Harmful masculinity

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: a debate over masculinity.

NICK EICHER, HOST: Last Friday, we told you about new guidelines the American Psychological Association issued to psychologists working with men and boys. The APA says traditional masculinity is causing men and boys to struggle mentally and physically. But WORLD Radio’s Sarah Schweinsberg talked with two experts who say the problem isn’t too much masculinity. It’s too little.

SARAH SCHWEINSBERG, REPORTER: In a summary of its new guidelines, the American Psychological Association cites some troubling statistics about men and boys. Men, for example, are more suicidal. More homicidal. More often victims of crime. They have shorter life spans. And they are less likely to seek healthcare, particularly mental healthcare.

They are also struggling to keep up with girls in school and are attending college at lower rates.

But Warren Farrell, a gender issues researcher and co-author of The Boy Crisis says the APA completely misses the cause of these problems.

FARRELL: The part which is talking about the toxicity of masculinity and that masculinity as a result of patriarchy and patriarchy as a result of male privilege and male power, that completely misunderstands masculinity.

Farrell says if we misdiagnose why men and boys are struggling, we don’t know how to actually help.

He traces the modern boy crisis to two main roots. The first is the rise of feminism. Farrell says feminism expanded opportunities for women and girls but..

FARRELL: But the, the downside was undervaluing the family and undervaluing men.

The devaluing of the family and the secularization of society led to the other root cause of men’s struggle: high rates of divorce and high rates of single-mother homes. Divorced and single-parent homes are, in many cases, missing a key ingredient: fathers.

FARRELL: Basically the boy crisis resides where fathers do not reside.

Without fathers, boys flounder because they haven’t had healthy masculinity modeled for them.

FARRELL: They have no role model, they have no sense of purpose from being guided by a dad who can help them think through what their life is about.      

So what do we do about men and boys who are confused about what it means to be masculine?

Denny Burk is president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

BURK: I would argue that it’s the absence of Biblical masculine virtues that leads to so many of the social pathologies that we’re seeing. It’s not that we’ve emphasized them too much. It’s that we’re not attending to them at all.

Burk says, first, we must recognize there are God-ordained, biological differences between men and women. Then, understand what Biblical masculinity entails.

BURK: At the heart of mature masculinity is a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead, to provide for and protect women in ways appropriate to a man’s differing relationships.

Of course Biblical masculinity has distortions, Burk says that’s called sin. But those distortions can’t be recognized unless families and the church are modeling healthy masculinity.

For dads, Burk says that means spending intentional time with sons roughhousing, playing a game, or talking. And for moms that means encouraging dads to spend time with their sons.  

BURK: A father who is there, who is attentive to his children at home and who is taking an interest in his son. There’s hardly anything more important than just simply that.

Burk says the church can create a place where men and boys feel welcome by encouraging men to get involved in peer-to-peer mentorship or in mentoring a younger boy. Churches can also create opportunities for boys to connect with their dads and for boys without dads to find strong male role models.

BURK: Just this last year, we started a program for young boys which involves their fathers. We have a time of Biblical teaching where we teach boys Biblical masculine virtues. And then we just have times of activity where we play, we teach them to build, we teach them to, you know, just do things outside.

Warren Farrell, author of The Boy Crisis, says community is vital to help boys understand healthy masculinity.

FARRELL: Make sure that you get grandfathers involved, make sure that you work with the school to hire male teachers, make sure you get your son involved in sports. Get your son together with other boys his age to be able to facilitate conversation.

Finally, Farrell says to remember that when women build up men and men build up women, we all win.

FARRELL: Anytime one sex wins, both sexes lose.

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Sarah Schweinsberg.

(Photo/Creative Commons)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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