For a while, the New York Times was on a kick about “toxic masculinity.” It was half an attack on Trump, as if he were the standard bearer for males, and half an attack on men who hadn’t dedicated their lives to being feminist allies. But the toxic masculinity began to fade behind Trump’s many other foibles and failings, and there’s only so much real estate to be had on the Times’ editorial page. So with a few exceptions, the “how to be a good man by being a woman” op-eds faded.
The American Psychological Association, undeterred by the fact that depression and anxiety are at an all-time high in their care, has chosen to be the caboose in the “real men are toxic” train by issuing its “first ever” guidelines for the treatment of men and boys. Why?
But something is amiss for men as well. Men commit 90 percent of homicides in the United States and represent 77 percent of homicide victims. They’re the demographic group most at risk of being victimized by violent crime. They are 3.5 times more likely than women to die by suicide, and their life expectancy is 4.9 years shorter than women’s. Boys are far more likely to be diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder than girls, and they face harsher punishments in school—especially boys of color.
So men are obviously privileged, and significantly better at committing suicide than women, who try more often but fail to succeed. Obviously, the problem is “traditional masculinity.”
APA has issued its first-ever guidelines for practice with men and boys. 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 https://t.co/yzDRvH6Hgo pic.twitter.com/l8W5J06mJU
— APA Monitor (@APA_Monitor) January 2, 2019
And indeed, that’s exactly where the APA wants the problem to be.
The main thrust of the subsequent research is that traditional masculinity—marked by stoicism, competitiveness, dominance and aggression—is, on the whole, harmful.
The problem isn’t that men don’t suffer from depression, anxiety and the litany of other issues that psychology is meant to address, but that the new reason they do is that they’re men. Toxic men. Traditional men. If only they were whiny, self-absorbed, passive and submissive, like . . . nope, not gonna say it.
This vision of masculinity may summon up an image of a closemouthed cowboy, à la John Wayne. But there’s more to masculinity than macho swagger. When the rules of manliness bump up against issues of race, class and sexuality, they can further complicate men’s lives.
Notice how they went from John Wayne to “macho swagger” without blinking? More importantly, notice how “race, class and sexuality” appears out of nowhere?
For example, the masculine requirement to remain stoic and provide for loved ones can interact with systemic racism and lead to so-called John Henryism for African-American men, a high-effort method of coping that involves striving hard in the face of prolonged stress and discrimination. John Henryism has been linked with hypertension and depression.
Of course racism gives rise to depression in black men who want to fulfill their “masculine requirement” of providing for their family. But the problem isn’t that they want to provide for their family, or “masculine requirements,” but racism. The APA’s solution is to relieve their sense of obligation to their family because it’s harmfully masculine? Watching your children go hungry isn’t as much fun as the APA seems to think it is.
Aside from the APA reducing itself to a social justice joke, does any of this matter? Well, yes, it may have real world impact.
Unfortunately, APA’s practice guidelines will make it less likely that men will get the help they need. Worst still, if these guidelines are put into therapeutic practice they may harm men and boys. Let me explain.
— John P Wright (@cjprofman) January 7, 2019
It’s not that men and boys are somehow relieved of a need for therapeutic help. The issues of depression and anxiety, et al., are endemic to all people, and men may well need treatment for mental health issues like anyone else. But rather than treat their issues, these guidelines make the issue their masculinity, as in “stop being such a man and you won’t suffer these mental health problems.” That’s not going to help, and it’s not going to make stoic men more inclined to seek treatment.
Most traditionally masculine men aren’t killers or victims. They work hard for their families and open doors for others. When there’s a problem, they try to find solutions. When their neighbor needs a hand, they lend it. Most men don’t walk about with a “macho swagger,” but with courtesy toward others. Traditional men are gentlemen.
It’s not that traditional men won’t find themselves in need of psychological help. They do. They will. It’s that what they will not need is the new “conversion therapy,” that the cure to whatever ails them is to change from traditional masculinity to a feminist ally.
If traditional masculinity isn’t for you, don’t be it. Nobody is forcing you to be anything you’re not. In the same vein, if that’s what you are, the APA wants to cure you by turning you into a simpering wimp. This is the same old “toxic masculinity” agenda that’s being drummed into the woke, even as many young people secretly realize it’s bonkers and feign wokeness to get along with their peers, but knowing full well that they prefer to eat bacon and watch car chases than kale and romcoms.
The APA isn’t likely to change who men are, mostly because real men don’t give a damn what the APA has to say about it. But what it will do is deny those men who need therapy the ability to get the help they need by conditioning therapy on the acceptance of the premise that their traditional masculinity is the cause of their problems.
And then there’s the expert on the witness stand explaining to the jury, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, that the defendant’s violent nature is proven by his toxic masculinity of wanting to feed his children. After all, the APA guidelines for men and boys say so, and how much more conclusive does it get?