Christopher DeGroot on attempts to pathologise masculinity:
Published this week, the American Psychological Association’s Guidelines for Psychological Practice for Boys and Men is a remarkable and frightening document. Throughout, value judgements are expressed under the guise of “science.” Social constructivism is assumed to be true, the implication being that “gender roles” don’t represent anything deeper, such as biology or an enduring human nature. Thus, if most nurses are women, and if most engineers are men, the only explanation is the patriarchy, that insidious, mysterious, inescapable evil. One is struck by the facile, trendy cant that the authors take for granted. Three sentences in, we read this assertion: “Boys and men, as a group, tend to hold privilege and power based on gender.” There is no recognition here of male accomplishment — that falls into the category of “privilege and power,” words which, like “patriarchy,” we encounter with mind-numbing frequency.
Readers who can bear to plough through the entire APA document, supposedly thirteen years in the making, will note the framing of masculinity (or “traditional masculine ideology”) as entailing violence, bullying, sexual harassment, “dominance and aggression,” ableism, ageism, racism, and outright sociopathy. Or as Stephanie Pappas says in a summary here: “Traditional masculinity… is, on the whole, harmful.” In poking through the document, readers may also note the absence of any meaningful reference to biology, testosterone, evolution, etc., as if such details were irrelevant to fathoming male behaviour. However, the word privilege occurs 19 times, and the word transgender no fewer than 60.
As DeGroot points out, it seems unwise to redefine masculinity in order to flatter the resentments and insecurities of the fringe and maladjusted – say, “social justice” enthusiasts who consider themselves “marginalised” by expectations of competence, competitiveness and emotional self-possession. Or those who describe themselves as transsexual, non-binary or “gender non-conforming.” As if a proclivity for adventurousness or risk-taking, and a desire for achievement, were fundamentally a problem, something to be fixed. And it goes without saying that the writers of the APA’s guidelines would be unlikely to enjoy lives of comfort and status without a great many others embracing the values and inclinations - including ambition, stoicism and courage - that our self-imagined betters strive to pathologise.
Andrew Sullivan on the same (scroll down):
The ideological misandry is unmistakable. Check out the equivalent guidelines for women and girls, issued in 2007. Where stoicism is a bad thing for men, especially black men, here’s how it works for women: “In therapy, teaching, research, and supervision, psychologists are encouraged to become aware not only of the challenges that women and girls have faced, but of the resiliency and strength that women and girls have shown in response.” For men, “assertiveness” is part of a pathology; for women, it is a virtue.
And Toby Young has more:
There’s scarcely a sentence that isn’t freighted with the ideology of the social justice left. Gender is “socially constructed” and “non-binary”; sex is “assigned at birth” rather than observed and recorded; “dominant masculinity” is historically dependent on “the exclusion of men who are not white, heterosexual, cisgender, able-bodied and privileged”…
The APA is a powerful body in the US. It has 117,500 members, including the vast majority of practising psychologists, and an annual budget of $115 million. Its guidance documents carry the imprimatur of scientific authority and are hugely influential when it comes to policies and behaviour in public institutions. This edict will be referred to by university administrators when policing sexual interactions on campus, by the courts when deciding who to award custody to in divorce hearings, and by HR departments when assessing complaints about male employees.
A comfort to us all, no doubt.
Update, via the comments:
Taken as a measure of the politicised state of psychology – a development with few happy connotations – the APA’s corrective to “masculine ideology” is at least instructive, albeit in ways that were presumably unintended. The document reads as a rote menu of leftist conceits and endless begged questions, from indignation at the racial demographics of prison populations - while showing zero interest in the demographics of criminal activity, as if that were immaterial - to the claim, stated baldly, that ours is a “patriarchal society.” How this assertion was arrived at is somewhat unclear, yet the claim is presented as self-evident.
The APA is currently in rapid-back-pedal mode, insisting that the document has been misrepresented, even though the assumptions and framing are there to see. We’re told this in a press release that champions “social justice” as an inarguable good, that refers to “people of all genders” as if this were unremarkable, and which again cites “getting needs met through violence,” being sexually abusive, and being unconcerned by any harm one does to others, as key aspects of “traditional masculinity.” We’re also assured that, by embracing “psychological science,” the APA “supports all boys and men to live happy, constructive, and fulfilling lives.” This sentiment is rather at odds with a belief that “traditional masculinity… is, on the whole, harmful.” A statement that appeared, and remains, on the APA’s own website.
As usual, feel free to share your own links and snippets, on any subject, in the comments.