I wrestle with my boys, I encourage them when they show me their muscles, when they eat well I tell them they’ll grow big and strong like the hulk. Actions that, to some, are now deem inappropriate behavior for fathers raising sons. With the APA’s newest report Guidelines for Psychological Practice for Boys and Men, to which there has been such a polar response, there needs to be some clarity and proper interpretation. If you haven’t read it for yourself, I encourage you to do so (just set aside an hour or two and brew a pot of your strongest coffee). There is far more common ground than what the obvious partisan media has presented. Yes, men are more likely to be violent, abuse substances, to be incarcerated, and complete suicide; however the report also confesses that men also are disproportionate to harsher punishment, socioeconomic pressure, and other cultural afflictions.
So, instead of the leftist euphoric cry about toxic masculinity and the dangers men pose to a civilized society (as if society would exist if we were to all be ostracized), or even the right’s panic about how the left “hates traditional manhood”, let’s get down to brass tacks. The fact is, almost no trait, masculine or otherwise, is inherently good or bad. “Toxic masculinity” isn’t manifested by any one single source but through a summation of poor influences. Yet, all these influences are addressable and combat-able. Aggression can be positive when used to defend self, the home, or family. Dominance, in the proper application, can be an important part of leadership. The desire to provide can be an important part of maintaining a healthy family unit. A father’s present, balanced, and accountable guidance is the antidote to most things toxic in our society. Proper use of this “misjudged masculinity” influences boys acceptable behavior to be self-reliant, strong, and to minimize and manage their problems on their own.
If any of this has intrigued you, set you off, or annoyed you; let me be the first to tell you you’re not alone. I suffer with finding a proper balance of efforts to not only understand the cry for masculinity to be addressed, but also to implement changes in my life and the life of my boys, properly, in order to make this new culture a better place. In the report, I found the most hope in Guideline 5, “Psychologists strive to encourage positive father involvement and healthy family relationships”. As I summed in my post Do not Stand in Silence, culture has an impact on us all. Children are an easy target for manipulation. More than ever fathers have an obligation to immerse themselves into the lives of their children. The days of children being raised solely by mom while dad works in the factory are long past. Masculine overcompensation due to a lack of male presence in boys lives has got us to a point where the “showmanship of manhood” is unhealthy, misguided, and leading to behavioral devastation. The APA has concluded, quite obviously, “positive paternal engagement and inclusive communication tend to have long-term emotional and psychological benefits for both children and fathers”.
There was, however, a large issue that I had reading the report as a follower of Christ:
“When trying to understand the complex role of masculinity in the lives of diverse boys and men, it is critical to acknowledge that gender is a non-binary construct that is distinct from, although interrelated to, sexual orientation (APA, 2015a)”
Genesis 1:27 affirms, “So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female”. To me, that is the very definition of binary. Two genders: male and female. Regardless of orientation.
Even later in the same report APA sites, “Gender identity development begins before birth, shaped by the expectations that parents and other significant adults have for how a boy should be treated and how he should behave. Boys (and girls) begin to make distinctions between males and females during infancy”. I boldfaced the fact they only acknowledge two genders in their identification.
As I digress, I hope to implore fathers reading this, that there is absolutely nothing wrong with providing our boys an example of masculinity. Our culture must have it to survive. The key is delivering it with responsibility while balancing it with love and respect. Males (and masculinity), aren’t going away. Masculinity is a form of power, no one states it better than uncle Ben Parker, “with great power comes great responsibility”. As fathers we have to, harness the delivery, be accessibly present, and embody the example of what masculinity should be.
Stay tuned on how daddy’s should raise daughters… I’m still figuring that one out.