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President Trump and the rise of toxic masculinity politics

October 30, 2020, 1:12 PM UTC

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Good morning, Broadsheet readers! A MacArthur Genius will use his grant to support his spouse’s work, the new political statement is a hot pink suit, and we examine the rise of toxic masculinity politics. Have a restful weekend.

– Toxic masculinity. As we enter the final stretch of the U.S. presidential campaign, I recommend this new NPR piece by Danielle Kurtzleben, which investigates the role masculinity is now playing in American politics, and the way in which our current President has, as she puts it, “weaponized” these retrograde ideas of maleness and machismo.

It’s no secret that President Trump has built his public persona around hyper-masculine tropes, always presenting himself as the strongest, most aggressive man in the room—unconcerned about stereotypically feminine ideas like caregiving or empathy. For anyone who needs examples of these behaviors, the NPR story is chockablock with them, from Trump’s refusal to wear a mask to his love of belittling nicknames. (Kurtzleben also observes that Joe Biden sometimes leans into the same brand of exaggerated masculinity, as when he’s talked about wanting to “beat the hell out of” Trump.)

While it’s worth noting the ways this stance has affected Trump’s ability to connect with working women (NPR cites his recent trip to Michigan, where he told a crowd: “We’re getting your husbands back to work”), the part of the story that really jumped out at me is how the rise of machismo is being embraced by some of the women in and around the Republican party. Kurtzleben points to a few examples, including conservative commentator Tomi Lahren’s joke that Biden “might as well carry a purse” and GOP House candidates Tiffany Shedd and Lauren Boebert, both of whom have used photos of themselves with guns in their campaign materials.

I can’t help but contrast that behavior with what we saw from a few of the Democratic women running in 2018—remember the ads where female candidates nursed their children or even got an ultrasound on camera?

Gender issues should be an important part of American politics. But wouldn’t it make more sense for that to mean a debate over the policies that affect women—rather than a competition for who, male or female, can be the manliest man?

Kristen Bellstrom
kristen.bellstrom@fortune.com
@kayelbee

Today’s Broadsheet was curated by Emma Hinchliffe

ALSO IN THE HEADLINES

- Dual-career geniuses. Damien Fair, a neuroscientist, won a MacArthur Genius Grant this year. Fair plans to use the $625,000 in grant money mostly to support the work of his wife, Rahel Nardos, a urogynecologist working on global women’s health. STAT News

- A legacy, not a fad. During the peak of this summer's Black Lives Matter protests, Hachette Books executive editor Krishan Trotman pitched a new imprint devoted to social justice and publishing writers of color. Trotman was determined to ensure that the attention paid to Black voices wouldn't be a fad. Legacy Lit will publish its first books in January 2022. New York Times

- Harassment at the court. The Court of Master Sommeliers is the most elite organization in the wine industry, granting the "master sommelier" title to a select few after grueling training processes. Women who have attempted to earn the designation say they've encountered sexual harassment at the court. The court says it has investigated all allegations of this nature. New York Times

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Talespin hired Pixvana's Nicole Bunselmeyer as VP of sales.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

- Power pink. The new political uniform? A hot pink suit. The workwear brand Argent and the organization Supermajority created the hashtag #ambitionsuitsyou; you may have seen the hot pink suit in Instagram voting calls to action from everyone from Kerry Washington to Cecile Richards. New York Times

- Apollo apology. Apollo Global Management CEO Leon Black told investors that working with Jeffrey Epstein after his 2007 sex crimes conviction was a "terrible mistake." "I wish I could go back in time and change that decision,” the billionaire said. He has faced questions from clients over the relationship. Wall Street Journal

- Never heard of it? Sen. Kelly Loeffler told CNN that she was "not familiar" with President Trump's Access Hollywood tape—the "grab them by the pussy" tape heard 'round the world in 2016. Loeffler said she disagreed with Trump on no issues, and was then asked if that included the President's comments about sexual assault. CNN

- Celebrity politics. A scuttled Trump administration coronavirus PSA effort rejected many celebrity spokespeople because of their perceived politics, according to documents obtained by House Democrats. Jennifer Lopez, Billie Eilish, and Christina Aguilera were all among performers rejected by Trump admin officials for designations such as being a "gay-rights supporting liberal" or "not a Trump supporter." An HHS spokesperson said the agency has "ordered a strategic review of this public health education campaign." Washington Post

ON MY RADAR

I'm the woman who helped discover water on the moon Refinery29

I'm a WNBA Player and I'm spending Election Day working the polls. Here's why you should, too Cosmopolitan

Trump’s diversity training ban faces lawsuit from NAACP Fortune

PARTING WORDS

"I don’t want to just sit back and complain about something that’s not working for me. I want to try to get things done."

-Dora Segura, a first-time poll worker in this election