When battle lines are drawn in the culture wars, they are often drawn first by gender. This makes no sense to anyone familiar with evolution. Every sexually reproducing animal has one father, who outcompeted all males, and one mother, who outcompeted all females, in the struggle to pass on their genes. A lot happens downstream of this fact, including that intrasexual competition is almost always more important than competition between the sexes.
So, it has never made sense to me to “defend men”. Men are not a tribe or a coalition. Male is not an identity marker whose reputation I have to defend. Every person alive knows thousands of men, and they can form their own impressions. And besides, who am I supposed to defend men from?
I also try to avoid booing the outgroup. Pointing out the latest misdemeanor perpetrated by one’s ideological enemies is the last resort of those with nothing constructive to say. I published an essay in my tribe’s magazine encouraging them to boo the outgroup less. And who’s my outgroup anyway, terrible psychologists? When I mock them, I at least try to do so in the service of teaching some math.
But this week, my outgroup has decided to launch an all-out attack on men, in the form of the American Psychological Association’s guidelines for practice with men and boys. It is a dangerous piece of science denialism published by a powerful organization, with the potential to hurt countless people. So now I am forced to defend men and boo the outgroup. This post will not be an example of charity and patience, and it won’t teach you any math either. Hedgehog alert is in effect.
Misogynist and misandrist garbage is posted every day on the web, and 99.9% deserves only to be ignored. But APA is the largest association of psychologists in the world, 100,000 members strong and commanding a nine-figure budget. These guidelines are supposed to be about helping vulnerable men in a clinical setting. They start off like this: 
Research finds that traditional masculinity is, on the whole, harmful.
That’s quite a statement of intent. How do they back it up? Bizarrely, by quoting a bunch of non-sequitur statistics. The first bit of “research” in the article is:
95.2 percent of chief operating officers at Fortune 500 companies were men.
Ok, that covers 476 men. What about the other 162,570,524?
But something is amiss for men as well. Men commit 90 percent of homicides in the United States.
Since the murder rate in the US is at the lowest point in 60 years, I think the problem is clearly that women are not doing their fair share of the killing to even up the statistics.
Before it gets to discussing men who aren’t billionaires or murderers, the article apologizes repeatedly for even suggesting that men deserve attention by psychologists.
At first blush, this may seem unnecessary. For decades, psychology focused on men (particularly white men), to the exclusion of all others. […]
remaining sensitive to the field’s androcentric past […]
Prior to the second-wave feminist movement in the 1960s, all psychology was the psychology of men.
I’d be embarrassed to hand this in a Psychology 101 class, since of the three most important pre-1960 psychologists, one mostly studied women, the second studied dogs, and the third – rats and pigeons. This section shows how deeply the APA is lost in the jungles of its ideology. The author anticipated criticisms by radical feminists railing against psychology trying to help men at all, but didn’t anticipate how the rest of society would react to “masculinity considered harmful”.
The article makes sure to hit every buzzword on the progressive ideology bingo card. It mentions:
- Power and privilege
- Mexican immigrants (topical!)
- Homophobia and transphobia
- The patriarchy (twice)
- Intersectionality (twice)
- Sexism (twice)
- Transgender (thrice)
- Race and systemic racism (I lost count).
Amazingly, the following words show up zero times in the article or the guidelines themselves:
- Innate or hereditary.
- Hormone, testosterone, or endocrine.
The only word that shows up is “gene”, in the following sentence:
Additionally, understanding the likely involvement of genetic factors in the development of gender identity has been especially effective in reducing transphobia in men.
The guidelines cite hundreds of “research” papers with titles like “White privilege and male privilege: A personal account of coming to see correspondences through work in women’s studies. (McIntosh 2008)” and zero papers of actual research on what men do and why. This cannot be an accident. Why are these “research-based” guidelines so careful to avoid all research?
The main thrust of the subsequent research is that traditional masculinity—marked by stoicism, competitiveness, dominance and aggression—is, on the whole, harmful. Men socialized in this way are less likely to engage in healthy behaviors.
Ah, that’s why. From the guidelines:
Because of socialized tendencies to externalize emotional distress, boys and men may be more likely to be diagnosed with externalizing disorders […]
Some boys are socialized from an early age to avoid intimacy and deep connections with others […]
Many boys and men have been socialized to use aggression and violence as a means to resolve interpersonal conflict […]
Psychologists also may strive to identify ways that psychological services can be more adaptive to the ways men have been socialized.
APA wants you to believe that everything men do is taught to them by the patriarchy. Nowhere in the article is the possibility even raised that men are stoic, competitive, etc. by nature. The reason APA is careful to avoid any serious science is that a blank-slate conception of gender differences is contradicted by every serious paper on gender differences. It is also contradicted by a visit to your local playground.
Some people still fight for a blank-slate view of cognitive abilities and personality traits. These people are wrong, but excusably so. But a blank-slate view of gendered traits is deliberate science denialism.
One wonders if APA holds a blank-slate view of the most important gendered psychological trait: that the vast majority of men are sexually attracted to women, while women are attracted to men. This is, after all, the same organization that classified homosexuality as a mental disorder until the seventies, and whose members were not discouraged from recommending conversion therapy until 2009.
You’d think being wrong about gays for a century may teach the APA some humility. Instead, it doubles down on delusions of self-importance. What does the APA consider most harmful about masculine traits?
Research led by Omar Yousaf, PhD, found that men who bought into traditional notions of masculinity were more negative about seeking mental health services than those with more flexible gender attitudes. […]
Many of these problems seem intractable—how do you help someone who would never dream of seeking mental health treatment?
Get it? Men’s problems stem from their reluctance to talk to psychologists (68% female) and therapists (83% female) who charge $200+ an hour and are taught that male traits are a disease.
This is why APA has to promote the insane view that every gendered trait is socialized – if a man was made X by society, he can be cured of X by an APA-member clinical psychologist. APA never gave up on conversion therapy, they just realized that curing men of manhood is more lucrative than curing gays of gayness.
Reminder: this document is not the work of a single deranged individual. The APA represents 44% of psychologists in the US, and its guidelines set the tone for the profession. It affects not only how men are treated when they seek help, but how men will be forced to seek help by teachers, school counselors, diversity officers, and employers. And if a man refuses to seek “help” for his baneful condition of being a man, that is all the more evidence of his sickness.
Stoicism, competitiveness, dominance, aggression, achievement-orientation: these are masculine virtues when developed well, and they can make women and men who pursue them happier and healthier . But APA doesn’t care about health and happiness, it just wants all men on its therapy couches, paying for their male privilege by paying for the “privilege” of being brainwashed into an insane ideology.
And if you’re one of the millions of men suffering from real mental health issues, I’m sorry.
 The line quoted was the original subheader of the article. It was removed on Tuesday after being quoted in every single conservative magazine in the country, but its paraphrase shows up in the main text.
 My wife just read Jordan Peterson’s “12 Rules for Life” on the recommendation of multiple female friends, as an example of a book that is a good guide to masculine virtues for both genders. I have an upcoming post in which I’ll try to give my own take on the value of all the masculine traits the APA will cure me of.
16 thoughts on “Curing the World of Men”
What a bizarre statement for them to put out. Nice article Jacob
Well, it’s one incentive for them to do that. But it’s also the only politically safe way to acknowledge gendered traits at all.
I can see the threads of a non-garbage article in that APA thing–further down it acknowledges the positive aspects of masculinity–but the article was shooting its purported aim (of helping psychologists better understand men? Of trying to get more men to go to therapists? I don’t even know) in the foot. You want to convince men to go to psychologists? Talk about then as though they might read what you’re putting down; if it’s on the Internet it will get out. Acknowledge that there’s at the very least anecdotal evidence from sixty-odd years of synthetic hormone therapy that testosterone and estrogen affect people’s emotions. But there’s also evidence from other cultures, and from other periods in American culture, that the Spartan emotional palette the APA has labeled “masculinity” is rather more truncated than what the concept of manhood has historically been. Quote Armed Services and VA clinicians; they probably know a thing or two about helping stoic, aggressive men deal with psychological trauma. Maybe even acknowledge that self-help culture often comes in a flowery package that scares men who are afraid of being deemed feminine.
Oh. TL,dr; masculinity isn’t the problem, anti-femininity is. Which isn’t necessarily the same things. (Are they two perpendicular dimensions, a one dimensional line, or two axes that intersect at an acute angle? IDK, but I’d like to believe it’s not the unidimensional line.)
I don’t think it’s a single axis at all. I think that there are masculine traits and feminine traits, and most of those could be a virtue or a vice depending on how they’re manifested.
As a man, I’m trying to develop feminine virtues like grace, a sense of social harmony, nurturing, and being a better listener. Hopefully, those can build upon my masculine traits, not replace them. These are all tools in the arsenal. A person who can both compete and cooperate, dominate and harmonize, be vulnerable or stoic as the situation demands is a more complete human being. But to make men better humans, you don’t start by telling them that maleness is a disease.
All I can say is bless the APA’s heart.
I’m really confused by this post. Your statement here is the exact same as the conclusion of the APA statement: “Getting that message out to men—that they’re adaptable, emotional and capable of engaging fully outside of rigid norms”, but somehow the APA is evil and hates men?
If I may try to summarize to see if I understood you, I think what you’re trying to say is that in order to deal with issues of anti-social men (with regards to violent crimes and mental health), a solution needs to be derived from the evolutionary factors that caused these issues in the first place. Thus any attempt to tackle or understand these problems from a sociological perspective is fundamentally flawed. Given that the APA consists of psychologists who’s jobs are to figure out how to make peoples lives better through socializing them, they are ill-equipped to solve this problem. You also imply that the APA deems masculinity as negative in its entirety and thus coming with any positive masculine traits would contradict them.
I don’t think this is a good summary of your post because it doesn’t make sense to me. While it is true that our behavioral traits are largely inherited, don’t we have the capacity to learn how to deal with these innate behaviors? Otherwise you wouldn’t be saying that you’re trying to cultivate any virtues. It seems to me that this is what the APA is also trying to do in therapy settings and it is valid for them to try to do so.
You spoke about ideological buzz words, but are things like sexism, trans-issues and homophobia not relevant to men? Gay and trans-men both exist and I hope they would be taken in to account in any attempts to help men. Listing these words as if to imply they are only there to virtue signal just looks like, as you say, booing the out-group without regard to the validity of their statements.
I think this would be a great opportunity to turn this post into a math post by demonstrating how the sociological perspective is fruitless in helping men, because that point is not clear to me. It might also be more fruitful for combating their bad science than accusing them of hatefulness. Certainly it’d be more likely to pass their ideological Turing test. (I don’t know for sure which approach is better in real life, but I hope it’s the one where we cooperate to become better truth seekers.)
Or perhaps point to some of the guidelines that they wish to implement that we have evidence for actually harming men to get your point across better.
I feel kind of bad that this is the first post I’m commenting on, because in general I love your blog and want to see more (math).
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Let me guess… The APA resolution was approved near the end of a meeting after everybody with a life had gone home.
OTOH, maybe they’re just trolling us.
I work in biosciences and have had to “defend” psychology and behavioral science as “real science” on many occasions to my colleagues (who are all female by the way), but after this I just cannot. It is apparent that psychology is a mixture of serious research-oriented work and absolute intellectual self-deception.
Bravo, Jacob. We don’t have quite this level of pseudoscientific doublethink and identity politics here in the UK yet, but I’m sure it’s coming here soon.
While I normally really like your posts Jacob, I think this one was really weak and written expecting an ideological choir. I read the APA post, and it sounds like the APA created a (maybe fine?) guide for treating men, and then wrote a crappy article about releasing said guidelines. Additionally, the article reads like its primary audience is an extreme leftist majority (e.g. the social sciences in academia…). I suspect that the author is more worried about being attacked for being insufficiently “progressive” than about correctly conveying the contents of their guidelines in this article.
I disagree with some of their stance personally, such as pretty much everything they said about “John Henryism,” and I happen to think that stoicism is primarily a positive trait that occasionally is bad for us. In any case, the article does get around to discussing the virtues of the traits as well.
I hope you find this feedback helpful.
P.S. if you want to do a real analysis of the APA’s guidelines, I think a review of the studies they cite, including possible non-replications that they missed, would be a really cool post.
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I feel a lot like Z above, especially about your list of “buzzwords”. I normally enjoy the posts here, but this one read a lot like inflammatory knee-jerk culture warring.
I looked through the APA article before I saw it posted here and didn’t react nearly as viscerally as you appear to have. Given that your list of “progressive buzzwords” include several things that relate to me, I can think of a few reasons why that might be. For many men, like myself, LGBTQ+ issues are a lot more than buzzwords.
The traditional/most common conceptions of masculinity in American culture definitely conflict with a lot about the LGBTQ+ lifestyle and relationship with gender and sexuality – something the APA article deals with to at least some extent, and that you seem to have entirely ignored. It feels like there’s actually a lot in the APA article that is of value, but you’re sorta just throwing it all out because it activates whatever part of you is triggered by the suggestion that traditional masculinity isn’t all good all the time.
There’s definitely a lot that is positive that is embedded in the traditional views of masculinity, and you’re not wrong that many gendered traits have prominent biological components. I’d enjoy a well thought out response to the APA article about masculinity. This isn’t it.
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I think you misunderstand the issue I take with APA here, and that’s the context of this document.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with articles like “People should realize gay trans men are also men” or “Traditional masculinity doesn’t have room for queers”. I see dozens of those every year, and I’m certainly not “triggered”. They can be good (if they’re trying to help LGBTQ+ folk) or bad (if they’re trying to score political points at the expense of the conservative white male outgroup while pretending to help disadvantaged groups). But APA didn’t write guidelines for men to make LGBTQ+ people welcome and safe, they ostensibly wrote guidelines for psychologists to make men healthy. The vast majority of men are not LGBTQ+, and calling them out for lack of wokeness is not mental health care.
I have nothing against critiques of traditional masculinity, as should be evidenced by everything I ever wrote about dating. I even had my physical checkup today, so much for macho stoicism! I’m fine with critiques of masculinity on Facebook, in academic papers, in anime, in indie rock songs… but not in healthcare guidelines, and not when critiquing masculinity means you have to completely ignore all relevant science.
Imagine if the APA published “Guidelines for treating LGBTQ+ people” that didn’t mention hormones, but instead talked about how gay people are bad because they make straight men uncomfortable and trans women are bad because they don’t visit urologists enough.
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