August 24, 2019

Toxic Masculinity or Cultural Misandry?

Some years have passed since my article on “Father Absence, Father Deficit, Father Hunger: The Vital Importance of Paternal Presence in Children’s Lives,” yet I still hear from scores of fathers about the severe challenges they face in maintaining their day-to-day relationships with their children. Fatherhood involvement continues to be a major focus of my academic research, and the forced alienation of fathers from children’s lives remains a central issue of concern.

Amidst the many challenges faced by many North American fathers in their efforts to maintain some semblance of meaningful involvement in the lives of their children, six months ago, the American Psychological Association issued their guidelines for "Psychological Practice for Boys and Men." The guidelines were 13 years in the making and consolidated 40 years of empirical research, mainly from a feminist standpoint. The guidelines are based on the view that “traditional masculinity” and a masculine sense of entitlement is the root cause of men’s mental health problems, not structural factors such as misguided family laws and policies and mean-spirited cultural responses to men-at-risk. Abusive behavior is described in the guidelines as male-typical behavior, and traditional masculinity is part and parcel of a patriarchal ideology that fosters violence and abuse, sexual harassment, and rape. Selfish, violent, and abusive behaviors of men are not considered as pathological exceptions, but in line with masculine norms.

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