The Right would rather men died than admit any flaws in masculinity

I shouldn’t read Quillette. For those unfamiliar with the Australian/International online magazine, it is part of that genre of modern political thought that could be called anti-left contrarianism, that covers various soughs from Steven Pinker to Jordan Peterson. Its stock style of article is shallowness dressed up as depth, utilizing the same style of misrepresentation of issues as the tabloid press but with longer sentences and a broader vocabulary.

Over the past few days it has published a couple of pieces on the American Psychological Associations Guidelines for Psychological Practice for Men and Boys. Now you would think that the stalwart defenders of innate gender differences would be happy that an influential body like the APA would be overtly recognising that men and boys have distinct psychological needs that require special advice for practitioners. After all, is this not the ‘moderate’ criticism of the rise of feminism? That somehow, men’s needs and men’s issues have been sidelined? Ha, ha, who am I kidding 🙂 The APA guidelines were characterised by MRAs, conservatives and the so-called “Intellectual dark web” as a direct attack on masculinity.

Here is one particularly stupid piece at Quillette that reflects the harrumphing style of response: https://quillette.com/2019/01/23/thank-you-apa/ The writer (a professor of psychology at North Dakota State University) either haven’t read the guidelines or is actively misrepresenting them.

However, a second piece is what actually caught my attention. It’s better written but also is attacking a strawman version of the guidelines: https://quillette.com/2019/01/23/how-my-toxic-stoicism-helped-me-cope-with-brain-cancer/

The writer describes how his stocial attitude helped him through a diagnosis & treatment for brain cancer and uses that to lambast the APA’s (apparent) criticism of stoicism in its guidelines. I, perhaps foolishly, left a comment on the piece. What follows is an edited version of my comment.

The piece is basically a strawman argument. It misrepresents what the APA guidelines say to imply that the guidelines have blanket disapproval for people acting stoically. e.g. Take the APA’s own article on the guidelines:

“It’s also important to encourage pro-social aspects of masculinity, says McDermott. In certain circumstances, traits like stoicism and self-sacrifice can be absolutely crucial, he says”

https://www.apa.org/monitor/2019/01/ce-corner.aspx

In the guidelines themselves, the word “stoicism” appears only twice and in neither case is a blanket condemnation of it. Once is in relation to difficulties SOME men have forming emotional bonds with other men:

“Psychologists can discuss with boys and men the messages they have received about withholding affection from other males to help them understand how components of traditional masculinity such as emotional stoicism, homophobia, not showing vulnerability, self-reliance, and competitiveness might deter them from forming close relationships with male peers”

American Psychological Association, Boys and Men Guidelines Group. (2018).
APA guidelines for psychological practice with boys and men

And the other connects with a broader health issue of men not seeking care that they may need:

“Psychologists also strive to reduce mental health stigma for men by acknowledging and challenging socialized messages related to men’s mental health stigma (e.g., male stoicism, self-reliance). “

American Psychological Association, Boys and Men Guidelines Group. (2018).
APA guidelines for psychological practice with boys and men

Neither example relates to be being stoical in the face of medical diagnosis but rather social pressures that mean some men (no, not ALL men) don’t seek care that they need (including for physical ailments) because of a misguided belief that they have to battle through by themselves.

The writer’s example is NOT an example of the case the APA guidelines were addressing. The writer sought out medical care, received a diagnosis and stuck with treatment. The writer self-described actions are the OPPOSITE of what the guidelines are discussing — they show a man taking their health seriously and SEEKING HELP. That’s good and healthy but many men aren’t doing that and as a consequence are dying of treatable diseases

As guideline 8 points out:

“For most leading causes of death in the United States and in every age group, males have higher death rates than females”

American Psychological Association, Boys and Men Guidelines Group. (2018).
APA guidelines for psychological practice with boys and men

At least some of this is due men not seeking out healthcare they need:

“Between 2011 and 2013, men’s mortality rates for colorectal cancer, a generally preventable disease with regular screenings, were significantly higher than women’s, suggesting that many men do not engage in preventative care (American Cancer Society, 2015).”

American Psychological Association, Boys and Men Guidelines Group. (2018).
APA guidelines for psychological practice with boys and men

A stoical attitude need not be toxic but when misapplied/misunderstood or adopted out of a feeling of social obligation, it can take on a harmful form of thinking that you shouldn’t seek out help. I’m glad the writer’s stoicism was of the positive kind but the writer should perhaps also take greater care in researching what the APA guidelines had actually said.


To put not too fine a point on it: toxic aspects of masculinity kills men. There is nothing pro-man about it. Nobody is actually sticking up for men by pushing back against the APA guidelines.


18 thoughts on “The Right would rather men died than admit any flaws in masculinity

  1. While reading all these self-important, small-minded guys’ sad screeds, I recommend playing Sammy Davis Jr’s “I Gotta Be Me” in the background.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “The APA guidelines were created by MRAs, conservatives and the so-called “Intellectual dark web” as a direct attack on masculinity.”

    I’m fairly sure that the word “Created” in this sentence is, um, not the correct one. Because it sounds in the rest of the post like the MRAs etc are attacking the guidelines, not endorsing, much less taking credit for.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. And don’t feel too bad; I once managed to write a sentence which made me sound like I considered a favourite musician of mine awful. I caught it before posting, and edited it…. and instead called her “terrible”.

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  3. This piece is well written and absolutely correct and, I imagine, would go straight over the heads of the people you’re talking about without affecting them in the least. What the APA is actually trying to do or say isn’t of any interest to them; the point is just to wave the flag of “traditional moral people like us versus liberals/eggheads/women/modern society.”

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  4. The author of the first article (not the stoic with brain cancer) starts off with the ancient chestnut about how men work in more dangerous professions like construction work, logging, fishing, mining, etc… and therefore have a higher rate of workplace accidents and deaths than women, which supposedly proves that men are oppressed or something,

    What this really proves is that workplace safety is sorely lacking in the US. Because Germany has construction work, fishing, logging, mining (okay, so we just closed down the last coal mine, but we still have some other mines), and while accidents do happen, they’re rare. The last mining accident in Germany happened in 2013 and killed three people. The last fishing boat accident in Germany happened in 2006, when a trawler sank, killing four sailors. The trawler was later found to have been unsafe. Construction work killed 88 people in Germany in 2017, mostly fatal falls but also explosions of unexploded WWII ordnance. Police officers are killed in Germany at a rate of approximately one per year.

    Fatal logging accidents seem to be more common than I thought. The latest figures I found lists 31 fatal logging and wood chopping accidents in Germany in 2014. Mostly, those accidents were due to ignoring safety guidelines, which is easier to do in the woods than in the much more strictly controlled fishing and mining industries. And the vast majority of those accidents were due to farmers deciding to cut down a tree themselves rather than hire a specialist who knows what they’re doing.

    The gender of the dead workers is never mentioned BTW.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. MRAs bring up workplace safety a lot, but it’s invariably presented as an explanation for women earning less, not as a reason to fight for the rights of male workers. Which of course is nonsense; if danger related to income, stockbrokers would live in studio apartments and miners would live in McMansions. Not to mention the emphasis on men being “uniquely willing to do dangerous jobs” ignores any possibility of discrimination in hiring or how women in those jobs are treated.
      The blogger Echidne of the Snakes has pointed out that the stats for danger might change if you include prostitution, which is female dominated.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. MRAs keep proving again and again that they don’t really want to help men, all they want is to complain about women having rights.

        The only profession where I was able to find a gender breakdown was for police officers. 392 German police officers have been killed on duty since 1945. 4 of them were women, but the numbers are massively skewed by the fact that the majority of those killings took place during the Red Army Fraction crisis of the 1970s, when female police officers were much rarer. And indeed, the four female police officers were all killed in the past twenty years (including one murdered by the rightwing terrorist group NSU), which brings the number up to about twenty percent.

        And yes, if you include prostitution under dangerous professions, the gender ratio looks much less skewed.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. Even if you set aside prostitution in a region where it’s essentially illegal*; nurses (especially ER and mental health, but a surprising number in care homes) are semi regularly attacked by patients, but that isn’t counted when discussing hazardous workplaces.

        * although even in the areas where it is legal there are some hideous workplace health violations, and I’m not talking about the sex. I was watching a presentation where someone working in a legal brothel near Vegas outlined what they were expected to do by way of working hours and off-shift duties in a given week. It was a killer schedule and would be if the work itself was as tame as waitressing.

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  5. So it seems these Apa guidelines are going to be the new right wing stalking horse for awhile, I suppose it makes a change from all the complaining about the Gillette advert though a theme of toxic masculinity appears there also.
    I wonder if this hyper focus on these issues says anything about the state of conservatism at all, is it getting weaker or will it just rise again in the future stronger than before.

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      1. I’m 45, and am just about old enough to remember the tail-end of the intellectual ferment around monetarism and neoliberalism and libertarianism and other right-wing economic thinking. I think the peak was probably in the 1970s (before I remember), but there was lots in the 1980s and it was clearly intellectually dead in terms of a shortage of new ideas by the time of the Contract On America in 1994 and the Major re-election in the UK in 1992.

        There really hasn’t been any sort of intellectual strength on the right since – there was a little bit of intellectual work done around neoreaction but that dropped dead because it spends so much time denying the facts.

        I’d love to see a libertarian or an anarcho-capitalist trying to work out how to address climate change without governmental power. The fact that they run away from that question rather than taking it on is a sign of the intellectual bankruptcy of their ideology.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I put some thought into a libertarian response to climate change and it isn’t even that hard: stop all government spending on roads 🙂 Of course, that was more of a way of magically revealing what “libertarians” thought the government should spend money on.

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  6. A colleague was recently telling me about how her husband’s ‘blokish’ attitude had, sadly, probably led to a worse prognosis for his prostate cancer. Does my anecdote cancel out this guy’s anecdote?

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