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The American Psychological Association in 2018 published its first-ever psychological practice guidelines for boys and men. The guidelines look at how concepts of masculinity and the socialization of men may be contributing to higher rates of suicide, depression, health issues and violence in male populations. Christopher Booker reports on efforts to disrupt this culture in some unexpected places.
The subject of masculinity is a topic of conversation these days. It's something you see from the op-ed pages of newspapers to shaving commercials.
Voice In Advertisement:
Bullying.The Me Too movement against sexual harassment. Masculinity
Narrator In Advertisement:
Is this the best a man can get?
Those who think masculinity is under assault criticized the ad, some even vowed to boycott the company. But others applauded it. There is an effort under way to change the ways of the American male. You can find it on the football field, in the mosh pit, and in the work of the American Psychological Association.
NewsHour Weekend's Christopher Booker explains.
Music Video Plays:
Idles – "Colossus"
The rhythm is violent
"They laugh at me when I run. I waste away for fun.
and the pace is menacing.
"I am my father's son, his shadow weighs a ton."
But there is a contradiction running through the songs of the British band Idles. The sound may be hard, but it is driven by compassion….an unrelenting celebration of vulnerability, acceptance and mindfulness….all performed with the intensity of a freight train.
And tonight the band is playing for a sold out crowd of 500 people in Albany, NY
"1,2. I don't want to be…"
Joe Talbot is the lead singer – and band's principal lyricist.
it's a purposeful– journey we're going on.
what is the– the purpose?
To start a conversation, I think. I think any good art starts conversation. It doesn't end it.
The conversation Idles is looking to start is a complicated one…but at its core, they are asking the audience – particularly the men in the crowd – to reconsider how they treat one another, how they treat women and how they treat themselves.
"If you share your feelings, your load gets lighter and you will have a better outcome."
Throughout their performance Talbot takes aim at what he sees as the traps of masculinity – how boys are taught to be tough and told to swallow their emotions.
Man up.Sit Down. Chin Up. Pipe Down. Socks Up. Don't Cry. Drink Up. Just Lie.
Were these the words you heard as a young kid growing up in England?
Yeah, you know, just pull your socks up, don't cry. All that stuff is completely normal and normalized I was definitely– part of that machismo, part of that– discourse of sucking it up. And you know, being tough.
But Talbot says being taught to suppress his feelings did little to help with what was to come his way.
Idles – "Mother"
My mother worked 15 hours, 5 days a week.
At 16, his mother had a stroke and was paralyzed – and after his step-father died, he became her primary care taker. Despite being taught to be tough, Talbot wasn't prepared him for his mother's death in 2015. Her passing was followed two years later by the stillbirth of his daughter.
After my mum died– before my daughter died, I was just struggling to say all these things that I have never said. I was like, why haven't I ever said them? That's mental.
This is when Talbot decided to start therapy.
And I just crumbled. So I realized I had a lot of learning to do and it was the best thing I have ever done in my life.
And– and so, do you think– do you find your performances and the experience of playing with a band like this, is it a form of catharsis
Yeah, learning how to channel my feelings with behavior and art. Mindfulness. Practicing– (SIGH) self-respect and outward respect and learning how to create a new language within myself where I can live a better life and survive what I was going through.
Research is increasingly showing Talbot is correct …learning to be in touch with one's emotions can change lives …and the way men are traditionally taught to hold them in may be connected to an avalanche of unhealthy outcomes.
In 2018 the American Psychological Association published – the APA Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Boys and Men.
The first report of its kind, the collected research found that quote "traditional masculinity—marked by stoicism, competitiveness, dominance and aggression—is, on the whole, harmful"
Written over 13 years, and based on 40 years of compiled research – The report lays out some striking mental and physical health disparites between men and women.
Men are 3.5 times more likely to commit suicide.
And men die from heart disease and cancer — at rates 50% and 80% higher, than women
We know that men on average die– five to six years earlier– than do women.
Psychologist Christopher Liang is the Chairperson of Lehigh University's College of Education and was a co-author of the APA guidelines.
When boys are not allowed to express their sadness, their hurts– when they're growing up, they're essentially taught– that they shouldn't have pain. And what that does over time is it creates a condition where boys who are becoming men– stuff their pain. And so the document seeks to help people understand– one potential pathway for how men– come to be at such greater risk for experiencing greater health problems, physical health problems and mental health problems.
We don't have to hide from this, it is okay to ask for help. we don't always have to be stoic and hold it in.
Ted Bunch has given this talk hundreds of times before. To everyone from NFL teams to law enforcement agencies and today he is speaking to Miami University of Ohio's men's football team.
There's a lot of pressure on athletes and they're not expected to ask for help. And they're, you know, you don't wanna do anything that's going to make you look weak in the eyes of– other players, coaches, anything. If take these boundaries off, right, then there's all these doors that open.
A Co-founder of "A Call To Men" – a non-profit "violence prevention organization." Bunch works to train and educate "men and boys to embrace" what he calls "healthy and respectful manhood"
When we experienced sadness hurt and pain and we were that little boy who that wanted to express that, like crying, what were we told? Stop crying, what else? Suck it up, What else? Don't show it. That's right we were told all those things.
But – the emphasis isn't solely on expanding the emotional range of men – it's also focused on how male socialization can be harmful to women.
We're taught– that women and girls have less value than men and boys, right? We give those messages all the time. saying this like, "You throw like a girl,"What does that little boy leave that interaction thinking girls are equal to him or less than him?
When we talk about domestic violence and sexual assult, While most of domestic violence and sexual assault is purpotrated by men, thats true. Most of its done by men, but most men don't do it, but we are silent about those that do and that is much of the problem as the violence is. Does that make sense folks?
Bunch believes the opportunity for change is now.
We're the first generation of men being held accountable for something men have always gotten away with. And we are going to deconstruct manhood, we are going to deconstruct, we are going to lift it up. right, because this is not an indictment on manhood. It's actually an invitation to men.
That seems like a remarkably difficult task to ask– within the context of the American folklore. Thinking about the American west, John Wayne, all these ideas of self-made, self-driven– existence.
It's in our DNA, for lack of a better term.
In our social DNA. What we're wanting– for boys and men is for them to understand that self reliance is good is healthy is important but they don't need to– conform to it so rigidly that they can't ask for help when they need to.
And this is what Idles is bringing to its audience night after night – a celebration of the relief that can come from letting go….. Two days after their show in Albany, the band is in Brooklyn – playing another sold out show – this time for 1800 people.
Fear leads to panic. Panic leads to pain. Pain leads to anger. Anger leads to hate.
We're not saying that you can't be masculine, just allow yourself the room to listen to yourself and breathe and find out who you actually are.
However you define what they are doing, Idles has found an audience. They were nominated as the best British Breakout artist for this year's Brit Awards and in June they played the largest gig of their careers at Glastonbury – England's annual mega festival that hosts over 200,000 people.
The feeling– I– I cannot explain to someone the physicality of alleviating that pain, of just talking about your feelings. It's life-changing. It is.
Watch the Full Episode
Christopher Booker is a correspondent and producer for PBS NewsHour Weekend covering music, culture, our changing economy and news of the cool and weird. He also teaches at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, following his work with Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism in Chicago and Doha, Qatar.
Mori Rothman has produced stories on a variety of subjects ranging from women’s rights in Saudi Arabia to rural depopulation in Kansas. Mori previously worked as a producer and writer at ABC News and as a production assistant on the CNN show Erin Burnett Outfront.
Connie Kargbo has been working in the media field since 2007 producing content for television, radio, and the web. As a field producer at PBS NewsHour Weekend, she is involved in all aspects of the news production process from pitching story ideas to organizing field shoots to scripting feature pieces. Before joining the weekend edition of PBS Newshour, Connie was a Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand where she trained Thai English teachers.
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