The APA’s recent guidelines on treating men recently released has caused quite the discussion. Gillette has gone woke and published its ad, and countless articles have been written about it. I’ll offer mine:
First, I honestly do applaud the organization for identifying a need that has been reluctant to admit it has a need. Men often are stoic, independent, and slower to ask for help. Many men do need the help, though, whether they admit it or not.
However, the traits that are identified as being part of the “traditional male” that lead them to conclude traditional masculinity is a problem are over exaggerated, and it incorrectly uses the term “traditional male” to identify the problems.
As has been written before, traditional masculinity is a good thing. It bespeaks a view of strength and comfort, and symbolizes how we wanted our sons to grow up to be at one point in time: respectful to others and women, self restrained, helpful, independent and determined. That men are slower to seek help comes out of this, but that is a good thing. It is good because we need problem solvers and people to take on things on their own, to complete tasks and build and protect. We don’t need men slowing down because they have to talk about things first. And we need men to protect others from harm without second thought or needing approval.
All of that has been addressed elsewhere, but the terms used by the APA is unfortunate precisely because it undermines their entire aim of improving the life men lead. By implying that all men that carry these traits are or could be toxic is simply offensive. Does the APA think that by making such a broad accusation men will change?
I’ve read through the recommendations, and they are not all bad, like the one emphasizing involved fathers. But they do insinuate men are problematic when they take the traits. I’ve also read the follow up to clarify their, position, which was not much help.
Now, of course, these traits can be taken to extremes and become problematic. And I think that is what the APA is trying to address. But by including such broad parameters under “traditional masculinity” under the criticisms they replace the rule that these traits can be good with the harmful exceptions of the extremes.
Being serious, and independent, even sometimes aggressive, is something we need to keep. We need to avoid the extremes, but that’s where society needs to step up, too. We cannot glorify the exceptions. Men need to respect others and seek to protect and build. These are the things we need to hold up as examples. But these traits have been listed as problematic.
On another level, that we are having this discussion at a time when men think they can become girls and that biology is of no import is hugely telling about the state of our culture and view of manhood. To be a man is to be shamed, and that is a problem indeed.