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Feeling Protected: Protective Masculinity and Femininity from Donald Trump and Joe Biden to Jacinda Ardern

A public lecture at The University of Adelaide and online


Image: David Lienemann, Jill and Joe Biden, with grand kids, reading at the Biden's home in Wilmington, Delaware, 2015. Wikimedia Commons.

Date: Thursday 6 May 2021
Time: 11:00am–12:30pm (ACST)
Venue: Engineering Nth N158 Chapman Lecture Theatre, The University of Adelaide, and online via Zoom.
Enquiries: Please contact katie.barclay@adelaide.edu.au for the Zoom link for this event.

This paper builds on previous work on political discourse, affective citizenship and emotional regimes and their interaction with the politics of gender. It focuses on key issues in the politics of emotion in a time not just of pandemic but of social and geo-economic change. The paper emphasizes  the role that political leaders’  discourse plays in evoking positive emotions amongst citizens in uncertain times, such as feeling secure,  protected and proud in addition to the leaders’ (often interconnected) role of encouraging negative feelings such as fear, resentment and anger. The paper further argues that such discourse frequently involves performances of gendered leadership. It cites examples from a range of countries to illustrate the points being made. In particular the paper argues that 2020 US election saw a contest between two forms of protective masculinity, Trump’s exclusionary,  macho, hyper masculinity versus Biden’s more socially inclusive, empathetic and softer version.  Trump’s protective masculinity fail over managing the COVID pandemic was arguably one of the factors contributing to his electoral defeat. Biden aimed to make  voters feel safer and more protected than under Trump. The paper also provides examples of protective femininity, with a particular focus on the discourse of New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern. 

Carol Johnson is an Emerita Professor in the Department of Politics and International Relations at The University of Adelaide. She has published extensively on the politics of emotion and issues of affective citizenship. Recent publications include a chapter on 'Gender, Emotion and Political Discourse' in O. Feldman (ed.) The Rhetoric of Political Leadership: Logic and Emotion in Public Discourse (Edward Elgar 2020) and a chapter on 'Feeling Equal' in her sole-authored book, Social Democracy and the Crisis of Equality: Australian Social Democracy in a Changing World (Springer 2019).