APA issues guidelines calling traditional masculinity harmful to men, boys

by Brandon Showalter, Christian Post Reporter |
Father and son surfing. | Photo: Filios Sazeides/Unsplash

The American Psychological Association has issued new guidelines spelling out how "traditional masculinity" is "harmful" to men and boys for the purpose of helping the psychologists who work with them. The guidelines have already drawn considerable criticism.

The professional guidelines, which reportedly took 13 years to develop, is the first of its kind that the group has published for clinicians for working with men and boys.

The APA relies on 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," the January 2019 press release explains.

Among the assertions the APA makes are that "the more men conformed to masculine norms, the more likely they were to consider as normal risky health behaviors such as heavy drinking, using tobacco and avoiding vegetables, and to engage in these risky behaviors themselves."

"What is gender in the 2010s?" Ryon McDermott, a psychologist at the University of South Alabama who helped draft the men's guidelines asks in the report.

"It's no longer just this male-female binary."

The role of the clinician, he says, can be to encourage men "to discard the harmful ideologies of traditional masculinity (violence, sexism) and find flexibility in the potentially positive aspects (courage, leadership)."

McDermott and his team are working on a "positive-masculinities scale" to capture peoples' adherence to the pro-social traits expected from men, something that has not yet been measured systematically.

"Traditional" masculinity is never defined precisely in the report. But the authors do say it is "marked by stoicism, competitiveness, dominance and aggression [and] is, on the whole, harmful."

Thus far, some reactions, spanning the political and professional spectrum, have dismissed the APA as an untrustworthy and ideological organization.

Christian thought leader and author Rod Dreher likened the report to totalitarian social engineering, believing the people behind it to have ill motives.

"To be fair, it's not all PC codswallop, but given the social justice warrior jargon throughout, I suspect this is mostly about psychologizing the gelding of American males," he commented on his blog Monday, saying he did not trust McDermott, who is quoted prominently, as to what constitutes "healthy" masculinity.

"The more I think about it, the more Soviet this seems to me. Dissent from gender ideology (transgender, as well as progressive ideals of masculinity and femininity)? Well, experts say you must be insane," Dreher added in a follow-up comment.

Others were quick to point out the political nature of the organization.

Conservative writer and radio host Ben Shapiro observed Monday that the APA "has been an openly political body for years. These guidelines are just the latest symptom. "

Likewise, commentator Erick Erickson said the new guidelines have "way more to do with the left capturing an institution than in legitimate medical concerns."

The Atlantic's Jesse Singal, who is known for his in-depth reporting on gender dysphoria, weighed in that it is not good for an organization like the APA to get far ahead of the evidence just to make a point many progressives desire to be true but remains debatable.

Evolutionary psychologist and a University of New Mexico professor Geoffrey Miller was also not impressed.

"The APA using its army of clinical psychologists to wage a pseudo-therapeutic war against traditional masculinity, patriarchy, male stoicism, and rigid gender norms," he commented on Twitter.

Writing for National Review, David French commented that schools already go too far in suppressing healthy aspects of masculinity in boys.

"Male children are falling behind in school not because schools indulge their risk-taking and adventurousness but often because they relentlessly suppress boys and sometimes punish boys' essential nature, from the opening bell to the close of the day. Especially in fatherless homes, female-dominated elementary-school experiences often mean that boys are exposed to few — if any — male role models, and male restlessness is therefore viewed almost entirely as a problem to be solved rather than a potential asset to be shaped," he wrote.

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