So that explains the willingness of late 20th century and early 21st century politicians who had never served in the military, calling for continued war in the middle east.
With gendered language, American politicians and civic leaders on both sides of the debates over war and imperialism invoked a variety of ideas of manly citizenship, including themes of generational differences, emasculation, the veneration of the founding fathers, and even varying definitions of just what manliness entailed. Just what did it mean to be a man? Various definitions of manhood arose during the debates over American participation in Cuba and then in the Philippines.
Men justifying intervention in Cuba appealed to the notion of chivalry as an example of manliness. But the chivalric paradigm served as only one of the ways in which manhood was defined during the debates over international and military matters in the s. Both those in favor of American intervention in Spanish colonial matters and those opposed focused a part of their gendered language on generationally different definitions of manhood and masculinity. Those seeking to expand U. In emphasizing experience, maturity, and a well-developed sense of self-restraint, these antis harkened back to the principles of manliness that had also played a part in the debates over the coming of the Civil War, when the restrained, moral resolve of Northern men contrasted sharply with the aggressive, free-wheeling combativeness of Southern fire-eaters.
Relating back in time to the veterans of the Civil War and even to the Revolutionary generation also played a large part in the development of gendered language in the debate over U. Proponents of U.
In the debate over U. Another way in which the language of gender found political expression was through the processing of emasculation. As Hoganson notes with several examples, debates often included references to opponents as, in some way, feminized. During the debate over U. This use of feminization to denigrate a political opponent speaks to a larger overall process of identifying manliness in contrast to womanliness. The men of the last decade of the nineteenth century had much to worry about—urbanization, industrialization, immigration—and one more important fear: the rise of the New Woman.
It is also true that historically privileged men tend to be profoundly disturbed by perceived competition from women, gay people and diverse ethnic and religious groups. These majestically male makers of the modern west are being forced to think twice about a lot today. Gay men and women are freer than before to love whom they love, and to marry them. Women expect greater self-fulfilment in the workplace, at home and in bed.
» Spanish-American War
Trump may have the biggest nuclear button, but China leads in artificial intelligence as well as old-style mass manufacturing. And technology and automation threaten to render obsolete the men who push and pull things — most damagingly in the west. This fear and insecurity of a male minority has spiralled into a politics of hysteria in the two dominant imperial powers of the modern era.
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In Britain, the aloof and stiff upper-lipped English gentleman, that epitome of controlled imperial power, has given way to such verbally incontinent Brexiters as Boris Johnson. And, indeed, whether threatening North Korea with nuclear incineration, belittling people with disabilities or groping women, the American president confirms that some winners of modern history will do anything to shore up their sense of entitlement.
Such manic assertions of hyper-masculinity have recurred in modern history.
They have also profoundly shaped politics and culture in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Beheading and raping innocent captives in the name of the caliphate, the black-hooded young volunteers of Islamic State were as obviously a case of psychotic masculinity as the Norwegian mass-murderer Anders Behring Breivik , who claimed Viking warriors as his ancestors.
We will just shoot you in the vagina. Morbid visions of castration and emasculation, civilisational decline and decay, connect Godse and Schlesinger to Bin Laden and Trump, and many other exponents of a rear-guard machismo today. And whether Hindu chauvinist, radical Islamist or white nationalist, their self-image depends on despising and excluding women.
It is as though the fantasy of male strength measures itself most gratifyingly against the fantasy of female weakness. Equating women with impotence and seized by panic about becoming cucks, these rancorously angry men are symptoms of an endemic and seemingly unresolvable crisis of masculinity. When did this crisis begin? And why does it seem so inescapably global? It began in the 19th century, with the most radical shift in human history: the replacement of agrarian and rural societies by a volatile socio-economic order, which, defined by industrial capitalism, came to be rigidly organised through new sexual and racial divisions of labour.
And the crisis seems universal today because a web of restrictive gender norms, spun in modernising western Europe and America, has come to cover the remotest corners of the earth as they undergo their own socio-economic revolutions. There were always many ways of being a man or a woman. Indians, British colonialists were disgusted to find, revered belligerent and sexually voracious goddesses, such as Kali; their heroes were flute-playing idlers such as Krishna.
A vast Indian literature attests to mutably gendered men and women, elite as well as folk traditions of androgyny and same-sex eroticism.
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A hierarchy of manly and unmanly human beings had long existed in many societies without being central in them. During the 19th century, it came to be universally imposed, with men and women straitjacketed into specific roles. The modern west appears, in the western supremacist version of history, as the guarantor of equality and liberty to all.
Fighting for American Manhood
Immanuel Kant dismissed women as incapable of practical reason, individual autonomy, objectivity, courage and strength. Napoleon, the child of the French Revolution and the Enlightenment, believed women ought to stay at home and procreate; his Napoleonic Code, which inspired state laws across the world, notoriously subordinated women to their fathers and husbands. Such prejudices helped replace traditional patriarchy with the exclusionary ideals of masculinity as the modern world came into being.
On such grounds, women were denied political participation and forced into subordinate roles in the family and the labour market. The Chinese were widely seen, including in western Chinatowns, as pigtailed cowards. Gandhi explicitly subverted these gendered prejudices of European imperialists and their Hindu imitators : that femininity was the absence of masculinity.
Rejecting the western identification of rulers with male supremacy and subjecthood with feminine submissiveness, he offered an activist politics based on rigorous self-examination and maternal tenderness. This rejection eventually cost him his life. But he could see how much the male will to power was fed by a fantasy of the female other as a regressive being — someone to be subdued and dominated — and how much this pathology had infected modern politics and culture. Its most insidious expression was the conquest and exploitation of people deemed feminine, and, therefore, less than human — a violence that became normalised in the 19th century.
For many Europeans and Americans, to be a true man was to be an ardent imperialist and nationalist. As the century progressed, the quest for virility distilled a widespread response among men psychically battered by such uncontrollable and emasculating phenomena as industrialisation, urbanisation and mechanisation. The ideal of a strong, fearless manhood came to be embodied in muscular selves, nations, empires and races.
Living up to this daunting ideal required eradicating all traces of feminine timidity and childishness. Failure incited self-loathing — and a craving for regenerative violence. It is no coincidence that the loathing of homosexuals, and the hunt for sacrificial victims such as Wilde, was never more vicious and organized than during this most intense phase of European imperialism.
One image came to be central to all attempts to recuperate the lost manhood of self and nation: the invincible body, represented in our own age of extremes by steroid-juiced, knobbly musculature.
Definitions and Research: Masculinity and ‘Toxic Masculinity’
Actually, size matters today much less than it ever did; not many muscles are required for increasingly sedentary work habits and lifestyles. Nevertheless, an obsession with raw brawn and sheer mass still shapes political cultures. These buffed-up bodies of popular culture foreshadowed Modi, who rose to power boasting of his inch chest, and promising true national potency to young unemployed stragglers.
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This vengeful masculinist nationalism was the original creation of Germans in the early 19th century, who first outlined a vision of creating a superbly fit people or master race and fervently embraced such typically modern forms of physical exercise as gymnastics, callisthenics and yoga and fads like nudism. As societies across the west became more industrial, urban and bureaucratic, property-owning farmers and self-employed artisans rapidly turned into faceless office workers and professionals.
Increasingly deprived of their old skills and autonomy in the iron cage of modernity, working class men tried to secure their dignity by embodying it in bulky brawn. Historians have emphasised how male workers, humiliated by such repressive industrial practices as automation and time management, also began to assert their manhood by swearing, drinking and sexually harassing the few women in the workforce — the beginning of an aggressive hardhat culture that has reached deep into blue-collar workplaces during the decades-long reign of neoliberalism.
Towards the end of the 19th century large numbers of men embraced sports and physical fitness, and launched fan clubs of pugnacious footballers and boxers.