"Rambo is a Republican": Idealized Hypermasculinity and the Presidential Decision to Go to War
Crapko, Jeffrey A.
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The decision to go to war is often examined as a key subject of international politics. Often, however, the role that gender plays in this decision is minimized or completely overlooked. The evidence gathered in this study suggests that for every American president since John F. Kennedy, conceptions of masculinity have influenced the decision to go to, and stay in war. The Vietnam War is often considered America's most gendered war, and as such serves· as a case study for the examination of popular depictions of idealized hypermasculinity and its influence on the American presidency. In order to form a basis for a discussion on masculinity, several different conceptual definitions of masculinity are discussed, as are working definitions for idealized hypermasculinity and emasculation. Idealized hypermasculinity is then examined in popular cinematic depictions of the Vietnam War. Alternative views of this hypermasculinity are considered before moving into an analysis of each American president since John F. Kennedy and the ways in which idealized hypermasculinity impacted their decisions to engage in armed conflict. Presidents feel pressure to conform to hypermasculine expectations in order to avoid appearing weak and cowardly. It is ultimately concluded that idealized hypermasculinity plays a defining role in presidents' expectations of war, and subsequently greatly informs their decision making process.