By Kate Ryan, Health.GOOD.is
It doesn’t take a genius to conclude that male-dominated societies don’t bode well for women’s liberation. Domestic abuse, pay gaps, double standards, and sexual objectification just scratch the surface of what women face as a result of patriarchy. Now, thanks to a new report published in the Journal of Counseling Psychology, our suspicions have been confirmed: Sexism isn’t working for men either.
Analysts reached this definitive conclusion after looking at 78 independent studies that investigated the relationship between masculine norms and mental health outcomes over the past 11 years. By following a total of nearly 20,000 men, psychologists found that the normalization of toxic masculinity not only conditioned men to treat women badly, but also caused men’s mental health to suffer. Adhering to masculine norms has a way of isolating men and making them incapable of coping with everyday stresses.
But what are these “masculine norms” anyway? While characteristically “masculine” behavior can range from subtle to extreme, researchers focused on 11 key traits for the sake of continuity. Among the traits that proved to be overwhelmingly negative were a strong emphasis on self-reliance; dominance over women; and the need to be a “playboy.” That being said, there were some stereo-typically male traits that did not negatively impact mental health—mainly, prioritizing one’s career above all else. It would make sense that the masculine traits threatening women the most also threaten the mental stability of men wielding a gendered excess of power.
As the study’s lead author, Y. Joel Wong, explained to Smithsonian,
“We have a tendency to look at masculinity as if it’s kind of homogenous thing. Some masculine norms are much more problematic than others,” he explains, adding, “These norms are increasingly becoming outdated in a world that is much more interconnected and in a society where people are not afraid to call you out when you’re sexist. In today’s world, it’s no longer ‘cool' to be boasting about sexually assaulting women.”
Echoing Wong’s point, these findings aren’t exactly new—at least not from a cultural standpoint. Feminist scholar Bell Hooks made the connection between lopsided power dynamics and deteriorating mental health in her book, All About Love, back in 2000. Essentially, if the desire for power remains paramount, loving, healthy relationships cannot exist. As we push through the current backlash of rampant sexism, it becomes increasingly important to remember these simple truths. When one group of people is oppressed, we are all oppressed. So, men, take it from scientists (and DJ Khaled): Don’t play yourselves.