Manhood, reason, and American foreign policy: The social construction of masculinity and the Kennedy and Johnson administrations.
AuthorDean, Robert Dale.
Committee ChairSchaller, Michael
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThis dissertation explores the ways that specific constructions of "masculinity" and related "gendered" discourses of political power helped shape the foreign policy decisions of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. I argue that both prescriptive and proscriptive aspects of an elite "ideology of masculinity" played an important role in Kennedy administration innovations like counterinsurgency programs or the Peace Corps. The U.S. intervention in Vietnam under both Presidents was shaped in significant ways by a decision-making process embedded in a gendered discourse that equated negotiation with "appeasement," "softness," feminized weakness, and the collapse of boundaries; the use of force was construed as "tough-minded," a pragmatic "hardness" to buttress vital imperial and domestic political boundaries. This dissertation places analytical and interpretive emphasis on the heretofore largely unexamined role of gender and culture in American foreign policy of the Cold War. The study has two aspects. The first focuses on the creation of elite masculine "identity-narratives"; I examine the patterns of masculine socialization common to Kennedy and the elite "establishment" figures he recruited to staff his national security bureaucracy. I discuss patterns of experience in sex-segregated educational, fraternal, and military institutions, and the ritual ordeals employed by those institutions to create overlapping brotherhoods of privilege and power. I examine their experience of the gendered and sexualized political discourse of the nineteen-fifties, and the lessons they learned from the government purges which equated "subversion" and "sex perversion" when targeting victims. The second aspect of the study examines the "real world" consequences of the prescriptive and proscriptive ideology of masculinity shared by the national security staff of Kennedy and Johnson. I look at the ways that programs like counterinsurgency or the Peace Corps were shaped by ideals of masculine strenuousness and heroism, and in turn used as a political theater of masculinity for domestic political purposes. Decision-making about Vietnam was inextricably bound up with "private" identity-narratives of masculine power, and a public political discourse revolving around questions of "strength" or "weakness" in leaders. The politics of masculinity shaped the cost-benefit reason of U.S. policy-makers.