Written by Jess Brink
When individuals find themselves in troubled times, counseling can be a much-needed resource to get them through these obstacles. Individuals seek counseling for many reasons, such as needing help in their relationships, dealing with mental illness, or learning new coping strategies to handle difficult events. Individuals also avoid counseling for many reasons, including fear of ridicule from others and social pressures to handle one’s own problems. Mental health and counseling have long been stigmatized; that stops many from seeking help, and some individuals simply just do not feel that therapy will benefit them. For men, counseling may be viewed as something that goes against the ideas of and expectations for masculinity (Vogel & Heath, 2016). Men are often expected to have limited emotions, or at least not show these emotions. Many men are taught that masculinity depends on their ability to handle their problems on their own and without outside help. Masculinity norms also demand that a man be silent and stoic rather than compassionate and caring. This ideal type of masculinity may impact men’s ability to be compassionate towards themselves. Men who adhere more to masculinity norms express more negative attitudes toward counseling and are far less likely to go to counseling in times of need than men who adhere less to masculinity norms (Hammer, Vogel, & Heimerdinger-Edwards, 2013). For counseling methods to succeed, one must look at other factors that affect the willingness of men to seek help.
Masculinity Expectations and Their Relationship to Men Seeking Counseling
In a study consisting of college-age males, participants were asked to complete scales measuring their self-compassion, self-stigma, and risk of self-disclosure (Heath et al., 2017). All of these scales were used to measure the likelihood of male participants attending counseling. The self-stigma scale was used to measure the stigma that men felt towards their own decision to seek out counseling (Vogel et al., 2006). If men felt stigma towards themselves, this suggests that they felt ashamed or embarrassed about seeking counseling. Because men are often told by society that asking for help goes against their masculinity, men who conform to this idea would most likely feel self-stigma and may be less likely to ask for help in the future (Vogel et al., 2006). The risk of self-disclosure model was used to measure the personal risk felt by the men seeking help or opening themselves up emotionally (Vogel & Wester, 2003). Men were asked if they felt that asking for help made them feel uncomfortable personally or if it made them feel at risk for scrutiny from their friends or acquaintances. After completing these surveys, results were then analyzed to see if there was any connection between the three factors mentioned and the unwillingness of men to seek counseling. Results revealed that the more men followed masculine gender norms, the more barriers were in their way when they considered seeking help (Heath et al., 2017). Men with a higher regard for gender norms scored higher on self-disclosure risk and self-stigma (Heath et al., 2017). This study focused on trying to find a way to break through these barriers. Self-compassion was also analyzed and appeared to be the trait that was needed to aid men in their ability to seek help. Higher scores on self-compassion were correlated with lower scores on barriers, such as self-stigma and self-disclosure risk (Heath et al., 2017). Self-compassion may be the factor that aids men in their ability to treat themselves with kindness and understanding in times of struggle (Neff, 2003).
Seeking Out Help Can Be Hard, but it Doesn’t Make a Man Any Less of a Man
Men may feel uncomfortable when seeking out counseling due to the fear that seeking help possibly goes against their expected traits of being strong, independent, and able to provide. Seeking counseling can be an extremely difficult step for many people, not only men; however, men may the task particularly troubling. The ability for men to feel kindness and express understanding towards themselves can increase the likelihood of their ability to seek counseling when it is needed. It is always okay to seek help, and it is important to remember that men who do are not lesser men because of it.
Hammer, J. H., Vogel, D. L., & Heimerdinger-Edwards, S. R. (2013). Men’s help seeking: Examination of differences across community size, education, and income. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 14, 65–75.
Heath, P. J., Brenner, R. E., Vogel, D. L., Lannin, D. G., & Strass, H. A. (2017). Masculinity and barriers to seeking counseling: The buffering role of self-compassion. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 64, 94-103.
Neff, K. D. (2003). The development and validation of a scale to measure self-compassion. Self and Identity, 2, 223–250.
Vogel, D. L., & Heath, P. J. (2016). Men, masculinities, and help-seeking patterns. In S. R. Wester & J. Wong (Eds.), APA handbook for the psychology of men and masculinities (pp. 685–707). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Vogel, D. L., Wade, N. G., & Haake, S. (2006). Measuring the self-stigma associated with seeking psychological help. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 53, 325–337.
Vogel, D. L., & Wester, S. R. (2003). To seek help or not to seek help: The risks of self-disclosure. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 50, 351–361.
Written by Jamal Tillman
Victims of Bullying
Bullying (the act of intimidating others) has been a hot topic issue for the past two decades (Wang, Iannotti, Nansel, 2009). It appears in our current society, we are playing catch-up with mitigating an uncontrollable fire within the social parameters of our K-12 schools. Bullying is a problem. However, there seems to be another branch on the proverbial tree: sexual violence. Discussions are occurring regarding a potential connection between bullying and sexual violence; researchers are attempting to find a link between bullying behavior (i.e., relational, cyber, or physical) and increased perpetuation of sexual violence (Basile, Espelage, Rivers, McMahon, & Simon, 2009). Regarding the bullying problem, one can see that certain elements can be overtly sexist and/or homophobic in nature (Daley, Solomon, Newman, & Mishna, 2007). Bullying, in this regard, may be connected to sexual violence (Basile et al., 2009).
Prevalence of Bullying and Sexual Harassment
Basile and colleagues (2009) state that bullying perpetration by both girls and boys occurs more frequently than sexual harassment perpetration; additionally, no significant difference exists between girls and boys regarding sexual harassment perpetration in the form of bullying (i.e., inappropriate verbal abuse, derogatory terms or slander, or forced inappropriate contact; Basile et al., 2009). However, students who identify as gay, bisexual, lesbian, or transgender report higher instances of sexual harassment and bullying victimization (Basile et al., 2009). The study by Basile and colleagues (2009) mentions that there are several factors that bullying and sexual violence perpetration have in common: avoidant attachment styles, rape myth beliefs, gender biases and conformity to gender-based roles/stereotype. However, the article (Basile et al., 2009) also points out that even though these factors are shared by both bullying and sexual violence perpetration, this does not mean that the factors are congruent regarding both bullying and sexual violence perpetration.
Some of those factors previously mentioned can be related to sexism and toxic masculinity (i.e., a critique of the way society has created men to be dominant, aggressive (sexually and otherwise), and unemotional, both collectively and as individuals); toxic masculinity can create unhealthy societal standards for boys and men, as well as plant the seeds of misogyny and overtly sexist ideals (Connell & Messerschmidt, 2005). If we believe that bullying can lead to sexual violence in males, then can we also assume that the root behavior itself (bullying) has connections to perceived masculinity? It is no secret that the victims of bullying are often those who are seen to be at the lower ends of the social hierarchy. The usual targets are often racial and ethnic minorities, females, “unpopular” kids, and those who fail to conform to society’s ideals of sexuality (Vervoort, Scholte, & Overbeek, 2010) and gender conformity. Bullying behavior is a unified combination of negative attitudes and the power that the bully has over the victims. Further inquiries could bring eye-opening results and provide the general population with additional insight into the bullying epidemic, as well as provide possible solutions that could help us mitigate such behavior and potentially create safer environments in our schools.
Basile, K. C., Espelage, D. L., Rivers, I., McMahon, P. M., & Simon, T. R. (2009). The theoretical and empirical links between bullying behavior and male sexual violence perpetration. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 14, 336-347. doi: 10.1016/j.avb.2009.06.001
Daley, A., Solomon, S., Newman, P., & Mishna, F. (2007). Traversing the Margins: Intersectionalities in the Bullying of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Social Services, 19(3-4), 9-29.
Wang, J., Iannotti, R. J., & Nansel, T. R. (2009). School Bullying Among Adolescents in the United States: Physical, Verbal, Relational, and Cyber. Journal of Adolescent Health, 45, 368–375.
Connell, R. W., & Messerschmidt, J. W. (2005). Hegemonic masculinity rethinking the concept. Gender & society, 19(6), 829-859.
Vervoort, M. H., Scholte, R. H., & Overbeek, G. (2010). Bullying and victimization among adolescents: The role of ethnicity and ethnic composition of school class. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 39(1), 1-11.
Written by Mandi Ryan
Early childhood years are a fundamental time in an individual’s formative development. Between the ages of 3 and 6, gender stereotypes become more abundant and strict (Coyne, Linder, Rasmussen, Nelson, & Birbeck, 2016). For example, boys are taught to be tough, and girls are taught to be nice. The media that children are exposed to during this time, including books, television programs, and social media, may affect how they internalize gender stereotypes. The Disney Princess line, which consists of clothing, toys, movies and more, is among some of the most popular children’s media today and has been popular for quite some time. As the years go by, should we be questioning the messages these materials could be sending to children?
Disney Princesses and Female Stereotypes
Today, it is not uncommon to see female engineers and doctors or male makeup artists and nannies. Yet, the Disney Princess line typically portrays women as damsels in distress and men as heroes. These movies make implications that women are to uphold certain beauty standards. The characters in these movies often are young and attractive with large eyes, small noses and chins, moderately large breasts, prominent cheekbones, and lustrous hair (Coyne et al., 2016). This combination of physical characteristics would be considered quite unrealistic and may be harmful to a girl’s self-image (Coyne et al., 2016). Furthermore, the princesses in Disney movies portray female characters as unrealistically thin, similar to the impossible beauty expectations in real life. This portrayal can have negative effects on young children who find themselves admiring these characters. One study surveying 969 third graders revealed that 35% of girls and 25% of boys wanted to lose weight (Robinson, 2001). This early exposure to a thin ideal and a high standard of beauty may teach kids that attractiveness is essential to one’s identity (Coyne et al., 2016).
Long Term Effects on Children
Female stereotypes, such as those concerning careers, abilities, and roles in the home, conveyed through the media influence both male and female attitudes about gender (Coyne et al., 2016). Coyne and colleagues (2016) examined the longitudinal associations between exposure to Disney Princess media and gender-stereotypical behavior, body esteem, and prosocial behavior. They found that higher Disney Princess engagement through media and toys was related to an increase in female stereotypical behavior in both boys and girls, even one year later (Coyne et al., 2016). This behavior included their characteristics, toy preferences, and activities. While there is nothing wrong with expressing femininity and gendered behavior, it is potentially harmful if girls believe they are limited in their opportunities due to preconceived assumptions concerning gender.
In conclusion, today, both men and women can be either strong or weak, thick or thin, and affectionate or emotionless. They do not have to be tied to their gender stereotypes. Some children’s media and the way its portrayal separates genders may impact boys’ and girls’ behavior and self-esteem. Although Disney Princess movies are becoming more progressive over time, many of the classics, such as Cinderella or Beauty and the Beast, are still popular with children today. It may be important to consider the messages these movies may potentially send to children and make sure they are balanced with explanations that children are not obligated to adhere to a predetermined role in life. Girls should not be afraid of getting dirty from playing outside, as exploring the world is an integral part of development (Coyne et al., 2016). Boys should also feel free to show their emotions without being criticized. Children simply should not be limited by the world’s expectations of who they should or shouldn’t be.
Coyne, S. M., Linder, J. R., Rasmussen, E. E., Nelson, D. A., & Birkbeck, V. (2016). Pretty as a princess: Longitudinal effects of engagement with Disney princesses on gender stereotypes, body esteem, and prosocial behavior in children. Child Development, 87, 1909-1925. doi: 10.1111/cdev.12569
Robinson, T. N., Chang, J. Y., Haydel, K., & Killen, J. D. (2001). Overweight concerns and body dissatisfaction among third-grade children: The impacts of ethnicity and socioeconomic status. The Journal of Pediatrics, 138(2), 181-187. doi:10.1067/mpd.2001.110526
Written by Haley Hembree
“Who run the world? Girls!” Well, not quite. The theory that women alone are the saviors and peacemakers who can bring world peace has been discredited (Hudson, Ballif-Spanvill, Caprioli, & Emmett, 2012). This theory has, however, opened a discussion that should be examined. Women alone may not prevent World War III, but evidence shows that feminism and equality in gender roles might (Hudson, Ballif-Spanvill, Caprioli, & Emmett, 2012).
Does gender equality reduce war?
Hudson and colleagues (2012) emphasize that a higher degree of equality in gender roles in democratic states is responsible. Breuning (2013) found that “necessary (but not sufficient) preconditions for the emergence of democracy were monogamy and later marriage, as these reduced the inequality of women and men within the household.” Therefore, the reduced inclination for a nation to go war boils down to “smallest unit of human society: the family” (Breuning, 2013).
Perpetrators of Gender Inequality
Breuning (2013) demonstrates that the physical security of women correlates with different measures of peacefulness. This preliminary analysis can help to open a dialogue about the role of gender quality, particularly regarding the status of women, in global stability (Breuning, 2013).
Fahs (2013) evaluated how Sex and World Peace accomplished its claim: “[The authors] take on a range of perpetrators—academics who perpetuate the absence of women in international relations courses and scholarship; policymakers who ignore convincing data about the role of women in producing healthy and successful societies; public health ‘experts’ who forget about the ‘microaggressions’ women face (lack of bodily security, lack of equity in family law, lack of parity in decision-making and government); and the US media, who all-too-willingly ignore women (particularly outside of the US) and the different challenges they face.” These perpetrators all add to lowering the status of women and, thus, possibly making the road to world peace that much more difficult (Fahs, 2013).
What Can Be Done to Promote Gender Equality?
It is important to enforce national policies that support the equal status of women, but it is just as important for women to look out for one another and men to look out for women on a personal level. Gender equality begins in the home. Creating an environment of equality at home can lead to widespread effects. Children in such an environment will learn to expect equal opportunities in education and physical security. Romantic partners will learn to expect equal divisions of labor and respect. Peers will learn to expect equal participation in the work force and politics. By using everyday relationships as a model to inspire equality, each person could, in turn, encourage a society of justice that is one step closer to global stability.
Breuning, M. (2013). Why world peace depends on gender equality in the family. Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology, 19(3), 311-312.
Hudson, V. M., Ballif-Spanvill, B., Caprioli, M., & Emmett, C. F. (2012). Sex and World Peace. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.
Fahs, B. (2013). Review of Sex and World Peace. Feminism & Psychology, 24(3), 408-409.
Dr. H. Colleen Sinclair
Social Psychologist, Relationships Researcher,
Ms. Jessica Utley
Lab Manager of the Social Relations Collaborative and Blog Editor