Theresa and Trump: A Body Language Analysis
The familiar narrative of feminine submission and masculine control arises when looking at the photographs of Donald Trump and Theresa May’s hand-holding. The pictures headlining major newspapers have sparked interest over the meaning of their body language in both political and gendered contexts.
What makes the freeze-frame striking is the apparent breach in personal space and boundaries of touch. A study by Cristina Tiljander on the American sitcom ‘Friends’ considers how our body language, whether conscious or unconscious, continuously perpetuates gender stereotypes. Tiljander categorises our everyday movement and posture into a masculine and feminine binary, writing; ‘[postures] which demand more space are associated with power and masculinity and are more commonly used by men than women’. From her analysis we can form a direct comparison to Trump and his confident, upright stance, contrasting to May’s closed, inwards posture, with her head bowed towards the floor. Of course, this Alpha, domineering behaviour is something we have grown used to since reports of Trump’s electoral campaign landed on our Twitter feeds, however signs of Trump’s physical manipulation of May echo a foul repertoire of Trump’s sinister treatment of women.
With a total of 20 women, including his ex-wife Ivana, coming forward with both sexual assault and rape allegations against America’s president, the image captured of Trump restraining May’s arm re-informs us of his sex-offending past. Not to mention the infamous ‘grab her by the pussy’ statement, immortalised via video tape in 2005, and his continual degradation of feminine appearance as calculative of women’s worth, especially around his ‘Miss Universe Organization’ involvement, and even in response to the assault allegations themselves.
Psychologists Marianne Lafrance and Andrea C. Vial conducted research on the different performances of touch played by men and women and found the choices of who we touch and how we touch to be a reflection of status differences. As humans we use touch to communicate feeling, however there is distinction in what emotion the genders are expressing according to Lafrance and Vial; ‘women are more likely than men to successfully communicate sympathy using touch, whereas men are more likely than women to successfully use touch to communicate anger’. Interestingly, we know Donald’s man-handlings of women are an extension of his pathological need to control others on a gender basis, by asserting a masculine aggression and power the article speaks of.
On the other hand (pun intended), the interaction gained attention as a metaphorical emblem to the powerful hand of the U.S in its Republican persuasion over British politics. Including Trump’s push for a ‘harsher’ Brexit, blaming terrorism on London’s Muslim Mayor Sadiq Khan, and a remark that Boris Johnson, our ex-Foreign secretary, would ‘be a great prime minister’, in spite of Boris’ xenophobic and fraudulent campaign for Britain to leave the EU.
Overall, Trump and May’s variations of hand-holding in their meetings point towards a disturbingly friendly alliance between the UK Conservative government and the business-owning, problematic American President. Their increasingly close partnership threatens an overlap of political outlooks, whilst May’s submission to Trump’s grasp puts her at the peril of an alleged sex-offender.
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