I’ve been called arrogant a few times in my life.
And it’s not just angry readers or the stray co-worker who have said so. I’ve had friends tell me that I was arrogant (whatever—they’re just jealous because I’m so much better than they are).
In any case, the dangers of arrogance are well-established. Pride goeth before the fall, hubris got us into Iraq, etc.
That’s all true of course. But it’s also true that genuine arrogance does not originate in confidence. Its root cause is its theoretical opposite, which is insecurity.
Honestly, does anyone believe that our easily agitated president—lashing out over every perceived slight and spewing all-caps threats over Twitter—acts like a confident, secure individual who knows what he is doing? It’s textbook bullying that masks his insecurity.
By the way, if you think Trump actually does know what he’s doing, you are highly delusional.
Now, if we mix the hazards of insecurity with one of our culture’s favorite demons—toxic masculinity—we get a new, 21st-century problem that absolutely no one was clamoring for. I’m talking about fragile masculinity.
What the hell is that?
Well, fragile masculinity refers to the fact that “many men feel pressure to look and behave in stereotypically masculine ways—or risk losing their status as ‘real men.’ ” American machismo is a bastard, and this “unforgiving standard of maleness makes some men worry that they’re falling short.” These men are said to experience “fragile masculinity.”
OK, that all makes sense. But what can this disturbing phenomenon tell us about the times we are living in?
You might be interested to know that politics “provides a way that fragile men can reaffirm their masculinity.” They do this “by supporting tough politicians and policies” that reassure others (and themselves) of “their own manliness.”
And yes, a recent study has shown that “Trump appeals to men with fragile masculinity.”
Of course, you may be skeptical that researchers could measure something as ambiguous as fragile masculinity. Well, these scientists are way ahead of you.
The researchers didn’t just ask guys, “Hey, are you feeling fragile these days?” Although the responses to such a question would have made for a hilarious YouTube video.
Instead, the study analyzed Google searches that indicated “a high level of concern about masculinity.” Specifically, the researchers identified phrases such as “how to get girls,” “penis enlargement” and “testosterone,” among others. The scientists then looked at this sad grab-bag of phrases and, after accounting for demographic attributes such as education levels and racial composition, they discovered that Republican candidates “drew more support in areas with higher levels of fragile masculinity.”
Or as the researchers put it, support for Trump was higher “in areas that had more searches for topics such as ‘erectile dysfunction.’”
So now we’re back to this being a fucking hilarious study.
In essence, there are a lot of very insecure guys out there who are motivated to support Trump because his unrepentant bullying and tough-guy talk makes them feel manly. These omega males appreciate a chief executive who boasts about the size of his penis on national television, because they fantasize about doing the same thing themselves (although if the study is accurate, they may not have any real reason to boast… ahem).
By the way, the researchers found that, like so many aspects of American culture, this all snowballed with Trump. The study found that there was no significant relationship between fragile masculinity and voting in previous elections, which suggests that “fragile masculinity has now become a stronger predictor of voting behavior.”
Furthermore, the researchers theorize that Trump’s “re-engineering of the GOP as a party inextricably tied to many Americans’ identity concerns—whether based on race, religion or gender—will ensure that fragile masculinity remains a force in politics.”
So how do we stop this scourge? How do we keep insecure, fragile guys from wrecking the nation as part of a pathetic, futile quest to feel manly?
Well, regardless of the course of action we choose, one thing is certain.
It’s time to man up.