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Toxic masculinity, culture and mental illness

I’ve always gotten the impression that many modern feminists think we should just be able to tell men to cut it out and they could. They just choose not to. But it doesn’t work for us does it? We know that society is messing with our heads telling us we aren’t worthy unless we’re skinny, pretty and well dressed. We know but can’t help but feel desperately unhappy when we can’t lose weight. Or we feel unable to be happy without plastic surgery or even just can’t leave the house without make up on. Patriarchy makes us commit violence against ourselves, and yet there are huge arguments among feminists about make up and fashion. Identifying it as internalised misogyny creates quite a stir. “It’s our choice! We don’t need to think about why we do this. Questioning a woman’s choice is internalised misogyny!” To which I say, of course you must live your life the way that makes you most comfortable and hopefully happy, but we must be able to discuss why we feel the way we feel and make the choices we do.

I posted an article recently “Thoughts on Vegas, and Why Men Keep Doing This” which I thought was a good start on explaining how the way we raise our children creates toxic masculinity and by extension some men go on to kill. Some of them kill a single person in a fit of rage or jealousy, but others go on to commit huge mass murders, perhaps hoping to finally be seen. I agree we should stop discussing who the murderer is so they will stop expecting that to happen.

I’ve seen a few responses to this that amounted to anger at giving white men excuses. This is not about mental illness, they say, it is about toxic masculinity, male violence and male entitlement. They are offended that anyone would say anything but “These entitled pricks! We have to make them stop it right now!” Of course, if that were even possible the self help industry wouldn’t be so vast. We would all just recognise a problem in ourselves and change. Poof!

But psychology doesn’t work that way. It’s hard to change the patterns of thought and behaviour that were placed in childhood and reinforced our entire lives. It doesn’t matter if they are maladaptive or not.

Toxic masculinity and male violence is entwined with mental illness.

Entitlement arises from socialization within a culture of toxic masculinity. Sociopaths are the high achievers in our society. Politicians and CEO’s tend to be sociopaths. No one else is really very happy, especially in America. It’s those majority who are not sociopathic who don’t fare well in trying to live up to the sociopathic ideal.¬† And so what’s going to happen to the people it doesn’t work for? Violence of course.

I’m not alone in thinking our entire culture is massively toxic and most of us are mentally ill in some way. We can’t ignore if the way our boys are raised traumatises them, and it sure looks the case to me. But of course plenty of studies find that these men are not “mentally ill” as per the DSM5.

There are many types of¬†mental illness. Many of them do not contribute to violent behaviour. But some mental illnesses cause mothers to kill their children. Some cause people to kill themselves. It’s not much of a stretch that some would cause people to kill random people around them. Studies show that the prison population, especially of violent criminals, mostly all have childhood trauma and abuse. We can’t ignore that.

“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” – Jiddu Krishnamurti

I love psychology; I think its fascinating and important and it plays a huge part in how I see the world. But critical psychology would tell you that traditional psychology is so steeped in its own culture as to be myopic about many issues. Gender and violence, especially male violence are good examples.

But OK, we don’t have to call it mental illness. I don’t particularly mind what we call it really. If we want to gate keep the term mental illness that’s fine with me but I think there’s also plenty of evidence that boys are brutalised into men. The article posted goes some way to explain how.

Are we just saying then that (some?) men are evil? Are they born that way? Of course not. Not in the vast majority of cases. We make them that way of course. So how do we address the issue?

By looking at what we do that causes the violent and entitled feelings and addressing them. These are not excuses for violent criminals, but there is a reason it happens. The book Why Love Matters goes some way to explain how the vast majority of the time violent criminals are not born that way. They are made. We need to get to them before it happens. Childhood is important.

I agree that these articles never circulate if it’s a Muslim terrorist. Somehow we don’t care what their motivation is; they’re just evil terrorists right? I don’t agree with that either. Remember the two little boys who washed up on the beach a year or two ago? Their father said he was going back to Syria to fight, but no one seemed to wonder who he was going to fight for. I did; why assume he’s going to fight for the “good guys”? Who even are the good guys? The west didn’t help him and his family. Maybe he was going to go fight against the west? I don’t believe there’s much, if any, difference between Islamic terrorists and white domestic terrorists, or guys who kill just one other person, or gang members who kill each other. I’m not sure there’s much difference in the ones who only kill themselves either. All of them have been brutalised and traumatised by a mixture of the culture around them and specific circumstances around them (abuse, neglect, violence substance abuse, etc.)