The American Psychological Association recently released a paper titled “Guidelines for Psychological Practice With Boys and Men,” which aims to tackle the problems of the modern man. Specifically how he’s too masculine, and this masculinity leads to high suicide rates, higher incarceration rates, and a higher probability of being the victim of a violent crime. Not listed was how masculine men are also at higher rates of attracting hot ladies. Maybe it’s in the footnotes. Anyway, the paper is essentially a treatise on toxic masculinity, with all the predictable leftist clap trap about how toxically masculine men negatively impact society after first negatively impacting themselves.
I’ll be honest, after reading the guide it does seem as if the group is trying to figure out how to make men happier on the whole… which they utterly failed simply because they’ve got it all backward. Men aren’t unhappy and committing suicide at higher rates because their masculinity makes them unhappy. Men aren’t unhappy because society has failed to play Mighty Mouse, rescuing them from their “toxic masculinity.” Let’s dive in, shall we?
APA’s new Guidelines for Psychological Practice With Boys and Men strive to recognize and address these problems in boys and men while remaining sensitive to the field’s androcentric past. Thirteen years in the making, they draw on more than 40 years of research showing that traditional masculinity is psychologically harmful and that socializing boys to suppress their emotions causes damage that echoes both inwardly and outwardly.
See, the premise is wrong. Firstly, 40 years of research about men being men is hardly a comprehensive spectrum of manliness. Men have been masculine for far longer than 40 years, and I’d note the past forty years excludes many great feats of mankind. And I do mean mankind.
Secondly, the premise that men suppressing their emotions is what causes men great damage is poppycock. There are many reasons for unhappiness, but the cure to depression isn’t always sitting in a group with a talking pillow, expressing emotions using nothing but feeling words. Yet this is the constant thru-line in the APA’s guide on the problem of masculinity.
The main thrust of the subsequent research is that traditional masculinity—marked by stoicism, competitiveness, dominance and aggression—is, on the whole, harmful. Men socialized in this way are less likely to engage in healthy behaviors. For example, a 2011 study led by Kristen Springer, PhD, of Rutgers University, found that men with the strongest beliefs about masculinity were only half as likely as men with more moderate masculine beliefs to get preventive health care.
Emphasis mine. The “thrust” of this guide is to link “healthy behaviors” to “getting therapy” or else “talking about our feelings.” Which is often what women do to great success. Women here being not men.
As I find myself typing near daily now, men are not women, women are not men. They have different needs and different drives. Just as it’s wrong to apply masculine values to women, so it’s wrong to apply feminine values to men.
But here’s another problem: there’s nothing wrong with stoicism, competitiveness, dominance and aggression when properly channeled. Just as there’s nothing wrong with displaying emotion, being compromising, or submitting to leadership when properly channeled. It’s called the balance of life, and we cannot socially engineer it out of men and women, nor should we. We’ve tried, and look where it’s gotten us?
But let’s get back to the paper at hand.
The paper also makes another false assumption, that somehow society teaches men to be masculine, instead of men just being masculine and society trying to punish them for it. Which is, in my opinion, the actual problem.
“Because of the way many men have been brought up—to be self-sufficient and able to take care of themselves—any sense that things aren’t OK needs to be kept secret,” Rabinowitz says. “Part of what happens is men who keep things to themselves look outward and see that no one else is sharing any of the conflicts that they feel inside. That makes them feel isolated. They think they’re alone. They think they’re weak. They think they’re not OK. They don’t realize that other men are also harboring private thoughts and private emotions and private conflicts.”
Remember when I wrote the paper did seem like it was aiming to make a difference in men’s lives? The above pull quote is, to me, evidence of that. I think the aim here comes from a genuine place: wanting to convey to men their struggles and feelings are valid and they’re not alone in this big bad world. There’s nothing wrong with the sentiment, per se. Women are, by and large, very good at seeking each other out for comfort and support. Men not so much. Why?
Well, what’s happened in the last few generations?
I happen to think men need safe spaces. And guess what, up until recently, men had them. They certainly had them more than 40 years ago, before this very paper started its research on the problems of masculinity. Men were free to go to their men’s only clubs, to attend boy’s only schools. They were free to bond with other men without being shamed, or told they were part of some big powerful patriarchy which busied itself with ruling the world and raping women.
Then a small cadre of violently shrill feminists dropped a bloody tampon in the works, insisting women be allowed into these men-only safe spaces, under the guise of “equality.” But just as women need to bond with other women, so do men need to bond with other men.
There’s nothing unhealthy about a man being a man, about being masculine. He shouldn’t be shamed for not sharing his feelings. He should be free to find a group of men with whom he can bond, and they can share experiences together. And if the topics of their lives come up, they’re free to discuss them. If they don’t, they’re free not to discuss them. This isn’t hard.
Which it seems like the paper kind of understands. Then again, blows itself up:
Clinicians should also understand broader institutional issues and support educational systems responsive to the needs of men. Boys who drop out of school are more likely to be unemployed than those who get to high school or college graduation, so addressing school-related challenges early can head off lifelong problems, according to the guidelines.
Great! Agreed! Let’s make schooling more friendly to boys, because as it is, the modern classroom caters to how girls learn. Let’s maybe reintroduce the idea of letting boys and girls have their own schools or at least classes, where boys can be taught in favor of how boys learn, and girls how girls learn. FINALLY!
Mental health professionals should strive to reduce aggression and violence and to understand the precursors to substance use and suicide.
Mental health professionals shouldn’t strive to reduce aggression and violence. They should strive to channel those drives into positive endeavors: sports, accomplishments, conquering tasks. Better idea: let boys outside to play. Allow them time with each other, to play as boys do. Don’t shame them for wanting to play war. Give them plenty of outlets for their imaginations and energies. Boys are physical, rambunctious, loud. Let them be, give them outlets just as we give girls outlets for their feminine pursuits and drives.
Remove the stigma associated with “masculinity” and allow men to be freely masculine, to channel what they naturally are. Read also Screw Off, Feminists: An Open Letter To Men From A Real Woman.
The “problem” (please note the quotation marks) of the modern man isn’t his masculinity, it’s the constant shaming of it. (Related: Enough Already! James Bond is a Handsome Straight Man and Will STAY THAT WAY!) The problem modern men have is not in being men, but in the shame society casts on them for wanting to be men. Then issuing patronizing guidelines on how men should be more like women.
Masculinity isn’t the problem. Society trying to diminish, punish, and drain men of it is. Until we figure that out, until we reverse course to right the ship, we’ll continue having miserable men.