Built Ford Tough: Masculinity, Gerald Ford's Presidential Museum, and the Macho Presidential Style

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Jones, Dustin
Cold War; Gerald Ford; Masculinity; Museum Studies; Public History
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paper description
In Cold War America, spanning roughly from 1945-1991, masculinity was in crisis. The rise of Communism and the Soviet Union had led to a fear of spies, infiltrators, and defectors known most commonly as the Red Scare. Americans were encouraged to be hyper vigilant in sussing out deviant behaviour. Alongside this scare came the Lavender Scare. It was suggested that homosexuals were deviant peoples and were therefore more susceptible to being turned Communist than their heterosexual counterparts. This led to a crisis of masculinity where even the smallest suggestion of femininity could lead to accusations of potential compromise, an effect felt very noticeably by politicians. It became imperative for politicians who wished to avoid slanderous and potentially career killing rumours to spread, especially if one aimed to be part of the highest office: the presidency. The impact this had was an over emphasis on a macho presidential style that impacted not only the careers of the men who served as president, but also their legacies contained inside their presidential museums. This paper aims to explore the impact of the macho presidential style in the presidential museum of Gerald Ford by comparing his life, his image, and his museum to see what factors are emphasized and to prove that these museums are biased towards the more masculine aspects of a president’s life.