My Thoughts on “Toxic Masculinity”: A Series
Part 1: “Toxic Masculinity” or an Attack on Masculinity?
Last week I posted a brief piece in response to two hot-button items generating a firestorm of controversy: a Gillette ad with the #MeToo-era challenge “Is this the best a man can get?”, and the American Psychological Association’s (APA) new Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Boys and Men.
This is the more in-depth look I promised. In fact, there are so many important angles to this—important to men and to all of us—that I anticipate posting several pieces in the coming weeks. (Click here to receive my posts.)First, a summary: As a social researcher who has interviewed and surveyed well over 15,000 men and boys to understand how they think and feel—and as the mother of a 16-year-old son—I was overwhelmed with sadness when I tried to read the APA report. I was honestly dumbfounded that guidelines by and for psychological professionals could so overtly label “traditional masculinity” as “harmful” instead of challenging the negatives while also purposefully affirming the positives.
Now, I strongly believe the APA is well-intentioned and deeply concerned about the social and emotional problems affecting so many men and boys. I applaud that they see the need for guidelines. Rates of male depression, addiction, incarceration, and academic failure long ago passed a systemic tipping point. We have moved from isolated, individual impacts and to a male malaise that is systemically impacting society.
The problem is: we have had so many decades of false narratives and inaccurate groupthink about men in media and culture, that even those who sincerely want to help men truly appear to believe the lies. So any approach based on those inaccurate beliefs—including many of the current “guidelines”—won’t touch the real problems and can actually make matters worse.
Here are some crucial facts I strongly believe the APA is missing—and some solutions that will help change the trajectory of our men and boys.