Last night I read an NPR article “Trump Has Weaponized Masculinity as President” It brought up a lot of things that — as a single woman who’s been encoupled and married — I’ve thought myself.

What is this “masculinity” thing, anyway? The article gives a kind of explanation:

Trump’s overt hypermasculinity was a defining feature of his candidacy in 2016, whether he was talking about his testosterone count or his penis size or shrugging off the infamous Access Hollywood tape, in which he talked about committing sexual assault as “locker room talk.” That macho approach went on to define his presidency as well.

I remember Trump looming behind HRC in the debates and how that brought up a kind of PTSD I have from my relationships abusive men who acted the same way. It also made it easier to vote for HRC whom I really didn’t like, even though I thought she was by far the better candidate.

The model of masculinity embodied by Trump is not my model of masculinity. I guess the ideal man, in my mind, is a combination of my dad and my Uncle Hank. Someone smart, soft-spoken and competent, with a sense of humor, who likes women as people; who likes me. He’s not a bully and he’s not a lot of talk. He’s just good at what he does and takes pleasure in it. He’s open minded, curious and fair, able to admit when he’s made a mistake.

Trump’s relentless belittling of women infuriates me. I’ll say here that as a strong, intelligent, brave and formidable little female person life hasn’t been easy out there in the world of men. A really wonderful man I knew said once, “You’re an intelligent, sophisticated, physically attractive woman. Life in academia couldn’t have been easy for you.” That was like a voice yelling, “THIS!!” He was right. It’s OK. I did fine anyway.

Women have a (to me) inexplicable effect on some men. I can’t explain. I don’t get it, but it’s there. I hear it whenever Trump shuts down a female reporter.

… President Trump seems to have a gendered pattern to his put-downs: He tends to belittle male opponents as weak, saying they are “cryin'” or “little” or “low-energy,” whereas he often insults women’s looks or casts them as hysterical. Not only that, but he has a pattern of attacking women of color. (NPR)

When I see the opportunities open to women now vs. when I was starting out, I’m happy, proud, of the progress human beings have made. And, while Kamala Harris’ perspective is naturally turned toward race, I was moved when she answered the 60 Minute interviewer saying that being a candidate for VP:

“…helps change the perception of who can do what, because that is still part of the battle after all…”

Trump, of course, called Harris a “monster.”

The NPR article goes on to explain how the kind of masculinity Trump parades requires enemies and he’s managed to make enemies everywhere to fuel his image as the “tough guy who gets things done”. The price, according to the article, is “…a sense of a larger common good.” The result, the divisiveness in our country, and general political dysfunction here and in our international relations. No Macho Man can compromise.

One consolation is that this seems to have become his theme song. Listen to the words and imagine applying them to that massive excrescence that is 45. Ew. I doubt he even knows the history of this song, of this band, anything. At least he’s his own parody. You can see in this video where he learned his little “dance.”

Capable Woman

The phrase, “Male chauvinist pig” did not exist back when my Aunt Martha and any male who happened to be in the room with her were tangled up in the argument, “Are women as capable as men?” “A woman can do anything a man can do,” my aunt would say during one of the more strident moments in these arguments.

My Aunt — single, by choice — was a very bright and, yes, capable, woman.She worked for the OSS in Washington during WW II.


Aunt Martha (second from right, facing) in Washington DC at the end of WW II

After that, she was the legal assistant to the attorney for the Air Force Finance Center which was located in Denver. She testified in front of Congress several times and was awarded a medal by Congress for some work that she did.

Back in those days, this kind of job did not require a university education. People learned skills in high school and were assumed to have good reasoning ability with which to apply the skills. In Hardin High School in southeastern Montana my aunt learned everything she needed for a lifetime of challenging and satisfying work.

So, the eternal argument. The line was drawn by my dad and uncles (and later, cousins) on women in the military in the front line. My aunt was sure women could do as well as men on the front lines. For her, that question was apart from whether there should be front lines at all. For the men in my family, there was only one question. Did women have what it took to stand firm in the face of fire? Everyone knows women are the weaker sex.

My mom said my aunt didn’t understand men. I think she did, but differently than the women who were primarily wives. My aunt worked with men every single day of her working life. She was undoubtedly the only woman of her government grade (GS 12) in her office at the Air Force Finance Center. She was respected for the work she did and, as I learned when she was 80 and we were sitting at the table in her kitchen having one of our numerous heart-to-heart talks, she had been considered a hottie. I always thought she was beautiful. I learned in that conversation that her attitude toward male/female sexual relations was unconventional, in my family, anyway. I was tickled when I had the task of cleaning out her dresser drawers and found a packet of condoms and black stockings with lace tops. I hid them from her sisters who were working there in the garage with me.

I thought about her as I watched HRC’s presidential campaign and the big noise about the “last glass ceiling” and “first woman president.” My aunt would have judged her harshly, I think, especially the parading of Bill as part of her stragedy for justifying, supporting, her campaign. I could hear my aunt say, “He’s no great shakes. She should run on her own, not on the coattails of her husband.” I believe my aunt would have found HRC “capable” because of her experience, but cowardly because she seemed to need a husband to bolster her campaign. And, as I recall, Bill Clinton’s lying under oath disgusted her.

My mom sometimes lectured my aunt saying,  “Men need to be needed,” “There’s no competition between men and women,” “Let the men ‘win’ the arguments.” In my aunt’s world, there WAS competition between men and women, a man should be humiliated by being “let” to win the argument, and she really didn’t think she “needed” a man.

Back then there were just not that many women living in my aunt’s world.

After she retired in the mid-1970s (early, age 55) she worked for the Red Cross, first as a volunteer and then as a coordinator for disaster relief efforts worldwide. She traveled to many different countries that had been hit by hurricanes or earthquakes, that kind of thing. When she died, she was worth over a million dollars.

So the real question is not whether women are as capable as men, but how many people are as capable as my Aunt Martha?  ❤

Photo: Aunt Martha, me, my mom, Easter, 1967