Manhood As Mental Disorder
Well, now they’ve gone and done it: the American Psychological Association has declared that manhood is a mental disorder. Excerpts:
For the first time ever, APA is releasing guidelines to help psychologists work with men and boys.
At first blush, this may seem unnecessary. For decades, psychology focused on men (particularly white men), to the exclusion of all others. And men still dominate professionally and politically: As of 2018, 95.2 percent of chief operating officers at Fortune 500 companies were men. According to a 2017 analysis by Fortune, in 16 of the top companies, 80 percent of all high-ranking executives were male. Meanwhile, the 115th Congress, which began in 2017, was 81 percent male.
But something is amiss for men as well. Men commit 90 percent of homicides in the United States and represent 77 percent 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, and their life expectancy is 4.9 years shorter than women’s. Boys are far more likely to be diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder than girls, and they face harsher punishments in school—especially boys of color.
APA’s new Guidelines for Psychological Practice With Boys and Men strive to recognize and address these problems in boys and men while remaining sensitive to the field’s androcentric past. Thirteen years in the making, they draw on more than 40 years of research showing that traditional masculinity is psychologically harmful and that socializing boys to suppress their emotions causes damage that echoes both inwardly and outwardly.
Prior to the second-wave feminist movement in the 1960s, all psychology was the psychology of men. Most major studies were done only on white men and boys, who stood in as proxies for humans as a whole. Researchers assumed that masculinity and femininity were opposite ends of a spectrum, and “healthy” psychology entailed identifying strongly with the gender roles conferred by a person’s biological sex.
But just as this old psychology left out women and people of color and conformed to gender-role stereotypes, it also failed to take men’s gendered experiences into account. Once psychologists began studying the experiences of women through a gender lens, it became increasingly clear that the study of men needed the same gender-aware approach, says Levant.
The main thrust of the subsequent research is that traditional masculinity—marked by stoicism, competitiveness, dominance and aggression—is, on the whole, harmful. Men socialized in this way are less likely to engage in healthy behaviors.
Gender and sexual minorities, too, must grapple with societal views of masculinity. This is an ever-shifting territory. When Levant and Rabinowitz launched the guideline-drafting process in 2005, only Massachusetts recognized same-sex marriage. Today, transgender issues are at the forefront of the cultural conversation, and there is increased awareness of the diversity of gender identity.
“What is gender in the 2010s?” asks Ryon McDermott, PhD, a psychologist at the University of South Alabama who also helped draft the men’s guidelines. “It’s no longer just this male-female binary.”
Though there is now more flexibility in gender norms than 30 years ago, according to Liang and McDermott, boys and men who identify as gay, bisexual or transgender still face higher-than-average levels of hostility and pressure to conform to masculine norms. The 2015 National School Climate Survey found that 85 percent of LGBTQ students reported verbal harassment at school over their sexual orientation or gender expression (GLSEN, 2015). Gender-nonconforming students reported worse treatment than did LGBTQ kids who conformed with traditional gender norms. These kinds of results indicate that gender policing still occurs, Liang says.
To be fair, it’s not all PC codswallop, but given the social justice warrior jargon throughout, I suspect this is mostly about psychologizing the gelding of American males. I do not trust Ryon McDermott, PhD, to decide what is and is not healthy masculinity.
Plus, I don’t trust the spin. For example, this line:
Men commit 90 percent of homicides in the United States and represent 77 percent of homicide victims.
True, but misleading. Homicides in the US are disproportionately committed by black men. The American Council on Science and Health reported in 2017:
The CDC confirms that, following an extended period of general decline, the overall homicide rate — as well as the homicide rate within each racial group — has increased from 2014 to 2015. In 2015, the homicide rates were (per 100,000 population):
20.9 for blacks (non-Hispanic)
4.9 for Hispanics
2.6 for whites (non-Hispanic)
5.7 for all races
Compared to the national average, the homicide rate was 54% lower for whites, 14% lower for Hispanics, and 267% higher for blacks. Put another way, the homicide rate among African-Americans is nearly quadruple that of the national average.
Last year, President Obama highlighted the importance of this issue. He said, “The single greatest cause of death for young black men between the ages of 18 and 35 is homicide. And that’s crazy. That is crazy.” Actually, it’s worse than that. According to the CDC, homicide is the #1 cause of death for African-Americans in all age groups from 15 to 34 (i.e., 15 to 19, 20 to 24, and 25 to 34).
According to the most recently available FBI statistics, here is how the murder rate shakes out in terms of sex and race:
If the graphic is too small to read, see the original here at the FBI website.
I bring this up only to point out that it’s not just “men” committing murders, but overwhelmingly it’s black men. This suggests that there is something particular going on within black male society. And the suicide rate being so unusually high among working-class, middle-aged white males tells us that something is going on with their own social psychology. That black and Hispanic working-class middle-aged men who suffer from the same hardships as whites are not killing themselves suggests that their social psychology has certain strengths that whites lack.
It’s interesting to parse these differences and think about what they mean. The point here is that this APA press release citing the violence of “men” as a reason to demonize traditional masculinity is playing fast and loose with the statistics.
UPDATE: The more I think about it, the more Soviet this seems. Dissent from gender ideology (not just the transgender stuff, but the establishment’s view of what men and women are)? Well, then you must be insane. Expert opinion says so!
UPDATE.2: David French tells a good story from his own life about masculinity and being a “grown man.” He tells the story — which is amazing — and concludes with this:
We do our sons no favors when we tell them that they don’t have to answer that voice inside them that tells them to be strong, to be brave, and to lead. We do them no favors when we let them abandon the quest to become a grown man when that quest gets hard. Yes, we do them no favors when we’re not sensitive to those boys who don’t conform to traditional masculinity, but when it comes to the crisis besetting our young men, traditional masculinity isn’t the problem; it can be part of the cure.