Magazine article Newsweek

Why Some Men Harass Women; Men Often Harass Women to Prove Their Dominance over Other Men

Magazine article Newsweek

Why Some Men Harass Women; Men Often Harass Women to Prove Their Dominance over Other Men

Article excerpt

Byline: Paul Raeburn

Many American men watching the video clip of Donald Trump bragging about grabbing women's genitals were quick to separate themselves from Trump's vulgar chest-thumping. Some boasted on social media that they would never treat or talk about women that way. The implicit message was: I'm better than him.

The irony is that these self-satisfied viewers were engaging in a bit of chest-thumping themselves. So were some of the television pundits who couldn't condemn Trump loudly enough as they endlessly replayed the clip. They were all displaying a central feature of American masculinity: the need to dominate others, says C.J. Pascoe, a sociologist at the University of Oregon who studies masculinity.

The object of that domination can be women, employees, supervisors, other men or other countries. The Trump video showed not only his disrespect for women; it also showed how he dominated Billy Bush, the man he was talking to. Trump was more aggressive, more outrageous, more entitled. Bush was reduced to sputtering, "Sheesh, your girl's hot as shit." He'd been Trumped. This drive to dominate is what makes an American man a "man," says Pascoe.

Pascoe is talking exclusively about American men. Other societies have different conceptions of masculinity that don't require domination. "Look at northern European socialist democracies," says Pascoe. It's a softer masculinity, and it's evident in those societies. "They have parental leave for both parents, men and women are in leadership roles," and dominance over women or other countries "isn't part of their national identities to begin with" the way it is in the U.S.

American politics provides a near perfect arena for clashes of masculinity. The 2004 presidential election was a good example. It pitted Democrat John Kerry, a formidable political figure, against George W. Bush. Kerry was portrayed by the Bush campaign as an elite, even an eccentric. He spoke French. He was wealthy. And he enjoyed windsurfing, footage of which gave the campaign an excellent way to illustrate its charge that his policy positions shifted with the wind. Bush was supposed to be the lightweight from Texas, whose political career owed much to friends of his father, former President George H.W. Bush. Yet, Bush proved to be the more "masculine" of the two candidates. "He was a real man. He was from Texas. He could shoot things; he was a man's man, a guy's guy," says Pascoe.

By any other reckoning, the portrayals might have flipped. Consider their military records. Kerry fought in Vietnam, where he was a hero, returning home with a Silver Star, a Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts. Bush served in the National Guard and never saw combat. With proper crafting, that alone could have been enough for Kerry to appear commandingly masculine. …

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