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Noon Edition

Being A Man: A Look At Masculinity And How We Raise Boys

A study by IU School of Education Associate Professor Y. Joel Wang found that men who strongly conformed to masculine norms were not only more likely to have poor mental health but also also less likely to seek mental health treatment.

Noon Edition airs Fridays at 12 p.m. on WFIU.

If you look back at all mass shootings since 1982, a clear pattern emerges: nearly all were committed by males.

The recent shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida sparked renewed debate over gun control and mental health, but the conversation around toxic masculinity and violence has also been brought to the forefront.

The pressure society puts on boys can lead to problems down the road and can even affect mental health. Can understanding masculinity help to curb the patterns of violence committed by men?

This week on Noon Edition, our panelists discussed masculinity and what it means to be a man.


Jennifer Carlson: Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Arizona

Jesse Steinfeldt: Sport Psychologist and Associate Professor, IU Department of Counseling and Educational Psychology

Bill Yarber: Senior Scientist at the Kinsey Institute & Provost Professor at IU School of Public Health

Conversation: A Look At Masculinity And How We Raise Boys

The phrase "toxic masculinity" has been used to describe the norms and aspects of masculinity that are harmful to society and men themselves.

Jesse Steinfeldt is a sport psychologist and associate professor at Indiana University who studies the psychology of men and masculinities. Steinfeldt says toxic masculinity is just a small set of behaviors that describes harmful outcomes and does not describe masculinity broadly.

"The idea of settling scores with violence or being playboy in multiple promiscuous relationships equates to manhood, and some of these other dynamics that we think of in terms of a broad set of norms, would, to me, constitute this toxic sense of masculinity. It's much more expansive. There's more to it," Steinfeldt says.

Kinsey Institute Senior Scientist Bill Yarber says the innate differences between men and women stops at the differences in testosterone level.

"All these other aspects are learned. They're learned very early. By age two, they find out here's what boys do. So the way we expose them to messages about what it's to be is critical," Yarber says. "Traditionally those messages have been very narrow. I think it minimizes their opportunities to be individual."

Many messages and expectations of masculinity are reinforced in the media. University of Arizona Sociologist Jennifer Carlson says this can be seen in the public shaming of the Broward County police officer who did not enter the building during the Florida school shooting.

"I don't think he's been able to say [he is afraid] publicly. That is a very powerful example of how these expectations are magnified in the media."

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