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American Psychological Association Deems 'Traditional Masculinity Harmful'

  • Kayla Koslosky Former Editor
  • Updated Jan 14, 2019
American Psychological Association Deems 'Traditional Masculinity Harmful'

The American Psychological Association released a set of guidelines for physicians who work with boys and men where they marked traditional masculinity as “harmful.”

According to the APA, traditional masculinity ideology condones behaviors of “anti-femininity, achievement, eschewal of the appearance of weakness, and adventure, risk, and violence.”

Simply put, in an article published by the APA after the release of the Guidelines for Psychological Practice With Boys and Men, “The main thrust of the subsequent research is that traditional masculinity—marked by stoicism, competitiveness, dominance and aggression—is, on the whole, harmful.”

Lifesite News reports that the study finds that if men are “socialized in this way” they are “less likely to engage in healthy behaviors.” 

The study notes that traditionally masculine men are less likely to share their emotions, less likely to care for their mental and physical health and are at a higher risk to commit suicide. The guidelines also touch on gender binaries. Ryon McDermott, Ph.D., who helped draft the guidelines asked, “What is gender in the 2010s?” He answered, “It’s no longer just this male-female binary.”

According to the study, traditional masculinity is viewed as a negative thing because men could feel forced to suppress “gender-nonconforming” feelings which can lead to increased hostility toward LGBT men.

In short, the guidelines aim to provide clinicians with suggestions for how to support “men in breaking free of masculinity rules that don’t help them” and help men shift from “traditional masculinity” to “positive masculinity,” which is illustrated through courage and leadership. McDermott believes that these new guidelines can change the world. He said, “If we can change men, we can change the world.”

While many have seen these guidelines as spelling out necessary changes for men, others have viewed them as blatant attacks on masculinity. One such person is David French, a writer for the National Review. 

In a response article to the APA’s new guidelines, French wrote, “The assault on traditional masculinity — while liberating to men who don’t fit traditional norms — is itself harmful to the millions of young men who seek to be physically and mentally tough, to rise to challenges, and demonstrate leadership under pressure. The assault on traditional masculinity is an assault on their very natures.”

After coming under fire last week when a tweet including the article about the guidelines went viral, the APA later released a statement clarifying the documents intentions. The APA wrote, “When we report that some aspects of ‘traditional masculinity’ are potentially harmful, we are referring to a belief system held by a few that associates masculinity with extreme behaviors that harm self and others. It is the extreme stereotypical behaviors — not simply being male or a ‘traditional male’ — that may result in negative outcomes.”

Still, many are struggling to see how being adventurous or taking risks, as the study stated, can be seen as a negative trait to masculinity.

French questioned the APA writing, “Are boys disproportionately adventurous? Are they risk-takers? Do they feel a need to be strong? Do they often by default reject stereotypically ‘feminine’ characteristics. Yes, yes, yes, and yes.”

He continued, “Are those things inherently wrong or harmful? Absolutely not. It depends greatly on how a boy is raised — how his traditional masculinity is channeled.”

Photo courtesy: Unsplash/Kari Shea