Most feminists are familiar with the concept of toxic masculinity—women are victim to it on a daily basis, and men suffer under its crushing weight. Now, the American Psychological Association has identified it and called it out in a recent report, and also offered some suggestions for how therapists can work with men and boys to undo its effects. The only problem? Some men are really not having it.
The APA’s recently published guide for therapists includes a warning that traditional masculinity can be harmful for men. According to the guide:
The guide notes that being able to recognize and respond to these facets of traditional masculinity is essential for therapists because they can contribute to poor outcomes among men and be especially harmful to those who don’t fit the standard, such as queer men and gender-nonconforming individuals. The guide also says that therapists should be able to understand and communicate the “impact of power, privilege, and sexism” on developing boys.
This all makes sense—the expectations that come with traditional masculinity can lead to violence, aggression, and being unwilling to seek help with mental health, something the APA hopes to combat in therapy. But some men have taken to Twitter to share their outrage over the APA’s report, meaning that not everyone subscribes to the message the APA is sending.
It seems like these men are missing the point, though—this kind of information isn’t meant to make men feel bad about being men, and it’s not to say that the world doesn’t need “male energy.” The point is that “male energy” doesn’t have to mean aggression, lack of emotion, and a refusal to ask for help; being a man can and should mean more than that.
Of course, some people think that these guidelines could make men less likely to seek help with mental illness, which is already a problem. But maybe if more men are taught that showing emotion and getting help are things that are normal and okay, things could change for the better.
Considering how much aggression, domestic violence, and sexual assault stems from toxic masculinity, it’s hard to ignore the fact that something’s gotta give, and hopefully these guidelines will be a step in the right direction.