The toxic macho culture driving Trump

16 year old Deborah Hill Cone
16 year old Deborah Hill Cone

I know my father loved me. It just didn't feel like he did. I recently came across an old photo he took of me. I was about 16, sitting in the sun outside my room, listening to REM.

I didn't want my photo taken, but Dad said he was going to take it anyway, as a record, because "you will feel so ashamed later in your life when you see it".

Granted, I looked like a small, angry, punk squirrel, what with my cut up pyjama top home-painted in Stephen Sprouse-homage graffiti, my dyed hair teased high with black death (hairspray) and overall, looking like I needed a good scrub.

My father loved me but it was hard not to realise he also found me too much: too messy, whiny, clingy, slutty, loud. I knew our rules: be brainy not emotional, work hard, play safe, don't be wrong and above all, achieve. Try as I might, I just couldn't seem to follow them.

Yes I know, it seems I'm having a Sylvia Plath moment. But it's actually not such a huge jump from this - Daddy's disapproval - to understanding why I particularly admire those women who have spoken out about being manhandled by Donald Trump.

I admire them not for their courage in coming forward, but their strength of character in even recognising what happened to them was something to complain about. I didn't.

Not that I have ever met Donald Trump but I have certainly met a lot of mid-echelon grandiose businessmen.

And for much of my life I would have felt rather chuffed if not downright grateful if one of them, any man in a position of power, found me attractive enough to grope with their short fingers.

Jeez, it really makes me a bit sad to write that. In fact not only would I have put up with being hit on, at times I probably sought out those kind of men.

There is a certain predatory look- a cold primate stare - that marks some men as withholding enough to become a stand-in for my late father. A pathetic transaction of course: I was the young beggar tipping my cup and giving my coins to the old beggar.

And repetition compulsion seldom works; I was unlikely to get the love I didn't get from my Dad from some other random emotionally unavailable man in a suit.

Compulsively seeking the role of "the special one" with some latter day representative of your father is a fruitless attempt to rewrite history. But that's what happens, as a girl, when you don't get the acceptance you need from the most important man in your life.

Hey any fathers reading this? Will you do something for me? Try to find an appropriate, non-cringey time today to tell your daughters they are beautiful, just as they are. Every daughter is entitled to feel welcomed, deserving and adored and to know she doesn't have to work hard to be loved. It's important.

I believe what makes Trump a toxic sleaze is the same macho culture that kept my father trapped, unable to accept me as I am.

I don't intend to sound like I'm blaming my father. He did love me, in the best way he knew, even though this tended to involve wishing me to be better or different or preferably, a Rhodes Scholar.

But he lived, like all of us, in a culture that struggles with difference. And maybe I was just a bit different.

My father was nothing like Donald Trump. Nonetheless, I believe what makes Trump a toxic sleaze is the same macho culture that kept my father trapped, unable to accept me as I am.

Traditional masculinity is a coping mechanism that deadens a man's emotions. That is how Jared Yates Sexton describes it in a New York Times essay in which he explains how Trump's supporters hear in Trump's demeaning of women an echo of their own fear and desperation.

I believe the fear he refers to is a fear of difference. I also believe it is not merely a gender construct, but something that stops us connecting with each other, both men and women. For example, some of us are born with a tendency to feel emotions more strongly than others but our social norms don't value this difference. (Most people who struggle with dysregulated behaviours are like this.)

Unfortunately, instead of making space for people who are different our culture strongly favours those who are capable of accepting the world at face value and succeeding in the system as it is. People who don't fit tidily into the dominant mode of interaction are defined as needing to be fixed. This has to do with the terror we feel of own dark side, which we hate in ourselves and project onto others. Donald Trump's fear and shame-based politics feeds off this demonising of difference.

On a personal level, it's a life's work to learn that we're not wrong, we're just different. I found the photo that my Dad took the other day and actually, 30 years later, Dad, sorry but you were wrong. I don't feel ashamed of myself. I actually thought I looked rather cool.

Topics:  donald trump opinion

Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

Higher booze prices 'best way to combat abuse'

Should taxes be raised further on alcoholic drinks?

Report examines best ways to combat alcohol and violence

8800 complaints about water, energy bills in Queensland

Maree Skellern from Tweed Heads Kindy Care showing the dramatic changes in the latest power bill.

More than $320,000 in billing adjustments

'UNREAL': Paddler videos moment whale swims under his board

Surfer Ziggy Albert (blond hair) and his paddle buddy on their way to Old Woman Island enjoyed the encounter of a lifetime when a mother whale and her calf popped up in front of them.

You couldn't find a better way to start the day than this

Local Partners

Wakeskating champ hit with $200 fine at school pick-up

AUSTRALIAN wakeskating champion Cody Murphy has copped a $200 fine for forgetting to carry his driver's license when making a five minute trip to school.

Community garden set for Palmwoods

Kay Nixon at the Palmwoods Community Gardens will be hosting a launch day and inviting the ecommunity to come along and sign up.

Parcel of land to supply sustainable gardening for community

Barry Gibb is coming to Bluesfest 2017

FANS: Barry Gibb talks to a fan next to a cardboard cutout of his young self.

Aged 70, Gibb has re-launched his solo music career with a new album

Tim Finn headlining at Airlie Beach Music Festival

Music veteran Tim Finn from New Zealand will headline the Airlie Beach Music Festival.

Tim Finn: "It's the kind of festival that artists love"

Steve Irwin's final days through dad's eyes

Bob Irwin with his son Steve.

'You never expect that’s the last time you’re going to see your son'

Kristie doesn't mind being the third wheel in Survivor final

Kristie Bennett in a scene from Australian Survivor.

SOLO player will take on Survivor's power couple Lee and El tonight.

Scary hoping Posh and Sporty will re-join The Spice Girls

Mel B

Mel B hoping Victoria Beckham, Mel C will re-join The Spice Girls

REVIEW: Michael McIntyre has Brisbane in stitches

Michael McIntyre in a scene from his TV series Michael McIntyre's Comedy Roadshow.

BRITISH comedian is in the country on his Happy and Glorious Tour.

Cliff Richard doesn't need Rod Stewart's help with legal bills

Sir Cliff Richard

"'Don't worry, I'm loaded. I won't keep you to it.' "

Woolies announces closure of Ipswich store

Woolworths in the Ipswich Mall.Photo: Rob Williams / The Queensland Times

The last day of trading will be January 1

Look at me! Kath and Kim home up for sale

Kath and Kim from the iconic Aussie TV series.

'Crack open the Baileys and grab a box of BBQ Shapes'

How to fit 100,000 new homes on the Coast

Property, real estate, housing, suburb,  August 2016

Fitting 2m extra people in south-east Qld in 25 years a balance

Hinterland horse stud passed in for $8.25 million

UNREAL: This Maleny estate is incredible.

12-bedroom hinterland horse stud still available

Hit songwriter's Noosa mansion on market

SPECIAL PLACE: The Cintamani estate is going to tender, marketed by Tom Offermann Real Estate.

Is this Queensland's best property?

Kiwi siblings snap up Dotcom mansion for $32.5m

The new toy company owners of the Coatesville mansion want replace any controversy with positivity and fun. Photo / Barfoot and Thompson

The trio paid $32.5 million for the property in June