an ego big enough to demand nature be reordered. Maybe Donald Trump’s masculinity is both the most fragile and dangerous thing in the world.