A contributing writer for Salon continues his examination of Trumpian America through the lens of gender expectations and their discontents.
Men don’t cry. Men provide for their women, and women better be grateful for it. Growing up in rural Indiana, writes Sexton (Creative Writing/Georgia Southern Univ.; The People Are Going to Rise Like the Waters Upon Your Shore: A Story of American Rage, 2017, etc.), these were the kinds of tropes that were planted in him as a man-to-be. Yet the toxic masculinity that such ideas enfold is hardly useful—if it ever was—in a new economy and world in which the blue-collar American male has “given way to a new era of progressivism that rewards communication, creativity, and education, all things that have been scorned in working class families for generations.” These things are scorned in the White House, as well, but Sexton locates in the current occupant the very soul of that toxic ethos, one that itself is giving way to a culture that has less use for precise ideas of gender roles, to say nothing of gender itself. Donald Trump may be the dark antimatter standing in the way of a better future, but the author considers him a tragically weak figure. His followers are just as weak, but “their loyalty to Trump is unending because the fragility of their own masculinity is unending.” It’s a point that, when raised in the newspaper piece that gave birth to this book, earned Sexton hate mail and death threats. At book length, it’s unlikely to find many readers among his detractors, but even his supporters may conclude that the author belabors the point just a bit too long. Still, it’s refreshing to think that the complex of domestic abuse and willful stupidity, which Sexton links to larger issues in our history, may soon end at the hands of a rising society “that’s actively dismantling the patriarchy.”
Pop sociology and journalism meet in a powerful, occasionally repetitive argument against things as they are.