The world watched as crowds of Americans attempted to storm the U.S. Capitol last week. An event so bizarre that it will probably go down in history as a culmination of Donald Trump’s very tumultuous presidency. In the aftermath of the riots, many were asking the same question — How did we get here? How did a reality star and businessman ascend to the position of the “leader of the free world?” New research on masculinity might just have the answer to it.
A psychology study by Pennsylvania State University published earlier this month provided insights about how people’s acceptance of ‘hegemonic masculinity’ (HM) influenced their support of Trump. The concept of hegemonic masculinity relates to the idea that men are inherently more powerful and dominant. While Trump’s campaign and communication have largely focused on the “othering” of people from the LGBTQ+ community to women, this study peels back the layers to reveal the underlying attraction to his ideology.
Right from his initial days during his presidential run, Trump has played into his masculinity “waxing nostalgic for a racially homogenous past that maintained an unequal gender order,” the study reiterates. The most infamous remark perhaps remains “grab her by the pussy” where he played down the seriousness of sexual assault, of which many allegations have been against him.
Acceptance of hegemonic masculinity affected voting choices more than political party affiliation, gender, race, and education.
To understand how this view of masculinity affected their choices, participants in the study recorded their past or intended voting, demographic information including political party affiliation, gender, and race. They also provided answers indicating their endorsement of hegemonic masculinity and male social norms such as feeling anger at the “threat of being like women.”
With over 2,000 participants in a seven-part study, the results revealed that people’s acceptance of hegemonic masculinity predicted their inclination to vote for Trump. It also showed that it affected voting choices more than political party affiliation, gender, race, and education. According to the study, hegemonic masculinity as a factor was able to predict voting and evaluation patterns equally well across gender, race, and party lines.
Researchers also told Inverse that hegemonic masculinity could help explain why Trump appeals to some women and minority voters despite his openly sexist and xenophobic stances. The author explained that “Dominant men and marginalized men maintain perceived superiority or dominance over women. Dominant men and dominant women have perceived superiority over marginalized people.”
The outcome of the study further cemented that aligning with this view also coincided with less trust in the government as well as more prejudice including xenophobia, racism, and sexism.