Manhood 2024: Do Republicans own it?

Then-President Trump, shown in December 2020.
Then-President Trump, shown in December 2020.
(Associated Press)

Hello and happy Thursday. There are 165 days until the election, and the Democrats have a manhood problem — one a pill won’t fix.

Before we pop into that, don’t you hate it when you “accidentally” go all Nazi and have to walk it back?

The Trump team sure does. This week, Trump’s Truth Social site featured a video extolling what a second Trump term would look like, with happy headlines scrolling across slightly blurred newspaper stories, including one about a “unified Reich.”


Trump’s campaign blew it off as a mistake by a staffer and removed the video, so no Fourth Reich for now. But how many Nazi moments can one candidate have? Anyways, I am sure there are very fine people in charge of his social media.

Fascism aside, there is one place where it is undeniable the Republican Party has already won — that’s defining what it means to be an American man. Theirs is a dark vision of white patriarchy helmed by forever-Trumpers.

The Democrats don’t offer a clear or compelling alternative vision.

That’s a political problem, because as much as this election has been framed about women and the loss of their rights, it’s about men.

Angry grandpa v. decent grandpa

Former President Trump and President Biden.
(Associated Press)

“American politics has long been a contest over who is the real man,” C.J. Pascoe, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Oregon, told me recently.

Which is how, “unsurprisingly, two old guys are the only ones” on the ticket, added Juliet Williams, a gender studies professor at UCLA.

While that underlying cultural comfort of having men in charge has always been the unspoken reality, the difference in this particular moment is that Trump is screaming about manhood — who has it and who lacks it — every chance he gets.

Trump has made it a part of his platform that we are in desperate need of a real man — in all his outmoded, boorish, racist, homophobic glory.

Anything else is “woke,” a code word for weak and unmanly, by that Republican definition.

Obviously, this retrograde rumba is a dance that goes far beyond Trump — Tucker Carlson, Andrew Tate, Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, who wrote an entire book on the “masculine virtues America needs.” Pick your skeevy partner.

Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker, he of the too-tight pants, made headlines recently for a commencement speech at a Catholic university where he offered this imperious gem: “Be unapologetic in your masculinity, fighting against the cultural emasculation of men ... As men, we set the tone of the culture, and when that is absent, disorder, dysfunction and chaos set in.”


OK, Thor. Is your sugar getting low?

Literally, so out of touch that even the Benedictine nuns clapped back, pointing out that lots of women — including nuns — happily and successfully contribute to the world.

But Butker isn’t out of touch with Trumpy men who hold the power we have given them — the ones who are attempting to ban or outlaw abortion, birth control, IVF, gay marriage, LGBTQ+ rights, drag shows, vote-by-mail, immigration and children’s books including “The Adventures of Captain Underpants.”

“Part of what is now happening with Republicans is they are trying to legalize these cultural visions of masculinity,” said Pascoe.

Democrats buy into it, too

But just ask Hillary Clinton how far the Democrats have come when it comes to pushing back on these musty masculine ideals, or Kamala Harris for that matter.

Yes, Democrats stand up for the rights of women and vulnerable groups — but they “are just as wedded to claims about what a real man is,” said Pascoe.

That can be especially true in Black communities and communities of color, where traditional notions of manhood run deep.


“You spend time in the Black community, you know that there is some resonance in this type of messaging,” Hakeem Jefferson told me.

Jefferson is an assistant professor of political science at Stanford, and I called him to talk about another commencement speech — the one Biden recently gave at Morehouse College, an all-male, historically Black university in Atlanta, one whose graduates, known as “Morehouse Men,” are celebrated for accomplishment.

Jefferson points out that there is great pressure on men of the Morehouse variety to prove wrong the racist stereotypes of Black males as being lazy or criminal — to embrace a kind of Barack Obama masculinity that is solid and irreproachable.

It can sound like the same values Trump espouses, but at heart is a rebuttal.

The idea that white masculinity is under any sort of attack is a notion Jefferson finds “dangerous.”

He says what’s “troubling about Republicans taking hold of manhood as a category in need of defending” is that they’re suggesting that anyone who threatens that power is out of line.

That’s what Biden’s speech was about. Though many news accounts focused on what Biden said about Gaza and college protests, he also told graduates that Republicans “peddle a fiction, a caricature of what being a man is about — tough talk, abusing power, bigotry.”


“But that’s not you. It’s not us. You all know and demonstrate what it really means to be a man. Being a man is about the strength of respect and dignity. It’s about showing up because it’s too late if you have to ask. It’s about giving hate no safe harbor and leaving no one behind and defending freedoms. It’s about standing up to the abuse of power, whether physical, economic, or psychological.”

That is lovely, and wonderful, and ideals that every human should have. And I stress human.

Out with the old

Biden‘s view of manly virtue only goes so far because he leaves the notion of power and leadership in the hands of men, and certain men at that.

Don’t get me wrong, I am all-in for decent grandpa.

But this blind adherence to traditional masculinity is how we end up with all the current problems framed as women’s issues or attacks on LGBTQ+ people.

Democratic men need to speak up not in defense of others, but in defense of themselves.

There are Harry Styles men, Pete Buttigieg men, Lil Nas X men, Amal Clooney’s husband men.


Seriously, God loves wondrous variety — own it.

Democrats need to be talking about masculinity from their own experience — what does it mean to be a gay father, a trans husband, a girl dad of any persuasion?

What does masculinity mean when it’s not tied to expectation, subjugation or Trump?

Failing to start that conversation, is “proving a disaster and it’s backing Democrats into a corner,” warns Williams, the gender studies professor.

She argues that for the left to counter these legislative attacks that have a certain vision of masculinity at their core, they need to present a new and more inclusive vision of what it means to be a man.

Imagine if Biden actually talked about all the different ways to be a man and to be masculine. If he stepped away from the traditional and embraced the diversity that truly defines the Democratic Party.

“I don’t think he’s going to do that, but imagine how powerful it would be,” Pascoe said.

What else you should be reading

The must-read: Silicon Valley Princess’: Inside the Life of Nicole Shanahan, R.F.K. Jr.’s Running Mate
One for the youngs: Biden administration cancels an additional $7.7 billion in student loans
The L.A. Times Special: Trump’s resilience gives California GOP dreams of payback in a state that has long been blue


Stay Golden,
Anita Chabria

P.S. Someone tried to assassinate a San Bernardino guy with a rattlesnake. It’s not the first time it’s happened in California.

Here’s the story.

Catalina rattlesnakes

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