Masculinity and Homophobia in Cold War America

I am investigating the relationship between the evolving definition of masculinity and the ubiquitous homophobia in Cold War America. This topic is relevant because homophobia is still a very serious problem and it is important to look at its causes to try and find solutions.

Previous scholarship on masculinity and homosexuality in the Cold War has discussed the trends toward the domestication of masculinity and the homosexualization of politics, but has not connected this evolution of masculinity to the homophobia of this period. Most scholarship on this topic has looked at the domestication of masculinity as a product of consumer culture and government propaganda of the period. Men were told to become fathers, and to own a house in the suburbs and become consumers rather than producers. Robert Corber in Homosexuality in Cold War America: Resistance and the Crisis of Masculinity looks at how this new ideal of masculinity was received in American society, especially at the backlash found in film noir. This book focuses on “gay male resistance to the homosexualization” of left-wing political activity during the Cold War and how this resistance fueled the gay rights movement that quickly became a mass movement. In Manhood and American Political Culture in the Cold War, Cuordileone examines the definition of manhood during the Cold War and the effects of gender and manhood on the political climate of the time. Cuordileone mentions the relationship between anxiety regarding the nuclear threat and communism and the anxiety regarding homosexuals. Both of these texts look at the changing definitions of masculinity in this era but do not investigate the relationship between manhood and homophobia. In my RBA, I hope to investigate and make connections between these two trends: domestication of the virile masculinity of the Cold War and the rampant homophobia of the Lavender Scare.

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