A person looking to purchase clothing advertising both their toughness and their party affiliation had many options at last summer’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio.
One tee shirt depicted a generously svelte Donald Trump on a motorcycle peeling away from Hillary Clinton. The artist’s rendition of Trump was wearing a vest that read “if you can read this, the bitch fell off.” Cartoon Trump was calm and collected; cartoon Clinton was cockeyed and losing her marbles, her emotions running wild, mouth open in a scream or other woman-sound a person purchasing that shirt was undoubtedly tired of hearing.
Elsewhere, attendees proudly donned shirts emblazoned with “Fuck your feelings,” a nod to the Trump Train’s disdain for liberal snowflakery. Trump fans confessed over the course of the campaign that they liked him because he was a real man’s man, tough and in control, and that he’d surround himself with similar in-control men, the kind of men that liberal whiny America was no longer allowing to Be Great. The generals, he loves the generals. The police, he loves the police. The gun owners, he loves the gun owners. The farmers! Oh, the farmers.
But since Trump’s inauguration, his agenda has experienced more derailments than a summer 2017 New York City subway. And it’s all been about infighting. Reince versus Bannon. Bannon versus Jared Kushner. Trump versus Reince. Trump versus Spicer. Spicer versus Scaramucci. Scaramucci versus Reince. Trump versus the Ninth Circuit. Scaramucci versus Bannon. Trump versus Congress. Trump versus the Senate. Bannon versus the legislative branch. Everybody versus James Comey. Everybody versus Mueller.
Each has cost the Republican party time and voter goodwill. Each can be directly traced back to an emotional outburst by a member of the president’s inner circle.
It’s ironic that after a macho emotion-mocking campaign, the Trump administration is a hive of out-of-control emotions, hurt feelings, and unbecoming histrionics. It’s especially ironic that the people demonstrating these unbecoming traits are men. After all of Trump and his supporters’ denigration of all things feminine, the only people who have an iota of control and restraint are the women of the White House.
Kellyanne Conway, for all of her faults, has never lost it and taken it out on a colleague. Ivanka Trump, regardless of how effective she has been as a modifying influence on her father, has never publicly blown up at another member of his staff and made everybody’s jobs more difficult. Sarah Huckabee Sanders is so stoic that it’s almost infuriating for the press charged with prying answers from her. Her mouth emits a Cirque du Soleil of acrobatic lies, but she’s always in control. Hope Hicks has never called Ryan Lizza to lewdly accuse Steve Bannon of a different sort of acrobatics. Melania Trump has displayed mild annoyance with her husband, but that was clearly planned, and also very funny.
Not losing control of one’s emotions seems a low bar to clear, but here we are.
At a Boy Scout jamboree, the president regaled thousands of boys with stories about rich guy parties on a boat and encouraged the Scouts to boo Hillary Clinton. Before police officers in Long Island, Trump encouraged them to be more brutal with suspects. The president yanks on the arms of foreign leaders, the president passive-aggressively confronts Jeff Sessions over Twitter rather than in person.
Imagine, for a moment, that the principle actors in the White House’s embarrassing week were women instead of men. It’s not hard to fathom the sort of insults a woman acting exactly like Anthony Scaramucci would garner. It’s not hard to imagine a Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity being forced to apologize after remarking that a woman acting as emotionally as Donald Trump may be premenstrual. The drama between Bannon, Preibus, and Scaramucci would evoke all manner of gendered insults. Anybody who thinks feminism is no longer necessary should think a little about the kind of people who accept this behavior from the Trump White House.
When the men of Trumpland lose control of their tough guy emotions, the people who have to clean up after them are women. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, not the president, faced the press after Trump tweeted about Mika Brzezinski’s “bloody” post-plastic surgery face. Kellyanne Conway faced the press after the New York Times revealed that Donald Jr, another man wont to utterly lose his shit on the regular, had arranged a meeting with a Kremlin-affiliated attorney during the 2016 campaign. When the president wanted to nap instead of attend a G20 meeting, it was Ivanka who took his seat.
This week, Peggy Noonan lamented in the Wall Street Journal the Trump administration’s failure to embody admirable traits of American masculinity--toughness, restraint, understated strength. She called the president a “drama queen,” and “Woody Allen without the humor.” (Nothing more culturally resonant in 2017 than a good Woody Allen reference.)
Noonan is correct that Donald Trump is not funny, at least not when he is trying to be. But she’s not quite correct about why the Trump administration should be ashamed of themselves. The men of Trumpland are acting exactly the way misogynists think women act. They’re acting exactly the way they warned us Hillary would act.
One can only shudder to think about how much worse it would be if the few women in Trumpland fell off.