Masculinity in the Time of Trump: A Feminist Response to Wounding and Victimhood


6:30-8:00pm, Room F44 (First Floor), New Wing, Somerset House, 26/1/17

With the election of Donald Trump, a number of voices cried that ‘identity politics’ was to blame. Identity politics – supposedly the preserve of those other than white, male or heterosexual (as though these were not identities) – was supposedly “the” problem. A sense of victimhood wasn’t far away: Simon Jenkins, writing in The Guardian, was quick to respond. “In America, as in Europe, older, white men are the only group that liberals can abuse and exclude with impunity”, he proclaimed. “In choosing “pale, stale males” (PSMs) for ritual contempt, identity politics has found a target … Were someone such as I to take offence, demand redress or “protected space”, I would be bidden to shut up, get a life and not be so sensitive”. And yet, the sense of ‘persecuted white / heterosexual / male’ didn’t just appear after the US election. In the first seminar for the Gender, Sexuality & Violence Research Network, we will discuss the way patriarchy and militarism has historically employed the “wounded martyr” image as justification for acts of violence and shows of “strength”. Reflecting on Judith Butler’s Precarious Life (2004), we will consider how specific moments of wounding – 9/11, the failure of the War on Terror, the failure of the neoliberal order (recession, wage stagnation, labour precarisation) – produced a response of anger, feelings of victimhood, and a desire for a performance of masculine (military) strength: Donald Trump. How is this trajectory rooted in the idea of the political itself, in what Wendy Brown has called “the historical relationship between constructions of manhood and constructions of politics”? What psychoanalytic investments might there be in fantasies of “taking back control”? How might we think through and respond to recent political events as feminists, pacifists, and queer studies scholars in 2017?

The discussion will be initiated by short papers from Dr Fintan Walsh (Birkbeck, University of London) and the Research Network’s committee members.

Open to all. Refreshments will be provided.

Core Reading

Recommended Reading 

Image: Martin Rowson, 2016.

Launch at Sussex University

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We launched the Research Network at CHASE Encounters, Sussex University. We spoke briefly about the election of Donald Trump and the aims of the group. Thanks to everyone for the huge response, it seems many people feel there is a real, urgent need for the project. We are currently working on our schedule for 2017, and will keep you posted!