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APA defines traditional masculinity as harmful

Updated: Feb 10, 2020

The American Psychological Association recently released a report in which, fifty years behind schedule, it explains that many aspects of what we’ve traditionally defined as masculinity are “harmful.”

My professional response to that was a very eloquent, “Well, duh…”

Traditional aspects of masculinity include strength, assertiveness, independence and courage. My wife embodies those qualities and consequently is labeled a “bitch.” Because that’s how insecure men conceptualize strong women.

I’m a man who embraces being emotive, expressive, nurturing and empathic. By traditional values, this makes me a “pansy” and brings my sexual orientation into question.

I spent time today with one of the best therapists and men I know. We were doing very manly things over coffee – discussing vulnerability and some recent emotional experiences (No, really! We do that for hours on end). We tried to define what, in a perfect world, we’d define as “masculinity.”

Of course, we both came to the same conclusion immediately – that ideally, “masculinity” wouldn’t be distinct from simply being a good human being.

The average person does not seem to understand the difference between gender and biological sex. Explaining gender as a social construct gets exhausting and that’s long before we get to talking about how limiting and polarizing the concept is, much less discussing gender aspects like non-binary, gender-queer or gender fluidity.

All of which underscores the most basic lesson in being a good human – maybe it’s hard to wrap your mind around these and other concepts – but be respectful, kind, and accepting anyway

One of my favorite humans puts it this way, “What difference does it make? What changes or breaks down in your world (by virtue of a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or transition)?”

Unfortunately, we live in a culture that ascribes meaning to gender. So, what does that mean to me as a cisgender, heterosexual man? It means that I have a responsibility to own my social privilege and to lend my efforts toward creating a more egalitarian society. It means I will model myself as a nonviolent and respectful person who recognizes harmful societal constructs and works against them.

Traditional definitions of masculinity are disempowering to the majority of people in our culture (most notably, women in general and to all people who happen to be LQBTQ+).

In a world that seems increasingly full of hate, the idea of simply being civil to people regardless of their gender is both obvious and yet, sadly, transformative.

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