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Unpacking “Manly” Barriers of Connection

February 22, 2019

 

In light of the new “APA Guidelines for the Psychological Practice with Boys and Men”1 I have been thinking about how my own life has been affected in different ways based on what society expects of me. When I really get to thinking about the ideas from the report, it seems rather strange and a bit complicated that a set of societal norms affects me on such a personal level with friends, family, loved ones, and even how I manage the stressors of life. I looked back over the APA guidelines recently and one of the terms they define cause me to reflect a bit more about my own life.  

 

Gender Role Strain

 

“Gender role strain is a psychological situation in which gender role demands have negative consequences on the individual or others.2 The negative effects of gender role strain are mental and physical health problems for the individual and within relationships.2,3,4 Boys and men experience gender role strain when they (a) deviate from or violate gender role norms of masculinity, (b) try to meet or fail to meet norms of masculinity, (c) experience discrepancies between real and ideal self-concepts based on gender role stereotypes, (d) personally devalue, restrict, or violate themselves, (e) experience personal devaluations, restrictions, or violations from others, and/or (f) personally devalue, restrict, or violate others because of gender role stereotypes.2” 

 

The point that struck me this time was experiencing gender role strain by personally devaluing, restricting, or violating themselves. Particularly, I reflected on different ways that I have and still restrict myself. I think of the following roles and then consider restrictions are placed upon these roles based on what society says I should do…

 

  • Romantic partner/husband

    • Restrictions

      • Don’t get too close because you will be seen as needy

      • Don’t let anyone (your partner) influence you because then you will be seen as weak or spineless 

  • Father

    • Restrictions

      • Don’t apologize even when you know you did something wrong

      • In the end, your strength or size is the only thing that can get a child to comply

  • Friend (especially same-gender friends)

    • Restrictions

      • Do not express your feelings often

      • Keep physical contact to a minimum

      • Don’t talk about your vulnerabilities or weaknesses

  • <