Donald Trump Is the Final Boss of Toxic Masculinity

There are men of extraordinary privilege who walk through the world as if this spinning rock were put here in time and space just for them. They stand astride the earth with splayed feet and folded arms, wielding like weapons their maleness, their whiteness, their straightness, their cisgenderedness, their able-bodiedness, their wealth — believing everything they survey is theirs to own.

They are terrible boys who become terrible men, giving themselves names like alpha and Type A and man's man, declaring themselves the Real Men, from which all other men deviate in lesser variations. Women register only as things to be possessed, or destroyed.

The rest of us who have the unavoidable misfortune of encountering these men learn their culture as its subjects and victims. The best outcome is neglect, because all the other outcomes are various degrees of harm.

They are our bad fathers, our bad brothers, our bad peers, our bad coaches, our bad bosses, our bad neighbors, our bad boyfriends and husbands. They are bad police officers and bad priests and bad prime ministers. They are bad friends we once mistook for good.

Most of these men are not undilutedly bad, but are contradictions as are we all. The manager who bellows at his employees, but is a gentle father to his children. The father who humiliates his sons, but is a regular and reliable volunteer for a local charity. As though they only have so much decency to muster, and the rest of their orbit is obliged to suffer the consequences of their limitations.

And then there is Donald Trump.

graphic image of Trump looking ominous

Trump embodies every archetype of toxic masculinity, wearing them proudly like merit badges he's collected in a lifetime of disservice. There are no holidays; no breaks in the paint where the brush didn't quite meet the wall. There is only relentless harm.

He is the bully who picks on weaker boys and pulls girls' pigtails and shoves world leaders out of the way to get to the front of a crowd for a photo.

He is the spoiled child of an indulgent father who imagines that what he achieved via nepotism is rather attributable to his own superior qualities.

He is the employee who applies for a job he doesn't know to do, his aggressive incompetence no match for his sense of entitlement. He is the ineffective manager who fails upward, creating chaos and frustrating for the underlings forced to work harder to offset his failures, because if the wheels come off the bus, he'll throw them under the next bus that happens along.

He is every shitty boss. The boss who is catastrophically inept. The boss who is never as present as he needs to be. The boss who is a mean, petty, vengeful fuck. The boss who is capricious and erratic and reckless — and still expects his employees to read his mind and predict his every need. The boss who never takes personal responsibility and always takes all the credit. The boss who prioritizes loyalty above competence. The boss who hires his unqualified kids. The boss who undermines his employees' work. The boss who will fire you because he has made your job impossible. The boss who sexually harasses his female employees, and tells his male employees they look like garbage. The boss who will never get his own damn coffee, but is never happy with the way anyone makes it for him. The boss who spends money on installing a gold toilet in his private bathroom, and tells his employees there's no money for bonuses this year.

He is the husband whose future divorce is a guest at his every wedding. The husband who treats his wives like an extension of himself, a trophy, a prize, a possession. The husband who resents that he isn't loved by a woman who only married him for his money, even though he never wanted the bother of making himself a person anyone would want to marry for any other reason. The husband who takes out that resentment on his wife, even though he doesn't love her for who she is, either. He doesn't even know who she is; he never cared.

He is the father who won't change a diaper. The narcissistic father, whose love is conditional; whose children must earn his affections by subsuming all traces of their own personalities and modeling their lives after his precisely, speaking exactly like him using the same affected phrasing, and speaking about him only ever in superlatives: The best father who gave them the best childhoods with the best experiences. The father whose every interaction with his children is on his playing field, focused on his interests alone. His work; his favorite hobby. Which become his children's work; his children's hobbies. Because if they want his love and attention, they have to meet him on his turf. They have to reflect him back to himself at all times. The father who sees his children, like their mothers, as extensions of himself; as part of his brand. The father who sexualizes his daughters, and prefers their husbands over his sons.

He is the brother who gives painful noogies, because he can. The brother who ensures it's never just fun and games, and someone will always start crying, and it will never be him.

He is the sex predator who brags and jokes about abusing women, then denounces the women whom he abused as liars. He is the sex predator who reframes his arrogant confession as "locker room talk," and the sort of man who makes locker rooms uncomfortable and unsafe for other men.

He is an inveterate projectionist who hates what he sees in the mirror, and accuses everyone else of having the traits he despises in himself. He sees his flaws clearly enough to hate them, but never cares to fix them. He expects the rest of the world to accommodate those flaws, and to withhold criticism and even regard them as attributes, so that he might feel settled within his own thin skin.

He is the kind of man for whom masculinized prefixes must be affixed, lest anyone mistake that he's engaging in some sort of feminine activity. Manwich. Man cave. Mancation. Man-bun. Bromance. He is the kind of man who, if he would ever deign to wear a pink tie or shirt, would call it "salmon."

He is the man who talks too loud with unaccountable confidence, with nothing to back it up. The man at the gym who doesn't wipe his sweat off the machines and the man who drinks every round but never buys one. The man who demands inordinate amounts of a waitstaff's time and attention, then leaves a terrible tip.

He is simultaneously an insecure teenage boy, a middle-aged man stuck in the throes of a midlife crisis, and the aging man who gets meaner with every ounce of strength he loses.

He is the man who insists he is a Christian, but never goes to church. The man who shouts at strangers speaking a language other than English in public. The man who is stuck, forever, inside a breathing stereotype of a 1980's master of the universe who thought Gordon Gecko was intended as a role model. The man who insists on being team captain, then doesn't lead and blames his teammates for losing.

He is the man who mocks disabled people. Who takes advantage of poor people. Who behaves consistently like a monster and claims that everyone loves and admires him, but privately whines that no one likes him; that he is a victim of unfair gossip.

He is the man who hurts you and then says you made him do it. The man who rationalizes his depravity as common sense; his insults as truth-telling. He is the man who boasts and never listens. The man who doesn't know how to be a friend, but reflexively calls people who hate him his good friends. The man who mistakes fearful tolerance of his vainglorious preening for respect.

He is the man who has neither the courage nor curiosity to leave his hometown, and says it's because nowhere else is as good, anyway.

He is the creep who brags about his sexual conquests, but wouldn't know what to do with a woman who outmatched him — except harm her, swiftly and decisively.

He is a gaslighter, a mansplainer, a Monday morning quarterback, a manspreader, a snake oil salesman. A fisherman who bores with obvious lies about the one that got away. A user, an abuser, a bigot, a louse. He is jack of no trades, and master of nothing — least of all himself.

Donald Trump is the epitome of toxic masculinity, a final boss of the patriarchy, expressing its every grotesquery. He possesses every ugly trait that unexamined and unfettered privilege entrains and abets. He is a man without constraints on his endless well of vile urges.

We speak, often and urgently, about the checks and balances that he needs as a president. We must speak also of the checks and balances he needs as a human being, who has slid through his life without any of the arresting impediments that restrain us from becoming our worst selves.

He needs them, though he is unlikely to ever get them, having arranged his life to exclude such censure, surrounding himself with sycophants and fools.

I don't know if it's fair to say that Donald Trump is objectively the worst man, but I know that the office of the United States presidency has conferred upon him the enormous power to be the worst man if he should so choose.

And I see no reason why he wouldn't.

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