American Psychological Association legitimises ‘Toxic Masculinity’

By Temporal Tui

The American Psychological Association recently publicised its “Guidelines for Psychological Practice With Boys and Men”. Given the current state of academia it is not surprising that the guidelines read like a Feminism 101 paper on toxic masculinity.

The research the APA based these guidelines on comes from a small clique of academic researchers in the field of “masculinities”, which is an offshoot of Gender Studies. Consequently, Intersectionality and Gender Identity are prominent concepts throughout.

The introduction begins apologetically, noting that, although boys and men tend to hold privilege and power based on gender, they also suffer from a variety of issues. These include mental health (depression and suicide) and public health (violence and substance abuse) issues. Additionally men are less likely to seek help when needed as it may be seen as a weakness or un-masculine. Therefore there is a need for male-specific psychological guidelines. While this may be true, the guidelines provided by the APA promote a view of men and men?s problems that is both limited by ideological dogma and potentially harmful.

Ideology is evident from the very first guideline, which is that psychologists must recognise that gender is a social and cultural construct.? Gender is defined as the experiences, expectations, and beliefs associated with being a boy or man. This is described repeatedly as a socialisation process that begins before birth and is entrenched later.

Gender is termed a non-binary construct, incidental to biology, and no reference is made to innate, evolutionary or biological aspects of gender.

The second guideline is that masculinity is diverse and that boys and men from marginalised groups will face additional difficulties conforming to a masculinity that is white, heterosexual, and cisgender. There is an abundance of social science research that shows the existence of universal male norms and sex differences between male and female cognition and behaviour, but none of that is featured in these guidelines.

Guideline three covers the concept of male privilege, stating that although privilege is not shared equally among men of differing identities, in the aggregate men experience a greater degree of social and economic power than women in a patriarchal society, with the implication that America is such a society.

This guideline encourages psychologists to recognise and help their clients to understand how male power, male privilege, and sexism restricts boys and men and affects their relationships with others. Male privilege, we are told, requires adherence to sexist ideologies designed to maintain male power but these also restrict men?s ability to function non violently, emotionally and equitably. It is clear the APA has adopted the feminist patriarchy model of society.

The most crucial point is that the APA have accepted and are promoting the notion that ‘traditional’ (sometimes referred to as hegemonic or dominant) masculinity is, on the whole, harmful. Traditional masculinity is characterised by anti-femininity, achievement, rejection of weakness, adventure, risk, and violence.

“Crikey, I had no idea how harmful our traditional masculinity is. Let’s let the women defend the town themselves and go have a manicure.”

According to the guidelines, conforming to traditional masculinity

  • Limits psychological development;?
  • Negatively influences mental health;
  • Leads to learning difficulties and behaviour problems;
  • Increases aggression;
  • Compromises men’s physical health;
  • Increases risky sexual behaviour.?
  • Adherence to traditional masculine norms is also “connected to” sexual assault perpetration, substance abuse, and suicide.?

The guidelines portray men’s personal problems, both physical and mental, as primarily caused by their adherence to masculine norms. It is also said to be the cause of their inability to deal with or seek help for those problems. Stoicism, self reliance and resilience, which may well be innate masculine traits, are demonised as holding back men from proper therapy. In fact there is no mention of ANY masculine norms that may have a positive effect on men’s well being.?

Psychotherapy is ultimately a personal treatment. Every individual is a unique product of their histories, anxieties, feelings and experiences. Any attempt to group these into a collective male ‘identity’ with foreordained problems will leave many men out.

How many men seek help for things other than conflicts with masculinity? What about depression, grief, cancer, physical or mental trauma or victimisation? Furthermore the guidelines have extremely negative stereotypes of men and a distinct lack of empathy for them. If these guidelines are followed it may result in a lack of connection between clinician and patient, and will undoubtedly put many men off continuing or seeking therapy.

The APA has staked out an ideological position and what do ideologues do? The answer can be found in the last guideline.  

Guideline 10: Psychologists understand and strive to change institutional, cultural, and systemic problems that affect boys and men through advocacy, prevention, and education.

This blatantly encourages psychologists to become advocates for this ideological view of masculinity and mental health. Applying this guideline, psychologists should

  • Strive to educate legislators and policymakers in order to influence public health policy;
  • Increase general awareness of how gender role socialization connects to violence and problem behaviours in boys and men;
  • Inform the public about the destructive aspects of rigid notions of masculinity;
  • Advocate for more financial support for research studies aimed at boys and men with special attention to … examining masculinity with other social identity?based experiences

As Ryon McDermott, PhD, contributor and drafter of the guidelines says…

 ?If we can change men, we can change the world.?

There you have it. The purpose of this male blaming and shaming excuse for psychological guidelines is to re-engineer men and hence society into something that conforms to the ideology of intersectional feminism.?

For those of you who may be looking for a more empathetic and objective and scientific discussion on the topics involving men, masculinity and psychology, I recommend the Male Psychology Network led by Dr John Barry UK.