It’s often been pointed out that Jordan Peterson’s huge following is mostly male. And there are good reasons for this sex difference. Peterson’s themes of tragedy, personal responsibility, and the need to find your own meaning are distinctly masculine in character. Moreover, given the ideological hostility to men today, it makes sense that so many of them would turn to Peterson for guidance. Men are confused, lost, in despair. Peterson takes their questions seriously, and though I have some profound disagreements with him, I must concede that he has worthwhile answers to offer.
Meanwhile, Peterson’s own field, psychology, has now declared war on traditional masculinity. Published this week, the American Psychological Association’s Guidelines for Psychological Practice for Boys and Men is a remarkable and frightening document. Throughout, value judgments are expressed under the guise of “science.” Social constructivism is assumed to be true, the implication being that “gender roles” don’t represent anything deeper, such as biology or an enduring human nature. Thus, if most nurses are women, and if most engineers are men, the only explanation is the patriarchy, that insidious, mysterious, inescapable evil.
One is struck by the facile, trendy cant that the authors take for granted. Three sentences in, we read this assertion: “Boys and men, as a group, tend to hold privilege and power based on gender.” Based on gender! There is no recognition here of male accomplishment—that falls into the category of “privilege and power,” words which, like “patriarchy,” we encounter with mind-numbing frequency. One might think that academics would finally get tired of sounding like one another, but evidently their dullness is surpassed only by their bad taste.
At the highest level of human affairs, whether its arts and letters or high technology, one finds that most of the ablest people are men, and it seems a disproportionate number of them are white, Jewish, or Asian. There are two main reasons for this. The first is the greater male variability in intelligence. Owing to it, most geniuses are men, as are most dunces. The second reason is that, on average, men are higher in motivation than women. This doesn’t mean, of course, that there are no female workaholics—there are many—but the vast majority of such persons are male.
Now, because of human nature’s difficult need for esteem—whose common corollary is resentment—mankind is by no means willing to accept that the dominance of one group may be largely the result of fitness and merit. Rather, people who call themselves scholars would have us believe that, simply by virtue of being male, one has “privilege and power.” Ah, if only it were so, think we writers of Grub Street!
The guidelines note that
boys and men…demonstrate disproportionate rates of receiving harsh discipline (e.g., suspension and expulsion), academic challenges (e.g., dropping out of high school, particularly among African American and Latino boys), mental health issues (e.g., completed suicide), physical health problems (e.g., cardiovascular problems), public health concerns (e.g., violence, substance abuse, incarceration, and early mortality), and a wide variety of other quality-of-life issues.
What’s causing all these negative sex differences? According to the experts,
a particular constellation of [masculine] standards that have held sway over large segments of the [male] population, including: anti-femininity, achievement, eschewal of the appearance of weakness, and adventure, risk, and violence.
Let’s grant for argument’s sake that there’s some truth here, that men have suffered a lot because of these “[masculine] standards.” The problem is that the authors have not asked themselves whether such suffering, to at least some extent, is not necessary for the sake of culture and civilization. Who can defend the state besides men who eschew “the appearance of weakness,” but embrace “adventure, risk, and violence”?
On average, men are higher in aggression than women, and if you take the ten most aggressive people out of a group of 100, they’ll probably all be male. This sex difference has many negative effects. It is why most prisoners and most suicides are men, for instance. And yet, there cannot be an advanced civilization and flourishing culture without male aggression and the will to fierce competition and dominance. “If not for the evil impulse,” said the rabbis of the Talmud, “no one would build a house, marry, have children, nor engage in trade.” William Blake is equally apt: “Without contraries is no progression.”
Shunning vulnerability, suppressing feeling, scorning the weak—these are the burdens men have borne to be the builders and producers, the innovators, providers, and protectors that they are. Nor are the sexes interchangeable here. The notion of an all-female military is ludicrous, while an all-male military is ideal. All vast systems of rational social organization have come from men; there is not a single exception in history. Certainly women have made contributions to human genius, but the original thing itself, whether it’s government, law, science, or whatever, has been initiated by men.
Said Clifford Geertz,
The Western conception of the person as a bounded, unique, more or less integrated motivational and cognitive universe, a dynamic center of awareness, emotion, judgment, and action organized into a distinctive whole and set contrastively both against other such wholes and against its social and natural background, is, however incorrigible it may seem to us, a rather peculiar idea within the context of the world’s cultures.
Here is the narrow perspective of the people who wrote the APA guidelines, that “rather peculiar idea.” As traditional customs and ways of life have waned, such persons have emerged as a new, managerial overclass. From God’s death come the expert meddlers. Always their concern is the individual, never the fate of the culture as a whole. Indeed, of that they have no conception. So they can easily write passages like the following:
For some men, this dominant ideology of masculinity has inherent conflicts. For instance, dominant masculinity was historically predicated on the exclusion of men who were not White, heterosexual, cisgender, able-bodied, and privileged. Moreover, the ideal, dominant masculinity is generally unattainable for most men. Men who depart from this narrow masculine conception by any dimension of diversity (e.g., race, sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression) may find themselves negotiating between adopting dominant ideals that exclude them or being stereotyped or marginalized.
If we detach from the individualism that most people take for granted today, and contemplate the needs of any culture as a whole, it becomes clear that the feelings of the “excluded” and the “marginalized” simply don’t matter very much. Outside of progressive intellectual contexts, so insular and decadent, a man who “identifies as gender nonconforming,” or dons a pink pussy hat as he “speaks truth to power,” is not widely valued. If you take a biological point of view, or reflect on what it is that allows cultures to flourish, you should be able to see why that is.
Absent from these guidelines, which are clearly written from a feminine point of view, is any sense of human life as being inherently competitive. Psychological man has been removed from the natural world, wherein competition, often brutal, is the norm for man no less than for the other animals.
Yet despite our age of expert ignorance, the truth endures. “Dominant masculinity” may be “generally unattainable for most men,” but it’s still far better, given the nature of animal existence, to be a dominant male than a nondominant one. Nor do dominant men cease to be of far greater value than their opposites just because their dominance is difficult and rare. Besides, opposing discrimination does not require pathologizing traditional male virtues, which, at their best, make for a dominant type, on whom the rest depend, whether they want to or no.
Group disparities in incarceration rates, the authors tell us, “may be the result of racial, ethnic, and gender stereotypes.” Found on every page, such predictable, cliché silliness betrays the underlying purpose of these guidelines: advancing a left-wing-feminist ideology. Science this document manifestly is not. It is quite telling that, while the psychological experts do not classify transgenderism as a disorder or mental illness, they do pathologize traditional (read: conservative) men.
“Despite…[their] problems,” the experts write, “many boys and men do not receive the help they need.” Who says they need help? Why, the experts do! But is their help desirable? Consider the following passages:
Male privilege tends to be invisible to men, yet they can become aware of it through a variety of means, such as education…and personal experience. Indeed, awareness of privilege and the harmful impacts of beliefs and behaviors that maintain patriarchal power have been shown to reduce sexist attitudes in men…and have been linked to participation in social justice activities….
Psychologists strive to become aware of and eradicate any biases they have toward boys and men from historically marginalized groups…and to recognize value conflicts they may have with their service recipients. These biases may manifest in use of heterosexist assumptions (e.g., asking a male client if he has a wife without knowing his sexual orientation) or values (e.g., encouraging a gay man to act less “flamboyantly”)….
Psychologists can help clients develop awareness of systems that assume cisgender masculinity expression is the expected norm, and identify how they have been harmed by discrimination against those who are gender nonconforming. Given the connections between sexism and other forms of prejudice, psychologists may find it useful to link oppressions as a pedagogical strategy, especially when working with boys and men in groups. Psychologists working with boys and men may model gender-egalitarian attitudes and behaviors; modeling non-sexist constructions of masculinity may be especially important.
“Become aware of” “male privilege” by “participation in social justice activities,” for doing so “reduce[s] sexist attitudes and the harmful impacts of beliefs and behaviors that maintain patriarchal power.” Don’t assume “a male client…has a wife,” for that is a “heterosexist assumption…” and for all you know he is smitten with a goat. Don’t assume “cisgender masculinity expression is the expected norm,” for some are “gender nonconforming.” “Link oppressions as a pedagogical strategy,” so that no client is ignorant of the world’s many victims. Finally, “model gender-egalitarian attitudes and behaviors; modeling non-sexist constructions of masculinity may be especially important.” Ah, what a lot of work! Reach me a scotch, good team member.
So, these are the values of the experts who would correct men and boys, as it were. In truth, their intentions could hardly be more foolish. Therapy culture has been an influential force in American life since the 1970s. Its primary effects have been unbridled narcissism and a tiresome hypersensitivity that only makes life harder for everyone. Even comedy, to which we’d like to turn for happy relief, has been disallowed by the stiff and humorless. Now the experts want feelings, more feelings, but with an intersectional twist.
It is in eros, perhaps, that these guidelines, if acted on, would be most harmful. Although male academics and intellectuals are generally bad with women, so that they just don’t know any better, it’s nonetheless true that men who are forever expressing “their sensitive side” are sure to inspire the fair sex’s contempt, and to be easily manipulated by them. “A weak and suffering woman triggers in most men a compassionate desire to protect and assist,” says Janice Fiamengo, “while a weak and suffering man triggers in most women…indifference and disgust.”
The social “scientists” who wrote the APA guidelines would not live the comfortable lives they do were it not for male ambition, competitiveness, risk-taking, and accomplishment, both past and present. Still, in their ingratitude they have condemned these traditional masculine virtues. “For decades,” writes psychologist Geoffrey Miller, a rare academic with guts, “the APA has been turning psychological therapy into institutionalized sexism against men. No wonder men are reluctant to become therapists or to go into therapy—it’s a hostile sexual environment.” John P. Wright, a criminologist at the University of Cincinnati, has acutely described “the consequences of labeling traditional men as toxic”:
Understand that this document carries the weight of scientific authority. It will be used in the training of clinical psychologists, it will be used to justify programs that target boys who show signs of impending traditional masculinity, and it will be used to justify restrictive policies towards men. Think of how universities, especially the diversity czars, will use this, how the courts will use this in custody hearings, and how workplace training and policies will be affected. The APA has, in essence, justified…no, it has encouraged, discrimination against men who hold traditional views of masculinity. Will any of this aid in getting men the help they need or, once in the office, with actual counseling? I don’t think so. The report states that stoic traditional men are reluctant to enter therapy. Given what the APA thinks of them, can you now blame them?
The most important lesson of the APA guidelines is the destructiveness of the “gender equality” experiment. Suppose a male-dominated field were to issue guidelines claiming traditional aspects of femininity are “unhealthy,” “problematic,” or what you will. Of course, that would never happen, because the responses would be indignant and hysterical. Psychology is dominated by women, and like many university programs around the country, these guidelines signify an effort to remake men in their image.
Fathers must now take especial care to protect their sons from the excessive influence of women and feminized men, particularly in educational contexts and in the helping professions. Otherwise boys will be subjected to needless guilt and shame, as if they were virtues. Men in general must learn the hard truth that “gender equality” can really mean female dominance, unless they resist it, which very few are doing at present.
Embodying the needs for emotional intimacy and sex, women have a deep psychological power over most men. Add to it women’s greater biological value—a source of endless paternalism in their favor—and we can begin to understand how over time “gender equality” can be so harmful to men. From the family courts to kangaroo courts on university campuses, from hiring quotas to these profoundly biased guidelines, women’s preferences, values, and interests have gradually become more and more dominant, a situation that men themselves take for “equality,” “progress,” and other delusions.
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