Washington: New research has found that idealized forms of masculinity in men like power, influence, and invulnerability may help explain the support Donald Trump garnered in the 2016 presidential election.
According to New Penn State research, American politicians have long been expected to maintain a certain polish: powerful, influential, and never vulnerable. In several studies, researchers found that when men and women approved of “hegemonic masculinity” – a culturally idealized form of masculinity that says men should be strong, tough, and dominant – they were more likely to vote for and against. ” have positive feelings about Trump.
The researchers found this to be true even when they controlled a political party, gender, and participants’ trust in government.
Nathaniel Schermerhorn, a dual doctoral candidate in psychology and women, gender and sexuality studies, said the findings – published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in the United States of America – suggest that if American society appears to be poised for a female president, an active rejection of hegemonic masculinity may have to occur first.
âThe pervasiveness of hegemonic masculinity exists because we don’t always know that our attitudes and behaviors contribute to it,â Schermerhorn said.
âThe success of Donald Trump’s campaign in 2016 shows that while we as a society have made progress in saying that discrimination and prejudice are undesirable, we as a society have not completely questioned the ways systematic in which these prejudices are maintained. “Because US politics is largely male dominated, the researchers said political campaigns often emphasize traditionally male characteristics to convince voters of a candidate’s competence and skill.
âHistorically, American politics have been a contest for masculinity to prove which candidate is the best,â Schermerhorn said. “Since the 1980s, the Republican Party has used this to its rhetorical advantage by presenting the Republican candidate as male and feminizing the entire Democratic Party, for example by calling them ‘snowflakes’.”
Theresa Vescio, professor of psychology and women, gender and sexuality studies, said Trump’s 2016 campaign was no exception – he often criticized his opponent’s masculinity and displayed sexist attitudes towards Hilary Clinton while positioning himself as a tough, powerful and successful businessman.
Vescio said that while this may resonate with voters who share similar ideals of masculinity, such attitudes may not be realistic. âIn contemporary America, idealized forms of masculinity suggest that men should have high power, status, and dominance, while being physically, mentally and emotionally strong,â Vescio said. “But it’s an incredibly high level that few can reach or maintain. Therefore, it’s an idea that many men strive to achieve, but few men actually present.”
Vescio said that while Trump’s success with voters was attributed to many possible factors, she and other researchers were particularly interested in the extent to which hegemonic masculinity played a role with voters.
The researchers recruited a total of 2,007 participants for seven different studies. In the first six studies, participants answered questions about their approval of hegemonic masculinity, trust in government, sexism, racism, homophobia, and xenophobia. They also indicated their political affiliation, their vote in the 2016 presidential election, and their assessments of Trump and Clinton.
In a seventh and final study, participants answered similar questions but also provided information on how they would vote in the 2020 presidential election, as well as their assessments of Trump and Biden.
After analyzing the data, the researchers found that in all of the studies, participants who supported hegemonic masculinity were more likely to vote for Trump and to rate him positively. This was true for women and men, white and non-white participants, Democrats and Republicans, and at all levels of education.
âAdditionally, we found that a stronger endorsement of hegemonic masculinity was linked to greater sexism, racism, homophobia, xenophobia and Islamophobia,â Vescio said. “But, hegemonic masculinity continued to predict support for Trump even while controlling these biases.”
Schermerhorn said the results can help shed light on how men and women respond to male and female applicants. He said that because hegemonic masculinity is ingrained in social and political institutions, people can internalize the status quo as beneficial, even when it isn’t.
âWhile endorsement of hegemonic masculinity predicted a higher likelihood of supporting Trump, it did not necessarily predict negative support for Democratic candidates,â he said. “This might suggest that hegemonic masculinity may in fact be a predictor of maintaining the status quo and not the other way around – working against the status quo.”
(To receive our electronic paper daily on WhatsApp, please click here. We allow sharing of the PDF document on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)
Posted on: Friday January 08th, 2021 03:12 IST