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Macho Posturing in Politics

By Taylor Marvin

Writing for Radio Free Europe, Claire Bigg highlights the unfortunate side effects of Vladimir Putin’s propensity for macho posturing (via Brendan I. Koerner):

“Vladimir Putin’s stunt with Siberian cranes this week was intended to display both his tough-guy image and his commitment toward saving endangered species.

But what it perhaps best highlighted was his curious knack for causing harm to rare animals.”

Welfare of endangered animals aside, by all accounts Putin is an expert at managing his perception as a vigorous adventurer among Russian domestic audiences; a narrative that is unquestionably electorally valuable. Numerous authoritarian and democratic leaders have played up their masculinity, especially in “macho” dominated cultures that respect this sort of posturing (there’s an argument to be made that Pussy Riot secured such a following in the Western public consciousness because its feminist archetype so obviously contrasts the masculinity of the Russian state, which is apparent both in Putin’s security apparatus and the Church). What’s particularly interesting is that Dmitry Medvedev appears to have deliberately strayed from this aggressive masculinity during his tenure as President and Prime Minister, instead projecting the well-dressed air of a sophisticated technocrat. Whether this is a deliberate attempt to separate him from Putin’s persona — the more conspiratorially-minded would suggest the verb diminish rather than separate — or a reflection of his personality I don’t know.

Of course, macho posturing for political gain isn’t limited to Russia — George W. Bush’s carrier landing is probably the apex of the genre.

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