Masculinist Protectionism & Donald Trump

Masculinist Protectionism & Donald Trump

Briefly Applying Young’s (2003) Logic of Masculinist Protection to Donald Trump & the Future of the US Democratic System of Government

In light of the US Presidential election this week, Iris Marion Young’s article entitled “The Logic of Masculinist Protection: Reflections on the Current Security State” is highly relevant to understanding the greater trend toward authoritarianism with the rise of the security state and, in tandem, the widespread support for Donald Trump as the Republican candidate for US President.

Young makes the argument that in the post-9/11 world, we have adopted hierarchal masculinist protection as a mode of government via the security state. She defines the security state as one whose rules subordinate citizens to “surveillance, search or detention and repress[es] criticism of such arbitrary power” (Young: 2003, 8). There is a dual face of such a state: surveillance inside the state and violence outside the state (Young: 2003, 3).

The security state thrives, as Hobbes theorizes, on the premise that humans are inherently fearful and vulnerable to one another. To combat such fears and in an attempt to guarantee security, we accept a centralization of power, regardless of the incurred losses to personal freedoms.

Two key components tied to the concept of the security state that vividly crossover to the current election are the justification for preemptively eliminating possible enemies and the justification for willingly, even gratefully, seceding individual freedoms to a greater, trusted father-figure offering protection. Trump’s campaign initially gained traction on the declaration that he would build a wall between the US and Mexico and, more importantly, invasively identify and subsequently deport people already living in the US without citizenship—preemptively denying “outsiders” the opportunity to take jobs away from Americans. Similarly, the way Trump argues we should deal with “terrorists” is by responding with steep violent measures outside our borders. By arguing for the perpetuation of violence, he is perceived to be protecting citizens from such violence. As he said in a rally, we must fight “violently because we're dealing with violent people” (see Vanity Fair link below).

While deporting people illegally in the US and implementing violent measures abroad alone doesn’t outwardly imply a loss of individual rights, Young aptly points out that it is the removal of accountability and due process, respectively, that mark an implicit and enduring loss of autonomy and freedom. We presume the “other” as evil and accept that a leader will protect us, but we don’t consider the inherent consequences that would arise if the tables turned and our chosen leader perceived us as the “other” in the face of perceived or actual disobedience. Current supporters of Trump’s candidacy are not irrational, but rather they are proving that fear as a human emotion and the offer of possible protection from a perceived source of danger can cloud foresight about future consequences of the strings attached to accepting such protection.

As Young references in her conclusion, we can only reasonably assert and enjoy equality in citizenship if we similarly experience equality in susceptibility (and, hopefully, perseverance) to fear. Citizens who are unwilling to defend themselves cannot be deemed worthy or able to defend the country from tyranny. If Americans as a populace are unwilling to stand up to the dual relationship of challenges and rewards in a government of equality and freedom, then the US democracy (okay, republic) itself will fail and give way to sovereign rule void of such equality and freedoms.

Thought provoking/relevant examples of Trump’s rhetoric exhibiting tones of masculinist protection:

Quotes on violence -

Playing on fears and illusions of violence both at home and abroad in speech accepting the Republican nomination -


This piece was originally written as part of a course at the London School of Economics and Political Science entitled Gender & Militarization.