‘Cocked and Loaded’: Trump and the Gendered Discourse of National Security

Citation:

Cohn, Carol. 2020. “‘Cocked and Loaded’: Trump and the Gendered Discourse of National Security.” In Language in the Trump Era: Scandals and Emergencies, edited by Janet McIntosh and Norma Mendoza-Denton, 179–90. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Author: Carol Cohn

Keywords: military language, North Korea, nuclear weapons, metaphor, euphemism, gender, masculinity, gender and language, national security, language and thought

Annotation:

Summary:

On Jan 2, 2018, President Trump tweeted a taunt to Kim Jong-un of North Korea: “I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!” This chapter connects Trump’s nuclear saber-rattling to broader patterns of militaristic language use among nuclear weapons scientists and strategists, as well as among past presidents. Professional and political discourse about nuclear weapons tends to be far removed from the human realities behind the weapons. Such dispassionate language is characterized by stunningly abstract and euphemistic language – and in part by a set of lively and misogynistic sexual metaphors. This linguistic framework seems to shape what can be said, or even thought, within the confines of these male-dominated discussions of war. Those who urge restraint in responding to a provocation or attack, for instance, are quickly impugned as sissies, and expressions of empathy denigrated as feminine. In this respect, Mr. Trump is not an exception. His fear of being perceived as unmanly may be closer to the surface, but gendered language that constrains our understanding of reality has long distorted the ways we think about international politics and national security. (Summary from publisher)

Topics: Gender, Femininity/ies, Gender Analysis, Gendered Discourses, Masculinity/ies, Gendered Power Relations, Patriarchy, Weapons /Arms, Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Countries: North Korea, United States of America

Year: 2020

© 2022 CONSORTIUM ON GENDER, SECURITY & HUMAN RIGHTSLEGAL STATEMENT All photographs used on this site, and any materials posted on it, are the property of their respective owners, and are used by permission. Photographs: The images used on the site may not be downloaded, used, or reproduced in any way without the permission of the owner of the image. Materials: Visitors to the site are welcome to peruse the materials posted for their own research or for educational purposes. These materials, whether the property of the Consortium or of another, may only be reproduced with the permission of the owner of the material. This website contains copyrighted materials. The Consortium believes that any use of copyrighted material on this site is both permissive and in accordance with the Fair Use doctrine of 17 U.S.C. § 107. If, however, you believe that your intellectual property rights have been violated, please contact the Consortium at info@genderandsecurity.org.