Who are we?
We are a group of individuals concerned with the proposed Male Psychology Section of the British Psychological Society (BPS). We believe there has been a lack of discussion about the implications, agenda and outlook of this proposed section and we hope this site can be a place for this. Our ultimate aim is to encourage BPS members to consider carefully the implications of this section and to vote accordingly in the section’s upcoming formation vote (date TBC).
What is the Male Psychology Section?
It is a proposed section of the British Psychological Society that will go to vote soon. It’s website is here (http://www.malepsychology.org.uk/sample-page/news/).
The section seems to have two aims (it is not always clear which one they have or how the two combine) but both aims are problematic.
- To bring together researchers interested in men. If the aim of the Section is to do this then the Section must look at what Raewyn Connell calls “ the patriarchal dividend”. That is how men as a class of people are disproportionately advantaged (e.g., where globally we are better paid, more educated, more often in positions of power including in the BPS) relative to women. Currently the research presented at its conferences and on the website predominately depicts men as victims of others (e.g., of female partner’s violence or because they are fatherless).
- To relieve disproportionate incarceration, workplace deaths, homelessness and mental health. If this is the aim of the section than it is important to understand that these issues do not exclusively or necessarily disproportionately affect men relative to women. Furthermore they are not caused by being male. Instead it is the impact of poverty, the harm of exploitative work and discrimination that drives these issues.
Don’t you care about men?
Some of us are men. Others of us have brothers, sons, fathers and husbands. So yes, we care about men. Indeed, feminist psychologists (e.g. Willott, Griffin, Edley, Wetherell etc.) have produced some great work on men and masculinities that shows men can be bound by expectations and practices that harm them. We know that it is this research in psychology, that deconstructs masculinity and identifies the driver of ‘male issues’ (capitalism and patriarchy rather than women) that helps men. The proposed section’s research (see here) will not.
The Male Psychology Section lists important issues in need of action – homelessness, suicide, workplace death and incarceration – do you not care about these?
A key justification for the proposed section is that it aims to alleviate: homelessness, suicide, workplace deaths and incarceration. We recognize the importance of these issues and applaud those trying to relieve them in someway.
However, these issues do not exclusively or necessarily disproportionately affect men. On each of the following pages we debunk these myths used to depict men as sole victims of mental illness, suicide, and homelessnes, incarcertation and workplace deaths.
In brief however, if we look at mental illness, the World Health Organization reports that women are as at risk of mental illness as men and as Baptista (2010) has found we don’t actually know how many women are homeless because researchers often miss them. Even for suicide, it is not clear cut that men are disproportionately affected. This is because as whilst men do tend to kill themselves more often than women, women consider and attempt suicide at the same rates or more frequently as men. Women just use less effective means for a variety of reasons.
We care about these issues too. But as they are not exclusively nor necessarily predominately male issues they are not caused by being male. In fact research shows that consistently what drives these issues are poverty, unemployment, abuse and other harms that affect women as much as (if not more) than men. We know that it is these causes that need to be tackled.