Cold Warriors: Manliness on Trial in the Rhetoric of the West

Cold Warriors: Manliness on Trial in the Rhetoric of the West

Cold Warriors: Manliness on Trial in the Rhetoric of the West

Cold Warriors: Manliness on Trial in the Rhetoric of the West


A cowboy will not submit tamely to an insult, and is ever ready to avenge his own wrongs; nor has he an overwrought fear of shedding blood. He possesses, in fact, few of the emasculated, milk-and-water moralities admired by the pseudo-philanthropists; but he does possess, to a very high degree, the stern, manly qualities that are invaluable to a nation. . . .

In our dealings with the Indians we have erred quite as often through sentimentality as through willful wrong-doing.

--Theodore Roosevelt, Ranch Life and the Hunting Trail

Under the double authority of political and moral realism, the Cold Warrior of the West was at once universal and yet specifically linked to the stories of the American frontier. The ideological extremity of the Cold Warrior, whose identity was purified of communism and totalitarianism-- but also of gender, race, color, sexuality, or class--was invisible. What helped to keep it invisible was the visibility of a historical--Western--manliness recuperated from the American past, attacked by liberals, and yet undergirding the claims of American nationalism.

This study of the Cold Warrior returns to the strange combination of forces that conspired to suppress dissent and hybridity in the name of a nationalized West after World War II. Anticommunism diverted attention from a more widespread suppression. The Cold War silenced women writers on several levels, together with others excluded from the struggle over white male identity--men as well as women. Manliness itself, and the old warrior ethic it invoked, was on trial. The return from World War II plunged American men into a confusion about identities that literature as well as mass culture struggled to address.

Studies of Cold War cultural history have begun to consider these changing constructions of maleness. Frank Krutnik In a Lonely Street studies the way hybrid crime films emerged into the "tough" thrillers of film noir after the war, in response to the tensions and the necessity of redefining masculine identity. Susan Jeffords studies of the Vietnam war, in The Remasculinization of America and Hard Bodies, elucidate what . . .

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