Encouraging Healthy Masculinities Can Protect Against Discrimination and Bullying

Psychologists point out that current cultural expectations for “being a real man” can lead to isolation, pain, and even hatred.

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Masculinity could be described as the list of qualities associated with being a man, but pinning down exactly what those qualities are is a more difficult task. In a new article in the American Psychologist, researchers Michael Di Bianca and James R. Mahalik unpack cultural conventions and expectations around masculinity in the context of sociocultural power.

They frame current, mainstream expectations for men as “hegemonic masculinity” and discuss the impacts of these expectations and how they could change for the better, moving toward healthier forms of masculine gender norms.

Boys and men do not become who they are in a vacuum, or by following a trajectory predetermined at birth, but within the contexts of relationships, communities, and societies,” Di Bianca and Mahalik explain.

Two Boys Sitting On Bench In Mall Taking SelfieThe authors emphasize that following the expectations of hegemonic masculinity is not some sort of predetermined destiny for boys but a dominant culture that drives them to fit into a mold. Hegemonic masculinity is all about being a “real man,” which means independence to the point of never asking for help, concealing emotions to present as having a thick skin, and proving strength through demonstrations of physical force.

These characteristics are associated with profound mental health risks, but the authors also provide insight into how masculinity changes for different types of men. For example, extreme insensitivity (or “bottling up emotions”) is a hallmark of hegemonic masculinity that is easier for white men than African American men who experience systematic racism, which they are expected to face individually and without being fazed. For Asian American men, emotional unwellness and mental stress go more easily ignored because of the “model minority” myth.

Gay, queer, and transgender men may feel at odds with expectations for masculinity as their very identity is stigmatized by hegemonic masculinity. These experiences may make men more jaded and can disconnect them from themselves. As a result, hegemonic masculinity acts as a feedback loop: as men hide their pain, they are rewarded for fitting in with expectations and disparaged for breaking from the norm. Then, men become ashamed of emotions and work even harder to put on a mask.

The authors suggest that boys and men need to be invited to share their feelings in relationships that encourage vulnerability. However, hegemonic masculinity discourages this, too. To be a “real man,” men are supposed to rely on no one but themselves. The authors highlight a specific 2011 study that describes how adolescents are less likely to engage in intimate friendships as they get older for fear of being called “girly” or “gay.” This doesn’t just hurt men, who then close themselves off from others, but reinforces homophobic and sexist views wherein intimacy is a form of weakness that is stereotypical of women and LGBT+ people.

Just as hegemonic masculinity discourages healthy relationships and empathy, it encourages violence and authoritarian attitudes. Perhaps the trait most obviously linked to hegemonic masculinity is a willingness to incite violence or fighting. The authors criticize how expectations make men show off their ability to dominate not only a space or a conversation (i.e., mansplaining, manspreading, etc.) but their will to dominate other people.

Hegemonic masculinity encourages a culture of conquest. Men are not just expected to overcome but overpower obstacles, whether moving something heavy or physically fighting someone. Extensive research has also shown that men who engage in dominance and violence are more likely to hurt others based on prejudice, or in the case of women, based on ownership/objectification:

“Research has linked power-over masculinity (e.g., dominance, violence) with sexual objectification, harassment, violence against women, bullying and fighting, racist violence, homophobic and transphobic abuse, gun violence, and environmental destruction.”
“Parallel to the ‘overdevelopment of aggression’ is dehumanization that creates a permission structure to tolerate when others’ human dignity is violated. Therefore, hegemonic masculinity must be framed in light of power afforded to men in a patriarchal society and its many layers of disempowerment.”

Di Bianca and Mahalik highlight that boys learn hegemonic masculinity from a society that already values it. To move away from harmful expectations, boys and men need to be afforded diverse relationships that teach and reward empathy. This is especially true of self-image: if boys and men can’t respect other people being themselves, they will inevitably feel encouraged to hide their own identities and then criticize or even denigrate social change that uplifts marginalized groups (i.e., the #MeToo movement, Pride Month).

The authors explain that role models should be the first to guide boys in the direction of empathetic connection to begin moving away from hegemonic masculinity. While engaging with one’s peers feels like an obvious solution, it’s easier said than done, as many boys and men will belittle one another for trying to break out of gender norms. That isn’t to say that one’s peers should be abandoned—the authors cite an approach that seeks to provide all boys and men with group spaces that provide unconditional positive feedback.

As boys and men are heard and respected, a universality of men’s experiences could be fostered, which would help extinguish stigmas that lean on gender norms. The authors envision a new, healthy paradigm of masculinity that moves away from an obsession with power and is instead founded upon valuing and talking about one’s own emotions and the emotions of others.

 

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Di Bianca, M., & Mahalik, J. R. (2022). A relational-cultural framework for promoting healthy masculinities. American Psychologist, 77(3), 321–332. https://doi.org/10.1037/amp0000929 (Link)

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Liam G. Bach
Liam graduated from Bard College as a Biology/Psychology double major in 2021 and has a background in ecology and art. Liam brings an interest in attending to how dominant discourses operate to construct broader social issues, including climate change and social justice efforts, as individual problems in need of individual management. He intends to pursue doctoral studies in 2022—in the meantime, he will be reading, writing, drawing, and sleeping.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Liam, just to say you got your finger on the pulse. But you will prolly get it delicately placed elsewhere, to some other agenda. And you must let it. But meanwhile in your coffee break you might like to read a book by Adam Jukes…

    “Why Men Hate Women”.

    Spoiler alert…

    men are unwell.

  2. “In the practice of medicine there is a different treatment according to the Yin and Yang of men and women. There is also a difference in pulse. In the last fifty years, however, men’s pulse has become the same as women’s. Noticing this, in the treatment of eye disease I applied women’s treatment to men and found it suitable. When I observed the application of men’s treatment to men, there was no result. Thus I knew that men’s spirit had weakened and that they had become the same as women, and the end of the world had come. Since I witnessed this with certainty, I kept it a secret.

    “When looking at the men of today with this in mind, those who could be thought to have women’s pulse are many indeed, and those who seem like real men few indeed. Because of this, if one were to make a little effort, he would be able to take the upper hand quite easily. That there are few men who are able to cut well in beheadings is further proof that men’s courage has waned. And when one comes to speak of kaishaku, it has become an age of men who are prudent and clever at making excuses. Forty or fifty years ago, when such things as matanuki were considered manly, a man wouldn’t show an unscarred thigh to his fellows, so he would pierce it himself.

    “All of man’s work is a bloody business. That fact, today, is considered foolish, affairs are finished cleverly with words alone, and jobs that require effort are avoided. I would like young men to have some understanding of this.”

    Hagakure by Yamamoto Tsunetomo

    Personally I found that when I looked back, it was women who showed me what it meant to be violent. From the beatings at school from teachers, to the beatings at home…… and then one finds out all about ‘mental health services’ and an Operations Manager (supported by an FOI Officer) who will “fuking destroy” you for daring to complain about their ‘services’. Still, they won’t need to worry about their sons.

    • Speaking of bullying, consider my situation.

      As a direct result of being threatened by known home invaders/meth amphetamine users (my wifes’ nephews and brother), I inform my wife that I will be leaving our home.

      She responds by charging at me with a large carving knife whilst I lay on a couch in the bedroom, and attempts to plunge it into my chest. I deflect the blow by raising my shoe and it cuts the sole, instead of killing me. I suggest she get some help for her abandonment issues.

      In response, she makes an appointment (in my name) with a psychologist I had seen as a result of needing a report written after a workplace incident. This person no longer MY psychologist, as I no longer met the standards set out in the Mental Health Act of being a ‘patient’, nor had I been seen within the prior 48 hours by this psychologist (ergo no lawful right to make a referral for assessment under the Act).

      These two women come up with a plan. My wife returns home and ‘spikes’ my drink with a date rape drug to incapacitate me (an assault on my person), and they could then have a Community Nurse procure the thug services of Police by lying to them and saying I was an “Outpatient” of a local hospital (a crime under section 336 of the Criminal Code; Procure the apprehension or detention of a person not suffering from a mental illness).

      This is done and I find myself being interrogated for 7 hours whilst stupefied without my knowledge with intoxicating drugs administered via my food or drink. I am released from the locked ward before they manage to have me injected with a chemical kosh for daring to complain, and go about the business of obtaining my medical records to try and understand how on earth I can be snatched from my bed and locked in a cage and force drugged because my wife wants it done.

      The hospital FOI Officer spotting the criminal nature of the enterprise makes a decision to conspire to pervert the course of justice with my wife (and by proxy her new clinic psychologist friend) and so they play me for a fool by ‘redacting’ the involvement of Police and the ‘spiking’ with benzos from my medical records.

      I obtain legal representation, and my wife believing that they will be provided with the proof of her offending ‘confesses’ to me regarding the ‘spiking’. I thus inform the FOI officer that she need not continue to conceal the evidence of the offending from me, as I had now been made aware of the offence by my wife. She then provides me with documents previously concealed from me, which also show that the Community Nurse has lied to Police to have me tortured (see Article 1 of the Convention, ‘spiked’ and subjected to an ‘acute stress reaction’ before interrogation = torture. See the youtube video below as to how to achieve this lawfully. “patient”, spike, and then ‘restrain’…… then interrogate).

      Enter the Operations Manager, who would like the proof of what I am saying returned before they provide an “edited” set of documents to the Law Centre representing me (well, not really but it’s a good way to find out what a victim has before fuking destroying them). So Police are once again procured to ensure that I am ‘detained’ whilst my wife retrieves the documents which are of concern to the hospital. In the meantime my family is being threatened, and I am being subjected to some vicious gaslighting to attempt to push me to suicide. My wife by this time has another man waiting to move into our home (and a holiday planned with same, and is baiting me at every opportunity to have police build up a false narrative, which I note they are quite prepared to assist with, even fabricating evidence in the process. ie accusing me of being intoxicated to remove me from my home, when they were not aware I have not touched alcohol for more than 20 years).

      Consider this situation where a man who has a legitimate complaint against police finds himself being ‘snowed’ by the mental health services who requested he be subjected to the ‘treatment’ to ensure his compliance in future. Imagine their surprise if they were to find out that the hospital has lied to them and that the man was NOT a ‘patient’? Quick, put him under while we ensure the documents are “edited”

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oZ9UQKBUrsg&t=1s

      Does the person who weaponised police by ‘spiking’ me with date rape drugs and planting a knife on me for them to find after lying to them and saying I was a violent mental patient when they KNEW I wasn’t bare any responsibility if the shoot me? Or should the matter be kept from the public because such matters are not in their interest?

      What I found of interest also was the way that the Community Nurse found it easy to slander me and have others believe that I was a wife beater, something they were quite happy to accept because ………. because the alternative facts that I was being savagely attacked in my own home was unthinkable….. and didn’t fit with the false narrative they preferred.

      Seems to me that my toxic masculinity surfacing and leading me to want to defend myself from such attacks was then used against me, and justified the threats to fuking destroy me, and the mock execution, and threats to my family for trying to provide police with the documented proof. Police preferring to accept the lie that I was a ‘patient’ while the hospital had a little accident with some morphine harvested from another patient. Referred to as hotshots around here.

      I’ve heard these methods called Alinsky tactics, and it seems it works best when you can lay claim to some inherent flaw in individuals based on their race or gender etc. My attempts to avoid becoming one of the dribbling messes that emerge from t hat place they falsely call a hospital proof that I was suffering from toxic masculinity. Amazing how easily the Community Nurse who was fully informed of the situation at my home managed to take me from a victim of domestic violence and abuses to a violent, psychotic, drug abusing wife beater via a corrupt process of verballing. That slander (provided in the form of a statutory declaration he knows was false, it is then uttered with by others who simply refuse to examine the facts as they were known, and “edit” the legal narrative) then used to justify the concealment of the conspiring to torture and kidnap, and subject me to the chemical kosh….. and given the amount of money that can be leeched from the system, no doubt a career as a mental patient for attempting to complain about the abuse.

      The lawyers at the Law Centre? Well, once they were provided with the “edited” documents from the hospital (and assuming that I was a wife beater, drug addict, violent psychotic based on the forged documents), then provided ‘assistance’ to the hospital by writing a complaint to the Chief Psychiatrist ………… and get this, they the forged and uttered a response to that complaint and handed that on to me. Shouldn’t have been a problem ….. except I still had the documents proving what I am saying, and when the Chief Psychiatrist was approached with that forged letter ……. SPLAT.
      [killing the victim the better option in the end, as there are people out there who will actually listen to ‘mental patients’ and check the facts…….. and then deny reality and claim “it never happened” to further gaslight them]

      Still, it really was based on the oldest trick in the Book. Here eat this apple Adam. The clinic psychologist sending my wife home to ‘spike’ my drink with date rape drugs (no she does not have the right to prescribe these intoxicating/stupefying drugs, that was left for the hospital to deal with once I had been snatched from my bed by a Senior Medical Officer writing a fraudulent prescription for my “Regular Medications” thus concealing the acts of torture by the Community Nurse AND Police), and then having me detained unlawfully before releasing my confidential medical records from the Private Clinic.

      Some people consider such conduct offensive, others here prefer to call it ‘medical care’. And minus a Rule of Law where citizens have the right to protection under the law (Dieu et mon Droit) I can see nothing but an increase in the deaths that are occurring in our hospitals, particularly in the area of ‘mental health’. Cover ups being enabled will not actually resolve the issue, though it will allow the public to be deceived as to what they ‘system’ is being used for by the State.

      Human rights violations, but the system is set up to allow victims to be denied access to legal representation while they “unintentionally negatively outcome” the complainants. Don’t you just love the euphemisms these people use? Anti psychotics lmao.

      Bullied? But don’t you love the people who stand by and watch as they kick someone to death, and in fact, some turn a profit. Hi to the folk at the Law Centre. You should invest some of your increased funding in a blade sharpener. It makes for cleaner wounds in the backs of the people you call ‘clients’.

      Are you really going to put forward the defense of “Just following orders”?

  3. Liam I recommend everyone interested in masculinity to read

    “WHY DO MEN HATE WOMEN” by ADAM JUKES.

    Adam worked for about twenty years as a therapist guiding mens groups with men who had been convicted of domestic violence. He suggests that men are violent because they suffer from an unacknowledged core depression since infancy and then reinvoked at puberty, due to complicated attachment to the mother. The loss generates hatred of women as the substitute “mother”.

    To an infant loss of mother means death through abandonment. In his group of adult men the author learned that the need to control futher catastrophic loss resulted in hostility to the woman’s autonomy. Therefore undeneath the violence was depression and fear of loss. But because the violence led to more loss the violence got blamed on the women, or mother substitutes. Adam Jukes has a theory that the way to heal the modern masculine ethos is to encourage men to be more able to mother themselves. Be more emotion centred. Why men cannot be seen to do so is due to the shaming of the gay man.

    Worth a look.

    Liked your article.

    Do more.

    Cheers.

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