Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


Fundamentalist Masculinity

The Old-Fashioned American Tough Guy

As I wrote originally many years ago,[1] traditional masculinity is built on the shaky foundation of having to be ready at every moment to be proven. To be brief and succinct, the proof goes like this, “I am not a girl or like a girl and I am ready, at any moment, to prove it.” It is built on a foundation of misogyny and insecurity. It can never be proven except for the moment. It is practiced in the schoolyard, extended to the White American movie shooters and terrorists and is now showing itself in the Republican presidential race.

Donald Trump is the most visible representation of old fashioned American masculinity on the current scene. He speaks in the tones of the quintessential American tough guy. He flaunts his entitlement, is outrageously rich and brags openly about it. He spends his money in the most ostentatious ways imaginable. An entire life encrusted in gold. An endless supply of young and beautiful women to enhance his masculinity. And the pretense that he did it on his own, the American masculine dream. He talks like and gives voice to the street corner “regular” guy, a tough guy with tough guy opinions. The kind of guy who gets rich by being tougher than the rest. An American everyman.

He is to fundamentalist masculinity what the Kardashians are to fundamentalist femininity. The tough guy is a rugged individualist and takes “nothing from nobody,” a particular irony for Trump, who has actually done nothing on his own. If words do not work, he comfortably uses violence and force, guns and bombs. “Get tough and get even”. He practices old-fashioned xenophobia and misogyny (Racism is not quite the right term here, as Mexicans and Hispanics are not a race). He mistrusts intellectuals, reason and too much discussion.

The brotherhood of American assassins and terrorists is marked openly by their shaky masculinity and hatred of women. Consider also that the masculinity of a rapist is not reduced by this act nor is the femininity of his victim. This is fundamentalism, gender style. The presidential candidates who want to bomb instead of negotiate are the “real men” in fundamentalist masculine eyes.

Yes, there is too much access to guns in this country. Yes, there is too much hatred and fear of foreigners. Yes, there is too little treatment for mental illness. Connecting them all is a violent, dominating and entitled form of masculinity that must be exposed for the danger it is and must be replaced in the 21 century by a more intelligent, kinder and more secure form if we are to survive. This is happening in many quarters, some public, some private-much too slowly, but it is happening .

[1] Kaschak, E. Engendered Lives, Basic Books, New York, 1992

More from Ellyn Kaschak Ph.D.
More from Psychology Today
More from Ellyn Kaschak Ph.D.
More from Psychology Today