What is “traditional masculinity” and is it at threat?

What is “traditional masculinity”? It sounds like a ridiculously general term for a start. Masculinity must vary a lot, and will always have varied, between cultures and within cultures.

But it has been claimed that it is threatened. It would be kind of ironic that the ‘strong male’ (stereotype) succumbs to a new wave of whatever takes it’s place.

Heather Wilhelm (National Review) – Farewell, Masculinity: We’ll Miss You When You’re Gone

This week, the American Psychological Association delivered some sad news for fans of “traditional masculinity.” According to the organization’s new “Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Boys and Men,” the “harmful” ideology of masculinity — marked by “stoicism, competitiveness, dominance, and aggression” together with “anti-femininity, achievement, eschewal of the appearance of weakness, and adventure, risk, and violence” — has got to go.

Reader, I don’t know how you feel about all this. I, for one, find it very upsetting, for one simple and selfish reason: Who is going to kill all the spiders that make their way into my house?

I don’t kill spiders. I prefer not to have to deal with them at all. I don’t aspire to be dominant over insects, I prefer to co-exist, but I do deal to some, like flies, and wasps.

After reading the report — and if you ever question what opinion columnists do for America, one example of our lion-hearted public service involves reading goofy quasi-academic “reports” so you don’t have to — I must admit that I questioned the very necessity of its existence. After all, the very idea of “boys” and “men” is quite gendered and outdated, is it not?

As the APA’s own new guidelines remind us, “it is critical to acknowledge that gender is a nonbinary construct that is distinct from, although interrelated to, sexual orientation.” Gender, argues Ryon McDermott, a psychologist who assisted in writing the guidelines, is “no longer just this male-female binary.”

So why even bother writing a report supposedly targeted at only boys and men? Who knows? Who cares?

In any case, the guidelines aren’t really designed to discuss boys or men at all. Their main intention, it seems, is to hammer home the belief that everything gender-related is a social construct, that biology doesn’t matter until we want it to, and that we are all bound like helpless mummies under intersectional layers of oppression that are primarily generated by — surprise! — patriarchal men.

Here is a sentence that actually exists on the APA’s website, paired with a summary of the new guidelines: “Indeed, when researchers strip away stereotypes and expectation, there isn’t much difference in the basic behaviors of men and women.” There is no direct or encompassing citation for this impressively sweeping statement, probably because it is a) untrue, b) unscientific, and c) likely to make God laugh. How is it that we can live in a civilization so advanced that we can propel a rocket 33 million miles through the cold abyss of space to successfully land on a hostile and largely unexplored planet, but still manage to publish insouciant nonsense sentences like this? Never say life isn’t mysterious, friends. It is mind-boggling.

In any case, I will not leave the new “Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Boys and Men” without a bit of positive affirmation. Amazingly, it is correct a few times. For instance, it is not good to box people into rigid gender roles, nor is it good to teach boys to suppress their emotions just because they’re boys.

Also, violence is bad, except against spiders, and it should not be glorified or celebrated. This is true whether it is a male or a female threatening to unceremoniously punch you in the often-terrifying and anarchic line for the Walmart pre-Christmas sale.

The glorifying of violence is bad, but very common. I have watched (in part at least) quote a few kids cartoons and movies over the last few weeks, and there is a lot of violence in them. The latest big movie, How to Train Your Dragon is full of glorified violence (enjoyed by the girls as much as the boys in the group I was in, who aren’t violent kids).

But what about bravery? What about risk? What about, well, testosterone? What about the wild idea that there might be a natural, non-socially-constructed difference between women and men? The APA’s summary report admits that some emblems of “traditional masculinity” might be worth keeping: “courage,” for instance, and “leadership.” Moreover, an APA-affiliated team is now working on a “positive-masculinities scale to capture people’s adherence to the pro-social traits expected from men.” Oh boy. I can’t wait.

There are certainly some male-ish traits that could do with some improvement, but how should this happen? Parenting classes prior to raising kids? Schools for bricks in the wall?

We should look at ways of improving behaviour, of individuals, societies, countries.

But I doubt many of us will look to the American Psychological Association for help.

Back to ‘traditional masculinity’. What the hell is that? I’ve seen a lot of manifestations of masculinity in my lifetime, moulded by many influences.

I think I’ll just work on being myself.

Leave a comment

51 Comments

  1. Griff.

     /  12th January 2019

    I don’t kill spiders.
    The girl gets upset when I pick them up and place them carefully outside.
    They eat the bugs we dont want.
    She is paranoid about white tails so any spider is a fear inducing threat.
    White tails dont cause the infections attributed to them.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White-tailed_spider

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  12th January 2019

      I had a whitetail bite once; it came up in a bump like a tiny volcano and was both itchy (think 100 mozzie bites) and painful, but it wasn’t dangerous. I can’t remember how long it lasted. I’d have to say that it was unpleasant.

      I have Ruud Kleinpaast’s book of insects & arachnids; fascinating.

      I have had to desensitise myself to spiders; they are so small and actually terrified of US.

      Reply
  2. Blazer

     /  12th January 2019

    ‘The girl’….that’s old fashioned masculuinity right there….does the ‘girl’ cook the eggs,clean up and do yo washing?

    Reply
    • Griff.

       /  12th January 2019

      Yip she does the inside work except mopping the wood floors our dog messes up. I do all the work outside including almost all the cooking .
      Equal division of labour were the whole is greater than the parts.
      She hates gardening and building stuff yet enjoys having 1/2 an acre of landscaped outdoor space. I hate cleaning yet enjoy a nice indoor living space. Together we have both.
      I would think the girl would laugh at you calling me old fashioned masculine.
      There is a hell of a lot more behind the “old fashioned masculine”attitude than who does what chores.

      Reply
      • Blazer

         /  12th January 2019

        the ‘old fashioned’ ref was to the ‘GIRL’.What works for you is fine.
        Know a S.A who called his son…’boy’…I opined why he bothered naming him at all…took it in the right way and his wife agreed.

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  12th January 2019

          I hear people calling their sons ‘Son’ as if that’s their name. But daughters are never called just ‘daughter’.

          Reply
  3. Pink David

     /  12th January 2019

    “The glorifying of violence is bad,”

    Why? Violence is a useful thing.

    Reply
    • Blazer

       /  12th January 2019

      maybe you can expand on that…go ahead.

      Reply
      • Pink David

         /  12th January 2019

        Do you really not see why violence is a useful thing?

        Reply
        • Blazer

           /  12th January 2019

          do you need a good hiding?

          Reply
          • Pink David

             /  12th January 2019

            Give it a go and see how it works out for you.

            If you cannot understand the need for violence there is nothing more I can say to you.

            Reply
            • Blazer

               /  12th January 2019

              weak escape.

            • Pink David

               /  12th January 2019

              It is a simple thing. Violence is useful. Do you really not see all places it can be useful?

            • Blazer

               /  12th January 2019

              you are making hard work of it….lets hear it.

            • Pink David

               /  12th January 2019

              Just a clue, maybe it is a useful thing for the Police. Try law enforcement without recourse to violence.

            • Blazer

               /  12th January 2019

              piss or get off the pot.

            • Griff.

               /  12th January 2019

              Blazer its pink dave.
              Thats his style he says things without qualifying them when pressed he maintains it is factual when he gives no facts.

            • Pink David

               /  12th January 2019

              I’ve given you a simple fact, law enforcement requires recourse to violence. That is a simple example of the usefulness of violence.

            • PartisanZ

               /  12th January 2019

              How does the saying go, “The Eskimos have 68 names for snow, because it’s important to them … ”

              Perhaps we should have as many for violence?

              Police use “physical force” more than violence IMHO …

              And much of the violence we abhor is “abusive violence” or the violence of extreme distress or …. whatever …

              Arguably, one of the most violent things we do is misuse words … The ‘names’ we give phenomena to try to make sense of ‘things in themselves’ ….

            • PartisanZ

               /  12th January 2019

              … the mysterious world of “things in themselves” …

            • Pink David

               /  12th January 2019

              “Police use “physical force” more than violence IMHO …”

              Physical force is violence, by definition.

            • PartisanZ

               /  12th January 2019

              You don’t get it do you … even the relatively simple clarification into “offensive” and “defensive” violence makes a difference …

              Degrees of ‘harm’ … including possibly “victimless violence”?

              Police use a lot of physical restraint …

    • Joe Bloggs

       /  12th January 2019

      Pinky’s celebration of toxic masculinity in all its testosterone-laden violence.

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  12th January 2019

        Physical force isn’t violence. A father pulled his daughter back very roughly when she was stepping out in front of my motorbike; there wasn’t time for anything else. It was force, but it wasn’t violence.

        If you notice, violence towards men is seen as acceptable or even funny. The sports reporters laughed their heads off and replayed a scene of a man being hit in the balls by a cricket ball travelling at great speed…I bet that it wouldn’t have been funny had it been a woman being hurt that badly.

        Reply
      • Pink David

         /  12th January 2019

        Yes, I do indeed celebrate it.

        Reply
      • Griff.

         /  12th January 2019

        Reply
  4. david in aus

     /  12th January 2019

    Left-wing ideology has infected the medical sciences now.

    I see this with medical associations, they seem to have an activist core which is not evidence based.

    There is a core of paediatricians campaigning for anti-smacking of children, when the evidence is poor. The only good longitudinal study (Otago) showed those children with overly harsh or permissive upbringing had poorer outcomes. Those who had been smacked and not abused had the best outcome.
    Sugar Tax is another campaign, it is not evidence-based that sugar tax results in better health outcomes. There is no acknowledgment that these proposals are experiments. I suspect their anti-capitalist leanings affect their campaigns.

    Traditional masculinity across different societies have these traits in common: responsibility, care for the family and society; strength, protection of family and society; respect, oneself and others; provider, of shelter and resources.
    Traditional masculinity is not a problem, we need more it, as they are socially beneficial. The same goes for femininity.

    The social-constructionists’ ideology is that there is no biological basis for differences between male and female behaviour and these behaviours are socially constructed, despite evidence to the contrary.

    Is science safe from these ideologues?

    Reply
    • PartisanZ

       /  12th January 2019

      Since when has so-called ‘Science’ ever been safe from ideologues?

      Didn’t science develop partly to escape the ideology of the Churches?

      Ideology determines the questions scientists ask and the ‘hypotheses’ they test.

      The social determinists who believe all differences between male and female behaviour are biologically fixed – and must be socially constrained and contained – was a more dangerous ideology for women and children … which is why it’s been questioned and is changing …

      But I kind of agree with you about “traditional masculinity” … which is just another misuse of language again … IMHO we should be talking about healthy and unhealthy masculinity …

      That doesn’t polarize things … It wouldn’t sell … which brings us back around to capitalist ideology, does it not?

      Reply
      • david in aus

         /  12th January 2019

        The hard sciences have been immune, because of the need for evidence and hypothesis testing.

        Unfortunately, it is in realms where evidence is sparse is where these activists swarm. The descriptive sciences where you cannot prove anything.
        -sociology
        -more and more psychology
        – social policy involving medical justifications

        Very sad.

        Reply
        • Pink David

           /  12th January 2019

          “The hard sciences have been immune, because of the need for evidence and hypothesis testing.”

          They most certainly have not been immune.

          Reply
          • PartisanZ

             /  12th January 2019

            Tau toko that Pink David … They most certainly have not been immune!

            Reply
        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  12th January 2019

          These are the same nutters who purport to diagnose Trump based on what WaPo and NYT write about him. Lunatics in charge of their asylum.

          Reply
  5. FarmerPete

     /  12th January 2019

    More sexist tripe! If it is not permissible to label women as ‘girls’ or ‘ladies’ it must by the same logic be unacceptable to describe masculine attributes that have arguably protected the human species over millennia as ‘toxic masculinity’.

    Reply
    • Blazer

       /  12th January 2019

      ‘The Girl’….is that the wife,S.O ,?
      Is that the way you think men refer to their partners?

      Reply
      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  12th January 2019

        Sometimes – as in: Boys’ Night Out, Big Boys Toys, Girl Talk.

        Reply
        • Blazer

           /  12th January 2019

          not forgetting…’big girls blouse’…eh…Al.

          Reply
        • Joe Bloggs

           /  12th January 2019

          What exactly is a “girls’ night out”? Drinking through penis-shaped straws, while group hair-straightening?

          Let’s leave this phrase to bargain bin CD compilations featuring Atomic Kitten. It’s just a lowest-common-denominator marketing term.

          It’s great that young women are feeling more confident about calling themselves feminists and standing up for principles of equality without having to hide behind “girl power”. Something that always felt a little bit of the comic strip.

          I’ll be honest here and say I do think women calling other women girls get a free pass. I know Al’s gonna hate it when free passes exist, but it’s the way of things. I often swap a “girl, please” with a close female friend, or even a “gurl” as a sign of endearment, but it’s always said as a cheeky nod to solidarity.

          That’s very different from some crusty male saying “good job, girls” to professional women in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and upwards. Let’s not pretend otherwise.

          Reply
          • Kitty Catkin

             /  12th January 2019

            A girls’ night or day out doesn’t usually include that sort of crudeness. It’s just two or more women doing girly things in a group.

            Reply
          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  12th January 2019

            I couldn’t give a stuff who you give free passes to and who you don’t, Joe. Dunno why you would expect to me to.

            Words don’t define insults, attitudes do.

            Reply
          • High Flying Duck

             /  12th January 2019

            You win today’s “Woke Award” Joe.
            How sensitive of you, and how very tolerant of you to give the ladies a free pass to use the word Girls. Womankind will be appreciative I’m sure.

            Reply
            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  12th January 2019

              Joe owns the Woeful Woke Award, HFD. Kneels before it every morning while sticking pins in her Trump efigy.

            • Joe Bloggs

               /  13th January 2019

              As I’m a member of “womankind” there’s no tolerance needed, [deleted], but plenty of frustration at the toxic masculinity that you and fellow traveller Al demonstrate daily.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  13th January 2019

              A sense of humour and sense of proportion is not toxic masculinity, Joe, or if it is you could do with some.

  6. thespectrum

     /  12th January 2019

    I am sure I read this thread a while back or one very similar because the comments are by the same posters saying exactly what they said last time.

    Reply
  7. Blazer

     /  12th January 2019

    Reply

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