The American Psychological Association Is Waging War on Men and Boys | Opinion

For decades, radical and intersectional feminists have assured us that it's impossible to be sexist toward men because we live in a patriarchal society. Well, the American Psychological Association (APA) is working hard to prove those feminists wrong.

A few years ago, the APA released practice guidelines for therapy with men and boys. An APA press release on the new guidelines made clear just what those guidelines amounted to: an assault on traditional men and boys.

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

The guidelines go on to explore this harmfulness, claiming that "conforming to 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." Traditional masculinity leads to violence, the guidelines claim. "An analysis of masculine norms may shed light on the context of violence against gender and sexually diverse people, as spaces where this discrimination occurs are often marked by traditional masculinity," the authors write. To correct for this, the guidelines recommend that "when working with boys and men, psychologists can address issues of privilege and power related to sexism in a developmentally appropriate way to help them obtain the knowledge, attitudes, and skills to be effective allies and potentially live less restrictive lives."

It would be one thing if it were true that traditional masculinity was steeped in violence and harm. But it's far from clear that this is indeed what 40 years of research shows—making the APA's attack on masculinity even harder to defend.

I've just published what I believe is the first peer-reviewed assessment of the APA's guidelines for men and boys. What I found was a mess. Far from there being a slam dunk link between traditional masculinity and negative mental health or behavioral outcomes, the evidence was inconsistent and, across the board, methodologically very weak.

The authors of the guidelines are uniformly focused on the social construction of gender, ignoring biological inputs to both sex and gender identity. But even worse in my opinion, the APA's report is clearly disparaging of traditional men and their families, linking traditional, masculine values to an entire suite of negative mental and physical health outcomes—with no real scientific rationale.

Indeed, it was politics that motivated these conclusions. The guidelines were written from a radical, intersectional perspective. And this isn't my subjective opinion. In conversations I had with most of the authors, they acknowledged as much. "While the Guidelines were drafted by about 30 psychologists over a 13-year period, your comment about its emphasis on intersectionality is on target," one told me. "It is accurate to say that intersectionality over time emerged as a good way to frame understanding and accessing the multiple intersectional identities of boys and men," another admitted.

The APA is waging war on men

The intersectional approach that motivated these the guidelines reflect forms of feminism focused on identity politics, patriarchy, privilege, and other loadstone jargon from the political far Left, a kind of "Practice Guidelines for Dogs" written by cats. I consider myself a feminist, but as a clinical psychologist myself, I am highly skeptical that the partially unemployed coal miner, struggling to feed his family of five, is going to benefit much from discussions of his privilege.

It didn't have to be this way. The APA guidelines do have value in supporting the well-being of non-traditional men, and those need not come at the expense of traditionally masculine men.

Discussions of identity in recent decades have obsessed over the notions of power and privilege, but as progressive ideologies sweep through left-leaning institutions such as the APA, we're beginning to see some real inversion of these concepts, or at least, we're reaching a point where they have become more complex.

By releasing practice guidelines that misrepresent the science, the APA does harm to public trust in science. If the public increasingly believes—for good reasons or bad—that science is political nonsense, giving the public exactly that is poor strategy.

Ethically too, the APA has an obligation not to promote prejudice or discrimination against any group. Though the APA has historically failed on this score in relation to women and non-white ethnicities, this is no excuse for the APA to now evince what appears to me to be a clearly bigoted attitude toward traditional men.

But the biggest risk is obviously to traditional men, boys, and their families, not just because the APA has decided they are a legitimate target for sexism and prejudice, but also because many men and their families are now going to view psychotherapy as directly hostile to their values. These men and their families won't seek therapy they might otherwise benefit from. The costs to well-being, potentially even lives, isn't hard to imagine.

None of this minimizes very real sexism toward woman and misogyny that exists across societies. Issues of violence toward women and equal pay remain of worldwide significance. Yet sexism toward men and women can coexist in a fractious society.

Is it possible to be sexist toward men? Sure; the APA has proved it so.

Chris Ferguson is a professor of psychology at Stetson University and author of How Madness Shaped History, Mortal Combat: How the War on Violent Video Games is Wrong and the mystery novel Suicide Kings.

The views in this article are the writer's own.