Press Release: Director Carol Cohn Pens Chapter in “Language in the Trump Era: Scandals and Emergencies”

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Thursday, October 22, 2020 - 09:15
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See the press release in the UMass Boston Daily News.

Purchase the book at an indepedent bookstore.

Carol Cohn, founding director of the Consortium on Gender, Security and Human Rights at UMass Boston, was one of 28 scholars worldwide who collaborated to produce the newly released book, Language in the Trump Era: Scandals and Emergencies.

The book explores how President Donald Trump’s language shapes political discourse and influences popular opinion, making it a must-read in the lead up to the November 2020 election. According to the book's authors, Trump’s speech style has sown conflict even as it has powered his meteoric rise; it has repeatedly alarmed people around the world, while exciting his fan-base with his unprecedented rhetorical style, shock-tweeting, and weaponized words.

Cohn’s chapter, “‘Cocked and Loaded’: Trump and the Gendered Discourse of National Security,” builds on her New York Times op-ed, “The Perils of Mixing Masculinity and Missiles.” Cohn argues that ideas about gender shape and distort Trump’s own thinking about national security policy, even while he employs gendered metaphors to gain political assent to those policies. But Cohn also warns that despite Trump’s rhetorical crudeness and his bald need to be seen as a “manly man,” it would be a grievous mistake to comfort ourselves with the thought that he is exceptional.

Instead, she argues, he has merely brought to the surface something that has long been a part of national security thinking among both political elites and the wider public: “the gendered discourse embedded in the ways we talk about war and weapons of mass destruction powerfully influence our understanding of them, or lack thereof.” In other words, the ideas about masculinity and femininity that are embedded in international politics and national security policy matter.

“They mattered before Trump, they matter now, and they will matter after Trump,” she writes.

Language in the Trump Era: Scandals and Emergencies was edited by Janet McIntosh (Brandeis University) and Norma Mendoza-Denton (University of California, Los Angeles) and published by Cambridge University Press.

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