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.