‘Traditional masculinity’ is harmful, top psychologists say in new guidelines 

‘Traditional masculinity’ is harmful, damaging the men who ascribe to it and everyone around them, according America’s top psychologists.

The warning was issued in a 36-page document by the American Psychological Association, its first set of guidelines on male mental health in 127 years.

Experts said the traditional ideology of what makes a man ‘a man’ constrains men.

It also can drive them to feel or act aggressively towards other groups who are not masculine, fueling misogyny, sexism, sexual assault, bullying and homophobia. 

‘The main thrust of the subsequent research is that traditional masculinity — marked by stoicism, competitiveness, dominance and aggression — is, on the whole, harmful,’ it reads.

‘Traditional masculinity ideology has been shown to limit males’ psychological development, constrain their behavior, result in gender role strain and gender role conflict and negatively influence mental health and physical health,’ the report warns.

Traditional ideology of what makes a man 'a man' constrains men, and can make them act aggressively towards other people, psychologists found

Traditional ideology of what makes a man ‘a man’ constrains men, and can make them act aggressively towards other people, psychologists found

Ronald F Levant, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Akron, who co-edited a related document for the APA, said: ‘Though men benefit from patriarchy, they are also impinged upon by patriarchy,’ 

Being deemed ‘masculine’ or ‘a man’ is a narrow tight rope to master in Western society. 

Compared to how we define femininity, masculinity is a narrow concept. Women can wear trousers and skirts, pink and blue, carry a bag or not. Men, by traditional standards, have half those options. 

And most men feel that pressure acutely, according to a study by psychologist Jennifer K Bosson. 

Bosson interviewed men about times they did something that was not masculine, and women about doing things that were not feminine. She found that women couldn’t really come up with any answers, while men had a myriad of scenarios – from wearing a pink shirt to holding their girlfriend’s purse for them. 

‘My collaborators and I argue that the male gender role itself is kind of conceptualized as a precarious status. Manhood is something that is hard to earn and easy to lose, relative to womanhood,’ Bosson said in an interview on NPR’s Hidden Brain

Some say that is shifting.

In fact, last year, a study of Canadian men found Millennials are more selfless, health-conscious and socially engaged than previous generations.

Traditionally ‘masculine’ traits – such as physical strength, independence, and competitiveness – were deemed less important.

Instead, being open, empathetic, healthy and generous were the highest-ranking traits.

That has been borne out in other data sets, too. 

A YouGov poll from 2016 found that millennial men do not see eye to eye with the narrow definition of ‘masculinity’.

Younger American men surveyed for the poll were much less likely than their fathers and grandfathers to say they feel ‘completely masculine’. Just 30 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds said so, compared to 45 percent of men aged 45 to 64, and 65 percent of men over 65. And British men feel even less masculine, with just 2 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds saying they felt ‘completely masculine’. 

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