For the first time in its history, the American Psychological Association (APA) has issued guidelines for mental health professionals working with men and boys. That may not sound like a momentous event, but the APA is a powerful body in the US. It has 117,500 members, including the vast majority of practising psychologists, and an annual budget of $115 million. Its guidance documents carry the imprimatur of scientific authority and are hugely influential when it comes to policies and behaviour in public institutions. This edict will be referred to by university administrators when policing sexual interactions on campus, by the courts when deciding who to award custody to in divorce hearings and by HR departments when assessing complaints about male employees. It’s not an exaggeration to say this new guidance will affect the lives of millions of men and boys for years to come.
I cannot claim to have read the entire 30,000-word document, but I’ve got the gist: masculinity is a bad, bad thing. Traditional male qualities like courage, self-reliance, competitiveness, stoicism, personal ambition and a love of adventure are ‘psychologically harmful’. On the face of it, men and boys might appear to benefit from ‘patriarchy’ — after all, 95.2 per cent of the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies are men — but in reality the emotional repression needed to maintain this ‘privilege’ exacts a terrible toll. It is the ethical duty of psychologists, as well as parents, teachers, coaches, religious and community leaders, to root out these masculine pathologies and help men become… well, less manly. (To read more, click here.)