Toxic Masculinity and Cultural Change

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Is gender identity culturally determined, can it be changed, and is gender identity synonymous with sexual identity?

Gender identity is a focus of concern and study in America today. The questions being asked are:  are we born that way? Is gender a culturally determined thing? Can gender identity be changed? Is gender identity synonymous with sexual identity?

Recent studies trying to quantify a concept called Toxic Masculinity have been analyzed and the results were published by Sarah Kaplan in the Washington Post. (She referenced a recent issue of  the Journal of Counseling Psychology).

These studies have looked at 11 norms (cultural) that have been historically called masculine norms. The researchers wanted to know if these norms of expected behavior were causative for mental disorders or issues in men.

The norms were:

  1. desire to win
  2. need for emotional control,
  3. risk taking
  4. violence
  5. dominance
  6. sexual promiscuity or playboy behavior
  7. self-reliance
  8. primacy of work
  9. power over  women
  10. disdain for homosexuality
  11. pursuit of status

Of these eleven characteristics three were identified as having a positive correlation with depression, stress, body image issues, substance abuse, and negative social functioning. These issues were particularly exacerbated for men who emphasized playboy behavior, power over women, and self-reliance.

The conclusion of this research seems to be that some traditional ideas about how men should behave are harmful to men, women and society overall.  The point is not to demonize men  but to understand how behaviors encouraged in men could be damaging to our culture in today’s world. Not all of the eleven traditionally masculine traits were linked to negative outcomes for men’s mental health or for society. Some, such as putting work first were correlation neutral and risk taking can go either way depending on the pay off.

Can these behaviors be quantified and labeled accurately so that we can identify the switches of reinforcers that turn them on or off? Can we educate or select for traits that society prefers and that cause less emotional damage in men, women and society at large? Would these efforts impact our police and military selection and training.?  How fast can this be accomplished?

Does gender identity training and trait mastery begin at birth, is it genetic, can it be chemically altered or reinforced? Is there a continuum of masculinity, femininity that we need to consider and is it different in different cultures? How can we make this information useful and helpful?  These are the questions we are considering in today’s in this healthcast.

This Health cast was written and presented by Dr. Kathy Maupin, M.D., Bio-identical Hormone Replacement Expert and Author, with Brett Newcomb, MA., LPC., Family Counselor, Presenter and Author.  

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