The American Psychological Association, the largest professional organization for psychologists in the United States, published a set of guidelines in August on the many ways that traditional ideas of what it is to be a man can actually hurt men and boys.
As evidence of the problem, the group presented a number of facts, including that men are more likely to die by suicide yet less likely to be diagnosed with “internalizing” disorders like depression.
“Socializing for conforming to traditional masculinity ideology has been shown to limit males’ psychological development, constrain their behavior ... and negatively influence mental health and physical health,” the APA stated in the report, titled “Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Boys and Men.”
But they led to a right-wing freakout on “Fox & Friends” Thursday morning.
“Why is it bad to be masculine?” co-host Ainsley Earhardt pondered alongside Fox News contributor Tammy Bruce. Earhardt had just presented viewers with a simplified version of the guidelines, which she then began to mischaracterize.
“It’s political theory. It has nothing to do with science,” Bruce said, incorrectly. “And it’s also bigotry, right?”
Although they came out months ago, the APA guidelines have made waves in conservative media outlets in recent weeks, paving the way for them to crop up in Thursday’s segment on America’s most popular morning show.
Bruce, who holds a bachelor’s degree in political science, per her website, and once railed against the term “gingerbread people,” called the guidelines “dangerous” and “obscene” and attempted to debunk them by stating that women are sometimes violent, too. She then went on to wrongly tell the “Fox & Friends” audience that the APA recommends psychologists “presume” that men and boys are “suffering from an illness” due to their gender.
“If we didn’t have men’s courage, and aggressiveness, and focus, and determination, we’d still be living ― we would be living in caves right now,” Bruce said, suggesting that the urge to “move forward and create things” is the sole domain of male humans.
She continued: “Everyone should complain that those attributes of men are being determined to be negative and something that is either a sickness, or a mental illness, or wrong, or even artificial.”
Earhardt chimed in to exaggerate claims made in the guidelines, saying incorrectly that the APA purports “that if you are masculine, you’re homophobic. If you are masculine, you’re suppressing your emotions. You’re a bully.”
Jared Skillings, a doctor serving as the APA’s chief of professional practice, stressed that the guidelines are evidence-based and intended to be used by mental health professionals.
“They are based on a review of 40 years of scientific literature and underwent a rigorous review process by experts in the field,” Skillings said in a statement to HuffPost.
“Science shows that boys and men are at disproportionate risk for school discipline, academic challenges, health disparities and other quality of life issues,” he continued. “Men have higher rates of completed suicide and of cardiovascular disease and are more likely to be victims of violence. Crucially, many men do not seek mental health care when they need it.”
Skillings concluded: “We hope these guidelines will lead mental health professionals to better recognize the needs of men and help them modify unhealthy behavior and enhance their jobs, relationships and life overall. We also hope they will lead to more men and boys asking for, and getting, help.”
Watch the full Fox segment above.