literallytrevor said: How did TR change masculinity? That's really interesting.
oh man I’m about to dispense some stuff y’all should be paying for (and probably already did pay for, either through taxes or tuition) but LET’S HAVE AT IT.
I’m like 99.5% sure AP US classes make you read TR’s speech The Strenuous Life, wherein he talks about how you have to work really hard to live a life worth living. It’s usually taught bc he mentions how imperialism is a masculine tactic (taking up more space ahahahahaahah I made a joke) and so it justifies his stance on that, but it is also one of the most blatant articulations of the worth of masculinity in American politics.
I am not even going to begin to address the ableism inherent in the speech. I don’t really have the tools to deconstruct it, tbh. I understand there’s a historical context for it, but that shit is poisonous and still exists in political discussions of the value of work to this day. We will merely acknowledge the ableism and move on.
TR, both in this speech and in his life, embodies this crisis of masculinity that seems to happen like every 50 years or so; you see it after the end of World War II (danefonda can tell you more if he’s feeling up to it; I could try to summarize what I’ve learned from him, but basically the moral of the story is gay people and Communists are essentially the same, blah blah etc. etc.) and you see it during TR’s life. Men are terrified of being ‘less manly’ and, therefore, feminine. Why the fuck else would a rich kid with a Harvard education and a dead wife go out and decide to become a cowboy? It’s because he has a massive chip on his shoulder. Everyone and their mom was terrified about the feminization of America (probably most notably Henry James) and no one fought against that feminization more brazenly than Teddy Roosevelt.
(The dead wife thing is really interesting, actually, because it’s a man’s job literally to protect and provide for his wife, so if she’s dead, he’s failed to be a man, in some respect. I’m not saying that’s what happened, it just puts an interesting spin on everything.)
TR’s articulations—both in the speech and also in his autobiography and other personal writings—extol masculinity at the obvious cost of femininity. Is TR the first to do this? No. Is he the first to do this in a language that makes sense to you and me, without any deep cultural teachings about the language of gender roles of the period? I would say probably. Manhood and maleness change over the course of US history, but TR shapes and steers a popular articulation that still weighs over us. We still value the kind of white, upper middle class (and therefore palatable) masculinity that TR embodies.
Like all cultural forces, it’s not a single-handed or necessarily intentional change; TR didn’t say to himself “today I will make my perceptions of masculinity be valued enough that they become the dominant view!” But he did use that view of masculinity in his personal life, in his politics and policies, and they became a significant part of American culture. And it’s damaging. It’s damning to femininity, to the white working class, to men of color. It reinforces the construction of what is desirable: white, upper middle class masculinity. And that’s a construction we’re still facing to this day.
This photo always cheers me up a bit. It’s a front-page article from 1955 about Christine Jorgensen, one of the first women to have sex-reassignment surgery.
Since the text is a bit small and I couldn’t find a larger copy, here’s what the small blurb says:
A World of a Difference
George W. Jorgensen, Jr., son of a Bronx carpenter, served in the Army for two years and was given honorable discharge in 1946. Now George is no more. After six operations, Jorgensen’s sex has been changed and today she is a striking woman, working as a photographer in Denmark. Parents were informed of the big change in a letter Christine (that’s her new name) sent to them recently.
This article is 58 years old, and it’s more respectful of Christine’s pronoun choices and name than some publications are today. It makes me happy to see a newspaper be respectful of a trans person’s choice of name and pronouns like that.
With short cropped hair and a tuxedo, the lesser-known Gladys Bentley (left) commandeered the crowd at Harlem’s Clam House in the 1920s, singing cabaret, tickling the piano keys, and flirting shamelessly with the women in the audience. The only one of these women to openly exploit her lesbian identity, she was known for taking popular songs and giving them lewd lyrics; and she asked the audience to help her improvise naughty lines.
The compilation of Alexander Hamilton’s mad artistic skills
but let’s celebrate hamilton’s life the way he would have wanted us to
by living aggressively and brilliantly and on occasion getting ferociously smashed in order to make a myriad of mistakes including but not limited to: infidelity, sodomy, challenging the president of the united states to a duel,