The American Psychological Association ("APA") recently came to a formal conclusion that many of us in the gay community have known for a very long time: the ideal of traditional American masculinity is harmful. It's harmful to men themselves, women and society at large in terms of violence and un-diagnosed mental health issues and even the failure to engage in healthy practices. And it goes without saying that being gay places one on a head on collision with the expectations of this toxic ideal of masculinity. In my own case, it took years of therapy to get over the damage done to me by this stereotype of masculinity, not to mention the brainwashing of my Catholic upbringing. A piece in the Los Angeles Times looks at the APA's new warning (the actual report linked in the article is dry and full of professional jargon, but makes the case that this toxic ideal of masculinity is literally killing men and a causation of harm to women, families and society):
The American Psychological Association has issued its first official warning against toxic masculinity.
The new “Guidelines for the Psychological Practice with Boys and Men,” marks the first-ever report published by the association aimed at helping practitioners care for their male patients “despite social forces that can harm mental health.”
Citing more than 40 years of research, the APA warns against the “masculinity ideology,” which it defines as “a particular constellation of standards that have held sway over large segments of the population, including: anti-femininity, achievement, eschewal of the appearance of weakness, and adventure risk and violence.”
“Traditional masculinity ideology has been shown to limit males’ psychological development, constrain their behavior, result in gender role strain and gender role conflict and negatively influence mental health and physical health,” according to the 36-page report, featured in January’s issue of Monitor on Psychology.
Conforming to the norms of the “masculinity ideology” can result in suppressing emotions and masking distress in young boys as well more risk-taking and aggressive behavior and a lack of willingness to seek out help. The report additionally contends this can lead to traits like homophobia and pave the way for sexual harassment, bullying and violence against others and themselves.
The APA also invoked a series of of sobering statistics to emphasize that “traditional masculinity — marked by stoicism, competitiveness, dominance and aggression — is, on the whole, harmful.”
For example, despite being 4 times more likely to die of suicide than women, men are significantly less likely to to be diagnosed with internalizing disorders because they don’t “conform to traditional stereotypes about men’s emotionality.” Men in the United States also commit an estimated 90% more homicides than women and are also much more likely to be arrested for domestic violence.
“Guidelines for the Psychological Practice with Boys and Men” additionally calls on those treating male patient to recognize their own bias and urges them to address how “power privilege and sexism work, both by conferring benefits to men and by trapping them in their narrow roles.”
With grandsons, I truly hope they can avoid some of the toxicity traditional American masculinity. Hopefully having gay grandfathers will open their minds to throwing off the shackles of this harmful stereotype.