Donald Trump's brand of masculinity has provoked a lot of discussion.
Mona Charen a while back had a piece saying that both major party candidates this year are representatives of what has gone wrong with regard to men, women, and sex. Of Trump she wrote:
He is not manly — he is a caricature of a manly man. He makes physical threats to protesters at his rallies — “I wish someone would punch him in the face” — from behind the cordon of Secret Service officers. He avoided the draft and disparages the heroism of those who served and suffered. Despite his many wives and concubines, he finds femininity itself confusing and threatening.
Now Aaron MacLean at the Weekly Standard analyzes Mr. Trump's masculinity:
So is it right to say that Trump is manly? Well, yes, but only to the extent that it is right to say Mussolini was patriotic. Trump's brand of manliness is a reactionary manliness—or maybe it would be more accurate to say that his manly appeal can be chalked up to the disgust many Americans have at the success of the left's assault on manliness.
As with Hugh Hefner in the face of ascendant feminism, or hip-hop stars after the decline of the African-American family, the appeal of a man as transparently ridiculous as Trump is driven by the exasperation of one part of American society that another dominant segment of that society has decided manliness of any kind is retrograde.
That dominant segment will be voting for Hillary Clinton in November—and who better to inform the American man that his day is done than scowling, joyless Hillary? And what more natural response to her ascendance than a boastful, deeply insecure bully, who at least is willing to say the things that "establishment" figures won't—in part because he is willing to say anything?
I am not so much interested here in Donald Trump, who may end up being the right lever to pull in November, as with what has happened to the concept of masculinity in our society. I've written about Trump as an Achilles figure. Achilles was a braggart, in contrast to the sober Agamemnon, who was a leader of men.
MacLean seems to blame the rise of the Trump form of manliness on the feminist movement, which so tragically rejected our need for the heroic virtues. He also has strong ideas about how Mr. Trump's masculinity might be part and parcel with his view of nationalism and patriotism:
Just as there is such a thing as responsible manliness—brave, even bold when circumstances demand; cool under pressure; gentle with the weak but fearsome to wrongdoers—so there is such a thing as responsible American patriotism. Pride in a nation as exceptional as ours is something to be taught, nurtured, and cherished, and it can be generous because it is rooted in real confidence.
But the left—President Obama is an excellent example of this—is suspicious of any sort of pride in a nation, because it is suspicious of the very idea of nations. This increasingly powerful suspicion, and its effects, inspire the kind of chauvinistic nationalist reaction harnessed by Trump.
But just as this kind of nationalism is, at its core, fearful, so is Trump's manliness. A certain kind of feminist has long argued, not without a kernel of justice, that "masculinity" (as they would prefer it) is driven by fear—and man, do they have a useful exhibit in Donald J. Trump! During college he dragged things out with student deferments, and even though an earlier draft physical had found him fit for duty, he was saved shortly after graduation when a new physical declared that he had bone spurs in his foot. Or feet: It doesn't seem to be quite clear, and the records have been destroyed.
A generous assessment would be that this was just selfishness or laziness, but there's no good reason to think cowardice didn't also play a role. As it happens, his draft number would have kept him out of service anyway, but that happened later. It is no accident that he is so obsequious in his pandering to veterans and so quick to swing (verbally, of course) at actual heroes, like John McCain, who question him.