Well, I've been banging on about this since I first started this blog. Now it's official:
Last August the American Psychological Association (APA) released its first-ever guidelines for therapists working with men and boys. Nobody paid much attention to these for several months, but they went viral this week. This was largely due to the APA condensing its academic report into a tweet explaining that the key takeaway is that traditional masculinity is harmful and socializing boys to suppress their emotions causes damage. Suddenly everyone on the internet was an armchair psychologist and conservatives were up in arms about war on men.
Traditional notions of masculinity, marked by stoicism, competitiveness and aggression, are clearly toxic to both men and women. As the APA write in an article accompanying the study: “Men commit 90% of homicides in the United States and represent 77% of homicide victims. They’re the demographic group most at risk of being victimized by violent crime. They are 3.5 times more likely than women to die by suicide.” They also point to research that found men who bought into traditional notions of masculinity were less likely to seek mental health support than those who had more open gender attitudes. The guidelines advise psychologists to understand “how power, privilege and sexism work both by conferring benefits to men and by trapping them in narrow roles”.
While all that sounds eminently sensible to me, certain intellectuals on the right have predictably interpreted it as meaning the APA has it out for men. The Fox News host Laura Ingraham, for example, made the compelling argument that toxic masculinity is actually great because she “loves James Bond”. (Please can someone explain to Ingraham that Bond is a fictional character?) Meanwhile Tucker Carlson, that bastion of reason, asked: “What would happen if you told girls the qualities that make you feel female are poison and you must suppress them?” I don’t think he quite understands that feminists have been fighting against poisonous gender stereotypes for a very long time. And, by the way, the APA has a set of guidelines for women.
Despite the right using the APA guidelines as an opportunity for outrage, we should all be highly encouraged by the new guidelines. It’s a great sign that toxic gender norms are being gradually interrogated and dismantled and it will literally save lives.
[From Arwa Mahdawi at The Guardian]