Friday, November 04, 2005


The Psychology of Men According To a Psychologist

I came across this article entitled "Explorations in Phenomenology" by Christopher Kilmartin, Newsletter Editor via DrHelen. You will have to scroll down to find it if you go to the page. Dr. Kilmartin asked a class of 25 undergraduate students to conduct an in-depth interviews with an man and write about their experience. I am certain that his reaction and "interpretation" of the papers is more enlightening that any of the papers themselves.

Dr. Kilmartin's first statement regarding the papers reads: "The overarching finding was that most men continue to carry masculinity as a non-conscious ideology." He writes that the men hadn't thought of themselves as men but as "generic" human beings. He labels this as "prereflective" as in not having begun to reflect on their maleness. Kilmartin seems dissatisfied that the men hadn't sat around at some point and thought about themselves being men, or something like that.

Continuing on we come to this: "They rarely had any formal or informal theories about why (perceived) sex differences exist. The flavor was, "men are just like that; that's just the way it is." Sounds existential to me. Kilmartin also seems to think it significant that most of the interviewees described themselves as being different than most guys. Wow, what an enlightenment. I remember having this discussion with other counselors at summer camp when I was 19. Only one described himself as just an average, normal guy. The rest of us were different, somehow.

Things get a little stranger with this paragraph:
What do you like about being a man? The first responses were "here's what I like about NOT being a woman." A staggering number of interviewees mentioned menstruation and childbirth as experiences they are happy to have escaped. Given the antifeminine nature of cultural masculinity, this is not a surprise. And yet there was not much overt antifemininity in the rest of what they said. Perhaps they were being polite to the (mostly) female interviewers.
Not having read the actual reports or witnessed the interviews, I can't ascertain the actual comments of the men but not having periods or giving childbirth seems somewhat logical to have been mentioned. Even women complain about the monthly bother and of "passing a watermelon." The next sentence is where he derails, "Given the antifeminine nature of cultural masculinity..." So now masculinity is antifeminine!! I wonder if cultural feminity is antimasculine. That would explain much of the actions of feminist. But more, he notes that "there was not much overt antifemininity in the rest of what they said." Rathing than acknowledging the possibility that the men weren't antifeminine he chalks it up to being "polite." Someone seems unable to step outside the bounds of his preconceived notions.

The following paragraph begins with "Their awareness of privilege was somewhat surprising." I doubt any or the interviewees used the term privilege or framed their comments as such. The example Kilmartin gives is that the men said they felt relatively safe compared to women. How this interprets to privilege I don't know. Kilmartin fails to reflect on how this feeling is not reflected in reality in that men make up the overwhelming majority of victims of murder, assault and all violent crimes except rape. He does mention this: "threat from women, they expressed concern that a woman might falsely accuse them of sexual harassment or sexual assault, grossly overestimating the probability of these occurrences." The threat of false sexual harrasment charges are probably no less realistic than the false feeling of safety but relating all this "masculine" psychology to women is more important to Kilmartin than actually looking at the men.

He only focuses on the interviews in how they relate to women leaving out the bigger picture.

Kilmartin then state that "homophobia was palpable." I assume he is using palpable in the sense of "easily percieved." Yet he only mentions one man as complaing about Queer Eye and Will and Grace on TV. Here Kilmarten interjects, "(I would have followed up with "Name four more" or even "Name ONE more"). Seems to be getting angry. Personally I find having anal or oral sex with another man repulsive, as well as it would be with some women. But, I'd rather a guy be gay than liberal. Kilmartin mentions his anger, "The rest of the interview with this person had the same flavor, and I found myself getting angrier and angrier as I read it." Seems a little objective detachment might be in order.

Some how Kilmartin thinks it is significant that only one man mentioned his penis. Maybe real, normal men aren't as obsessed with all this crap as psychologists think they should be. Further on he states, "All of these men experience the pressure to be masculine..." He gave no examples earlier in the article. I've never felt pressure to be masculine. I just am, can't help it. I'm a man. That's what men do. They're masculine, usually anyway. Just like woman are feminine usually.

Kilmartin finishes with, "When we give men the gift of gender-aware language, we change masculine conformity from the status of default option to that of informed choice." Dr. Kilmartin, we don't want or need your "gift." You mention how the men being interviewed described themselves as stepping outside the "roles." Yet you some how think, with professional conceit I believe, that the men need your help to step outside the roles. Wake up. They've already done it. The real stereotypes are in your mind and the minds of those like you. Try stepping outside of your role as a psychological expert and looking at the world as it is.

"'what is' is the most sacred" - J. Krishnamurti

Hi dadvocate,

Great post--my sentiments exactly with this supposed newsletter--if this is the way a men's divison of the APA is studying men, we are in big trouble.
Helen - Thank you for your comment. I'm flattered you took the time to visit my blog.
You'd "rather be gay than liberal?" That's a new one. That one will make it into the "greatest quotes" list.

Another one of those quotes, by a friend of mine in Carolina, who proclaimed in a loud theatre once "I ain't tryin' to hear about your feelings." That quote, which is relevant here, sums up male psychology in popular culture.

One thing that I think is very telling about studying the psychology of men, and one reason this stuff is always skewed so badly, is that talking about the male psychology is perceived to be inherently emasculating.

It was very difficult and shocking when I've learned, over the course of my 27 years, that how you feel about things doesn't necessarily 1) make them true or 2) do anything about them. Then there were the really big kickers in the facts that 1) nobody really cares and 2) talking about your feelings is an inherently emasculating line of conversation.

I was also convinced that, in order to show respect to others, you had to listen to their feelings. This, through every fault of my own, opened me up to the dramatic interpretations of life by various emotional terrorists.

There is a tremendous degree of bias, I think, that is extrapolated from that when dealing with issues of male psychology.

I think about that when I hear "men identify themselves as 'different' from other men." Big shock. What is telling here is that men have a perception of what "men" are supposed to be, and that most guys think they don't fit that description.

(And that they will only relate that information during a study that is most likely anonymous.)

What is that description and who gives that description definition?

Finding that out may be step number one in getting down to real male psychology.

The quoted study seems more a part of the problem than the solution, for in reinforces a description of the man that is alien from what the man is. The results only prove what should already be obvious and attribute beliefs to men that are only the assumptions of the researcher.

I bet the lead researcher also puts salt on their eggs before tasting them.
Sometimes I wonder about studies like these because in this situation men have been rasied to give the answer that they think the person wants to hear. So, instead of opening up like a woman would, the man reads his responses from a tired old script inside his head.
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