Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Monograph

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Program

History

Supervisor

Sendzikas, Aldona

Abstract

This dissertation explores the impact of hegemonic masculinity, in the early Cold War era, on the electoral politics of Canada and the United States. It situates itself in the years between 1949 and 1963, arguably the height of nuclear fear, at a time when masculine ideals were adjusting to an uncertain postwar reality. Previous scholarship has established that the Cold War brought with it a retreat into domesticity, followed by an emergent “crisis” of masculinity. This monograph contributes to the historiography by demonstrating that the masculine architypes of the early Cold War are frequently reflected in electoral discourse. It also highlights how postwar fears about masculinity align closely to the evolution of public understanding, and growing anxiety, about nuclear weaponry.

Early chapters, which follow the political tenures of Louis St. Laurent and Dwight Eisenhower, establish that their ability to project themselves as reassuring, paternalistic father-figures was crucial to their electoral success. When combined with the portrayal of opponents as outside the bounds of hegemonic masculinity, it was a strategy that won elections. However, as the 1950s progressed, concerns about nuclear weaponry and fears about eroding manhood entered the public discourse. These new anxieties quickly rendered the paternalistic approach to governance insufficient. In its place, a more forceful brand of leadership emerged. It was focused on countering the malaise of the late 1950s by utilizing the nostalgia of the “self-made man” and promising a return to the individualism of the frontier-era. The candidacies of both John Diefenbaker and John F. Kennedy benefitted greatly from this approach, as both men promised to push towards “new” frontiers.

Summary for Lay Audience

This monograph explores the way that masculine norms impacted political discourse and electoral campaigns in Canada and the United States during the height of Cold War nuclear fears (1949-1963).

Available for download on Monday, December 04, 2023

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