Trump’s Bloody Nose: Men and Assorted -struations.

What Trump Sees? (Source: Pinterest, Aela Gholizadeh)

Portrait photograph of Megyn Kelly

What we see.

I think it was Bubba Jefferson, Thomas’ lesser-known brother, who said that the tree of GOP primaries has to be watered with the tears shed for a candidate who drops out because of what he says about blood and women. And that is still true today.

Kidding aside, Trump’s blood comment should give us pause. In case you are lucky and still avoid the void of avoidable news, you may not have heard that GOP Presidential hopeful and front-runner Donald Trump received some pointed questions about his past comments about women (all disparaging, many shaming their bodies, some directly suggesting that submitting to sexual intercourse with Trump would be a good idea). FOX News anchor Megyn Kelly read some of his comments back to Trump, asking if he considers this in conflict with his electability for the office of the Presidency. And from there it went from bad to worse…


In response, Trump fired up his twitter account (for the purpose of this entry I will assume that he writes his own tweets, though we should be careful with that assumption in general), and delivered some of his trademark hostile, bullying, coarse, and mean-spirited afterthoughts. (Here is a write-up of the story in a medium that, while not generally considered high journalism, suits the story’s protagonist).

Trump’s comments reach their low point in his declaration made later during a phone interview with CNN’s Don Lemon, when Tump said that, “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. … Blood coming out of her….wherever….” I do think Lemon would have done right to call him on that, but when you call Trump you don’t hope for subtle nuances, I suppose, and Lemon isn’t exactly the best at correcting things on live TV. Maybe he simply ‘gets’ Trump and understood, as Trump and his spokespersons insist, that Trump meant Kelly’s nose.

Of course he did. Why would any person think that a white, rich, male U.S.American would mean any other place where blood might leave a woman’s body? Get your minds out of the gutter, we can hear him command. Of course the whole thing is a campaign against him and his commonsensical reasoning in the face of questions about his conduct against women, questions asked by a woman, launched by the team of either his competitors or a woman in the race for the office (or in the case of Fiorina, by both).

Of course he did not. In this age of media dog whistles who could not see the signal he was sending to a share of his supporters whose guffaws at the allusion to women’s apparently terrifying physiology and their oh-so-scary menstrual fluid would blow out  any of doubt sparked by these questions. And you know that that is the important thing because Kelly did put her finger on the flip side of Trump’s chauvinist antics. Trump had to attack Kelley to point out her biological rootedness, her essential femininity, which he declares contrary to quality, professional conduct. His audience seems to have gotten the message.

Of course he proved her point. Such puerile, daring sarcasm is not respectable, it cannot behoove the image on a coin, but must stay in the masses. Trump’s elitism rests on his money and his comportment in public. The one, however, is a purely formalistic aspect of power, while the substance of the man is based on a limited range of emotional and personal responses, none of them conducive to any undertaking beyond secret boardroom meetings and golf-course deals.

So she who leaks blood is the opposite of him who is dry and professional…let us go over just some of the things that are interesting in this remark. Before getting to the meat, sorry, blood, I want to make two disclaimers: I do not claim to exhaust the things that are problematic in Trump’s comment, not by a long shot. Nor do I assume it was a planned, strategic move, but rather a spontaneous outburst of misogynist misosanguinity.

Surely by now you clearly hear the overtones in the chords he strikes, full of humoral theory. Looking at a handy comparison chart of the different systems, we can see that Trump appears to categorize Kelly as a sanguine character, with a loose set of accumulated cultural associations indicating a sensitive, hedonistic, artisan. Remarkably, this set of terms, joined in constant conjunction, makes sense in Trump’s response–he clearly does not see Kelly as focused on duty, intuition, or logic.

This in itself is, of course, a very rough indication of which of the four corners drawn in this model Trump would place Kelly in. We see that his association of an attack (not that it was one) on him, which to him automatically is unprofessional fits cultural traditions that are thousands of years old.
Another more recent association adds another layer to this, namely the gendered aspect. Humoralism in concerned with gender, but not nearly in the same way as we are today. In Trump’s blood-leaking image I hear more of nineteenth-century white homosociality of white, male professionals. This is a complicated-sounding key phrase for the findings of several social and cultural scholars, most notably Dana D. Nelson’s famous National Manhood: Capitalist Citizenship and the Imagined Fraternity of White Men, which draws out the tight bonds of race, class, and the rise of of the professions in the nineteenth century. Nelson points out that “femaleness” was frequently classified as disorderly and that white, male management ideals root in the comfort that such categories bring when social conduct can follow the diagnostic power of males to identify this disorderly essence, to manage it, and to prescribe it (73). Needless to say that when we think about problems like unequal pay for women and their under-representation in many contexts, we really are still struggling with the results of such devastating fraternal power. So Trump’s idea of the female body is not merely centered on a cohesive set of characteristics that are rooted in biology, but is also part of a gendered and racialized social reality, an ideal world of good old boys who refuse women equal professional standing.
The third and last item in our list of obvious reverberations is Trump’s retreat to the nose. Anyone who has read even a bit about menstruation has probably heard of vicarious menstruation, in which non-vaginal mucus membranes appear to be involved in the menstrual rhythm (See, for example, Delany, Lupton, and Toth, 249-51). I neither suppose that Trump knows about this (or would care) nor that this is a common enough diagnosis to matter greatly. What I do propose is that we read Trump’s comments not as an aberration, a slip of the tongue, or an overreaction by a public determined to misread everything he says. To associate a nosebleed with menstruation and both with women’s biological and therefore essential as well as materially visible hostility towards powerful, potent, virile men like Trump is (in his eyes) speaks volumes to the mindset within which this kind of rhetoric functions. We cannot divorce, in other words, his comments about migrants from Mexico as “rapists” from his view of the bloody, blood-lusting, and bleeding Lady MacBeth Kelly (I know, there are complications because of the sanguine fertility, but I’m trying to make a point here. You can also pick Stephen King’s Carrie or even Countess Elizabeth Báthory de Ecsed, depending on your tolerance for salaciousness). Trump sees people as biologically rooted, naturally gendered, and as embodiments of their every thought and emotion, their true motives dropping from their orifices. Women are grotesque, leaky vessels whose place is not that of judging the professionalism he brings to bear on the event.
Trump’s campaign suffered a bloody nose from his words, or so it may seem. He was cut from the RedState conference line-up. And yet, who would have thought that his other simply terrible denouncements would gain him not just infamy but a sizable following in the Republican polls? Fact is, we have much work to do in overcoming centuries of bias, hate, and prejudice, and this one snippet of a bloody terrible conversation shows us how long the road still is.
[Edit: Don’t miss our exciting second part of this never-ending saga.]

2 thoughts on “Trump’s Bloody Nose: Men and Assorted -struations.

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