Taxpayers Funded Shrinks Who Deem Masculinity Harmful to Health

Professors involved in crafting guidelines received $4.4 million from taxpayers

John Wayne / Getty Images
January 18, 2019

Taxpayers helped finance research used by the American Psychological Association to label traditional masculinity harmful.

The APA's "First-Ever Guidelines for Practice with Men and Boys" received input from dozens of psychoanalysts who believe masculinity is a social construct, are passionate about social justice, and think there is a danger in a role model like John Wayne.

Several contributors to the guidelines have received federal funding from the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Education, totaling more than $4.4 million.

The guidelines not only suggest "traditional masculinity" limits the "psychological development" of men and harms their mental and physical health, but that it is "critical to acknowledge" gender as a "non-binary construct."

"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," according to the APA. "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."

The guidelines reflect the beliefs of the psychoanalysts who crafted them.

For instance, underlying research for "Guideline 3: Psychologists understand the impact of power, privilege, and sexism on the development of boys and men and on their relationships with others," includes the work of Michael E. Addis, a professor at Clark University.

The National Institute of Mental Health is currently funding Addis's work focusing on "links between the social learning and social construction of masculinity."

He received $570,928 from the NIH between 2005 and 2008 to study why men are significantly less likely to "seek mental health services."

The research used the "gender-based social psychological model," which argues "adherence to traditionally masculine norms and beliefs" prevent men from going to therapy.

The goal of the taxpayer-funded grant was to create an intervention to targeting men's "self-stigma, perceptions of non-normativeness, masculinity beliefs, and other barriers."

Addis also received $494,764 for a study on "panic control therapy" in the early 2000s, which helped fund the paper, "Men, Masculinity, and the Contexts of Help Seeking."

The paper, cowritten by Addis and James R. Mahalik, another contributor to the APA guidelines, explores the "social construction of masculinities."

Addis and Mahalik argued, "internalizing the ideological position that men should be tough, competitive, and emotionally inexpressive can have detrimental effects on a man's physical and mental health."

The article concludes that "social constructionist and feminist perspectives on masculinity" can be helpful to explain what influences men to seek help.

Addis's colleague at Clark University, Denise Hines, has also received taxpayer funding. Hines has received several grants from the NIH to study the mental health of men and "intimate violence," including $20,021 in 2002; $392,954 in 2007; and $466,692.

Hines and Addis argue in a paper that traditional masculinity causes men to eat "less fiber and fruit," have anger issues, and abuse alcohol.

"Overall, men's notion of and adherence to traditional masculinity is antithetical to health benefits and behaviors," they wrote.

Another contributor, Wizdom Powell of the University of North Carolina, received $825,049 from the NIH for ongoing research on "Neighborhoods, Daily Stress, Affect Regulation, and Black Male Substance Use."

Powell works to solve the "gender paradox" that "men, despite having more social power than women, are more likely to experience pre-mature death than women." She also is "shaping how the intersection of race, masculinity, health beliefs and behavior are understood and addressed by psychologists and health professionals."

Dr. Michael Mobley, a contributor who was the chair of the APA's Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Concerns, led a $2.75 million project for the Department of Education.

Mobley's research interests include "multicultural counseling competencies, perfectionism, scale development, risks and protective factors mediating resilience among culturally diverse adolescents in community and school settings, and racial, ethnic, gay, and lesbian identity development models."

Taxpayer funding that went to psychologists involved in developing the APA guidelines totaled $4,471,565.

Other academics who contributed to the guidelines include University of Texas at Austin professor Aaron B. Rochlen, author of "'Just one of the guys': A qualitative study of gay men's experiences in mixed sexual orientation men's groups," and William B. Elder, who studied the "sexual self-schemas and masculinity ideologies of 20 bisexual men."

Jonathan P. Schwartz, a contributor and president of the APA's Division 51, Psychology of Men and Masculinity, authored research on, "Rejecting the null: Social justice research means asking different questions" and "Exploring Men's Homophobia: Associations With Religious Fundamentalism and Gender Role Conflict Domains."

The latter study draws a direct line between "Religious Fundamentalism" and "Homophobia."

The "key architect" of the guidelines is Fredric Rabinowitz, a psychoanalyst at the University of Redlands, who is trying to steer men away from the "John Wayne version of strength."

"Men have been taught, especially in Western cultures to be strong, to not show a lot of vulnerability, to not be very emotionally expressive, and that that's the sort of John Wayne version of strength," Rabinowitz said in a video explaining his approach to psychotherapy with men. "And so I think that that has been passed down generation to generation. So the newer generation I think is being faced with demands from society, from women, to be more emotionally expressive."

Rabinowitz charges $140 to $180 per session.

Christopher Kilmartin, a stand-up comedian, also contributed to the guidelines.

Kilmartin advocated for men to "resist to the pressure" of masculinity on a podcast hosted by Mike Domitrz, the creator of taxpayer-funded "Can I Kiss You" training designed to tell soldiers when it is appropriate to kiss a girl.

"We need men to step up and fight sexism, just like we need heterosexual people to fight homophobia, we need rich people to work against economic inequality, we need cisgendered people to work against transphobia," Kilmartin said.

Other authors include Ronald F. Levant, a former president of the APA and creator of the "Male Role Norms Inventory-Short Form" analysis that tells men how much toxic masculinity they have.

Levant believes the "higher the level of masculinity, the more the problems."

"Do you think men should be macho, or do you lean more to the metrosexual?" Levant's website asks.

The masculinity quiz asks men to what degree they agree or disagree with statements like "Homosexuals should never marry," "The President of the United States should always be a man," "Men should watch football games instead of soap operas," "Men should have home improvement skills," "Men should always like to have sex," and "When the going gets tough, men should get tough."

If a respondent does not believe in gay marriage, they will score high on the "Negativity towards Sexual Minorities scale."

Stephen Wester of the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, who has studied gender as a construct for 20 years, contributed to the guidelines. Wester, who named his son after a Star Trek character, said he was drawn to study masculinity because he grew up in a "nontraditional environment."

"I have a very feminist, second generation feminist for a mother and a very traditional—sort of in the Robert Holden, Lee Marvin model—father. I have pictures of little me marching for equal rights back in the day," Wester said in an interview with his school. (He seems to be referring to William Holden, the actor.)

Another contributor, lore m. dickey, who does not capitalize his name, specializes in "transgender health; addiction; resilience," "multicultural counseling," and "professional interests in understanding the lived experiences of transgender and gender diverse people."

The authors of the guidelines say men should shun "traditional masculinity" and embrace "self-compassion" and "self-care."

Contributors Matt Englar-Carlson of California State University at Fullerton and Mark Stevens of California State University, Northridge, taught a workshop entitled, "Masculinity Revisited: Increasing Self-Compassion and Self-Care."

"Self-compassion can be a powerful inner resource that enables men to address the challenges of life while building a healthy relationship with themselves," they explain. "This workshop offers a safe and trusting environment to share personal stories with other men with a goal of developing more self-compassion and care."

The workshop taught men how to "explore with themselves and with others the nuances associated with their inner voice and self-care" and "practice some models of self-care including mindfulness meditation."