Feeling protected: protective masculinity and femininity from Donald Trump and Joe Biden to Jacinda Ardern

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Carol JohnsonUniversity of Adelaide, Australia

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This article emphasises the role that political leaders’ discourse plays in evoking positive emotions among citizens in uncertain times, such as feeling protected, secure and proud in addition to the leaders’ (often interconnected) role of encouraging negative feelings such as fear, resentment and anger. The article argues that such discourse frequently involves performances of gendered leadership. It cites examples from a range of countries to illustrate the points being made, but focuses on the 2020 US presidential election which saw a contest between two forms of protective masculinity: Trump’s exclusionary, macho, hypermasculinity versus Biden’s more socially inclusive, empathetic and softer version. Trump’s protective masculinity failure over managing the COVID-19 pandemic was arguably one of the factors contributing to his electoral defeat, while Biden aimed to make voters feel safer and more protected than under Trump. The article also provides examples of protective femininity, with a particular focus on the discourse of New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern.

Carol JohnsonUniversity of Adelaide, Australia

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