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The Power of Culture

We Can’t Help Describing Trump as Powerful Because We Describe All Men as Powerful

The above is a really well-written piece of cultural criticism (if the title triggers you, try treading the article anyway).

What is power? As the article notes, “Now, Trump lacks any of the “masculine virtues” androphilia supposedly values—a warrior physique, military experience, good strategic judgment, vigor, stamina—but that’s the point: This is a fake template of things we ascribe to people based on their gender.”

We have these patterns of understanding, templates for how things should be. And we superimpose them on whatever is in front of us, even when it doesn’t fit well. We can’t help but describe Trump’s action using words and thought-patterns that project the full panoply of masculine virtues. Even when many of the virtues are objectively absent. Most journalists and headline writers are falling into this trap as they attempt to describe the actions of this administration. They use language that reinforces the sense of power, purpose, and control, where a closer examination might instead find insecurity, reactivity, cluelessness, and an utter absences of strategy. Such is the power of culture. A bold stance could be bravery. Or it could be stupidity that does not recognize danger while obscuring underlying cowardice. And the witnesses and writers may be primed to misread the gesture.


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