The American Psychological Association has declared that traditional “masculinity ideology” can be toxic for boys and men. Their updated guidelines, published in August, say that “a particular constellation” of beliefs regarding masculinity have played a role in “anti-femininity, achievement, eschewal of the appearance of weakness, and adventure, risk, and violence,” which should sound familiar to anyone who’s followed the #MeToo movement over the past couple of years.
The APA isn’t saying masculinity is bad or that boys can’t enjoy things that have historically been linked with their gender. Only that research has found a correlation between “traditional masculinity ideology” and those unwelcome traits.
Naturally, a Southern Baptist leader is now taking issue with all this:
… Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, said the 31-page APA report goes beyond toxic masculinity to “the basic difference between men and women.”
Mohler, a member of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, said in a Wednesday podcast that while “certain dimensions of traditional masculinity … can be distorted,” the APA guidelines cannot “be honestly and consistently squared with any form of historic biblical Christianity.”
I’d like to know where in the Bible Mohler finds a prescriptive list of characteristics that all men are supposed to have. Just because several biblical characters exemplified stereotypical masculine traits doesn’t mean every man should — in fact, in some cases, toxic masculinity helped lead them to their downfall. (Goliath isn’t exactly a role model in that story…)
The APA notes that the more traditional forms of masculinity have led to men who refuse to see a psychologist because they see it as well. It’s led to more boys bringing guns to school — and using them to take out their frustrations. Certainly, it’s led to the bullying of gay and trans boys and boys who are perceived to be “feminine.” The APA is merely saying the definition of what it means to be a “man” is much broader than we often make it out to be.
Mohler seems to think that’s an attack on his faith.
“So here is one of the most incredible insights you gain from all of this,” Mohler said of the guideline document. “We discover that in order to attempt not to make persons confused about their gender, harmed or further confused, the entire society is supposed to confuse the fact that there is supposed to be some difference between men and women.”
That’s… not even close to the right takeaway. The APA merely pointed out how putting people in small rigid boxes harms them. The fact that men like Mohler took it as a direct hit on both his identity and religion says a lot about who the enforcers of these boxes are.