It has been more than a year since the American Psychological Association (APA) officially pathologized masculinity.
These guidelines, which were based on the old “toxic masculinity” trope, were condemned by many who correctly saw them as the latest contribution to an anti-masculinity political narrative popular with some segments of society today.
They were also criticized by many men because they have no basis in their daily lived reality.
Take this quote, for example, from Frederic Rabinowitz, Phd, a psychologist at the University of Redlands:
“Because of the way many men have been brought up—to be self-sufficient and able to take care of themselves—any sense that things aren’t OK needs to be kept secret. Part of what happens is men who keep things to themselves look outward and see that no one else is sharing any of the conflicts that they feel inside. That makes them feel isolated. They think they’re alone. They think they’re weak. They think they’re not OK. They don’t realize that other men are also harboring private thoughts and private emotions and private conflicts.”
I am not sure what world Dr. Rabinowitz is living in, but I can say with certainty it is not the same world I, nor my male friends, are occupying.
The men I know and surround myself with are constantly seeking help from each other and discussing their issues with raw honesty and emotion.
Yes, that’s right, men are discussing emotional topics with each other privately.
They aren’t keeping it in or keeping it a secret; rather, they are seeking guidance from trusted male friends and taking concrete steps at self-improvement.
This idea that males keep their internal conflicts bottled up inside just does not exist in my world.
Dr. Rabinowitz and his colleagues may be confused because these men are helping each other informally without resorting to their profession, one that now officially pathologizes men for being men. With these guidelines, the pace at which men seek help outside of the system will accelerate.
The true problem is that many men recognize that some segments of the mental health system views them as “toxic,” and urges them to suppress their masculinity. For better or worse, they opt out of a system they don’t believe has their best interests in mind.
Men don’t want to be treated as defective women who have to cry in a therapist’s office to prove they are not violent and misogynistic potential predators. Instead, they want to be heard, and they want actionable advice they can implement. In short, they want to talk and then get to work improving themselves, so they can improve their situations.
A glimpse at the article announcing the new guidelines shows the true agenda is to fundamentally redefine masculinity:
“Indeed, when researchers strip away stereotypes and expectations, there isn’t much difference in the basic behaviors of men and women…
“Getting that message out to men—that they’re adaptable, emotional and capable of engaging fully outside of rigid norms—is what the new guidelines are designed to do. And if psychologists can focus on supporting men in breaking free of masculinity rules that don’t help them, the effects could spread beyond just mental health for men, McDermott says. ‘If we can change men,” he says, “we can change the world.’
With goals like this – to “change men” – is it any wonder that men choose to rely on one another for help and guidance?
Think about it. Why would men have to be changed unless there was something fundamentally wrong with them? The guidelines are predicated on the notion that there is something wrong with men, and this does not sit well with many.
Men don’t want to be changed; they want to be helped when they have a problem, but they don’t believe they are the problem.
Men trust male friends who have gone through similar experiences. They trust such men will understand them without trying to impose a political ideology on them they don’t agree with and that they will offer suggestions for improving themselves.
These conversations between men are going on all over the country outside of the view of APA leadership. Men are helping other men deal with many issues, including, broken relationships, the consequences of their spouse’s infidelity, problems in the workplace, and raising children in today’s social media connected world.
When they talk with their friends, they receive empathy and advice, but they are never told that who they are is a pathology that needs to be fixed. Many men need to fix different parts of their lives, of course, but they don’t need to be remolded into something they are not.
The APA, in their ivory tower, has to understand that doubling down on pathologizing masculinity means that they will be rendered more and more irrelevant as men continue to go outside the mental health system for help and guidance.
This is happening every day, unseen and unacknowledged, and will continue happening.
I, for one, am grateful for the men in my life. I know I can be totally honest with them, and that they will go out of their way to help if I have a problem. Never have I felt judged when I have asked a friend for help, nor have I felt weak.
Ultimately, masculinity is not the problem; rather, the popular cultural meme that it is somehow toxic is the problem. Either way, men will continue leaning on each other for support and help privately and without fanfare, just as they have always done.
by: Chris D