Identity Politics And The Male Gender
In this era of identity politics, it seems nearly everyone is in a minority, nearly every one belongs to a group that is maligned or oppressed. Nearly everyone strives to have a voice to carve out a space in the human race in order to be heard and to define an agenda about what matters. Everyone that is, except those deemed privileged not to be victimized by these social forces, or worse, benefiting or even responsible for promoting such conditions. One of these groups that belongs to the default population that does not benefit from identity politics is the male gender.
For this reason, the American Psychological Association only recently published guidelines for psychological practice with men and boys. When the concerns and grievances of the oppressed minority are addressed it eventually becomes apparent that the so-called benefactors of these inequities are victimized as well. A culture that rigidly defines how people should behave and the values they should hold, even if those behaviors and values are deemed privileged in some way, restricts the freedom people may have to express themselves authentically and compels them to live up to standards inconsistent with deeply held beliefs and inclinations.
Dominance, stoicism, aggression, honor, risk taking. These are values and qualities deemed valorous and associated with success and achievement and these are qualities traditionally assigned to the male gender across many cultures. Ours is no exception. Yet when rigidly adhered to these values can take on destructive proportions. A rigid adherence to dominance can take on abusive dimensions and contempt for those disassociated from these qualities, in this case women. Misogyny eventuates from assigning complementary qualities to women that might include susceptibility to moral corruption, underhandedness, manipulativeness, etc. But a closer look at the effects of these biases reveals that men themselves are likewise victimized in various ways.
Men are more likely to commit homicides and engage in reckless behavior resulting in shortened lifespans and higher rates of incarceration. And an ethic that values stoicism discourages self-reflection, showing weakness and vulnerability, seeking help when needed, self-neglect, greater health risks, and isolation. Men are three times more likely to commit suicide than women.
Traditional Gender Roles Need Balancing
Research has shown that those people that embody a balance of traditionally male and female qualities, called androgyny, as opposed to a rigid adherence to one type or the other, benefit from a greater sense of emotional well being and social adjustment. Men benefit when offered the socially sanctioned means to discuss their private concerns about these matters. This may take place in the form of men’s support groups or in a counseling or psychotherapy relationship. The majority of my private practice is devoted to talking with men of all ages about these and other personal concerns. Issues such as relationship problems, anger management, communication difficulties, sexual performance, aging and its effects on self-worth and one’s sense of purpose and place in this world. These are some of the issues addressed in my work with men and adolescent boys.
If you or someone you know would benefit from talking about these issues in the confidential setting of my professional psychotherapy practice in West Hartford, CT, please contact my office at (860) 236-2131 or visit my website at roberthammphd.com.
Posted by Robert Hamm, Ph.D.
Robert Hamm Ph.D