Is the male mental health crisis an inside job?
I agree with the premise, as well as many arguments presented, and possible solutions.
I also obviously agree that this hurts not only men, but women in their lives, and society as a whole.
The one thing I might add, or contend with, is the cause of this. It seems implied in the statement that this has been happening for generations, that this is an issue of men not being emotionally open to friends, or this is a long standing issue. That strikes me as not quite right. I cannot speak for my father, or grandfathers, but by my recollection, they did/do have male friends, and are not particularly emotionally open. It strikes me as more likely that this is a recent phenomenon (as argued in Bowling Alone and other great books), and the cause may be different.
I suspect many men do not feel they can socialize in the way that is natural for them, and feel pressured to socialize in the way they see modeled, as opposed to ways that are "toxic."
Men often tease, mock, offer solutions and support, show up to do favors, all for friends. But all those friendships start out with the teasing, the good natured jokes, boundary pushing to see how people respond and if they will bail when you say something that is off color, etc. Working with young men in a community organization, I see that behavior stopping, and they tend to seem unsure how to proceed. Men are not going to just open up, they need to warm up to each other, know the person can hear them say things that may turn a person off without running, and through that, know they can be counted on to be there when there is need.
I worry that pushing men to get friends, while discouraging the things that men do with friends (tease, mock, test boundaries, all without malice) is like asking cats to enjoy the outdoors without hunting birds and mice. They seem to go hand in hand.
Thank you for writing, and for taking seriously the issue that many men do seem to be struggling. As you said, it is a problem that we can see dragging everyone down.
Joanna Schroeder has suggested I write an article on this subject. The draft is about to be sent. Maybe you can see it soon. Bill Meleney, mostly retired psychotherapist, procrastinating on starting training for therapists. See my neglected SubStack: Be A Better Psychotherapist.
Male mental health is such an important topic !
If it's a parenting problem then it is disproportionately a woman-generated problem, because women are increasingly bearing the load of parenting duties. If it's an education problem then it is disproportionately a woman-created problem because women are the vast majority of K-12 teachers. I don't necessarily think it's either one of these but if you do then it's hard to see how women DON'T contribute to this trend.
Male loneliness has increased, according to all data, in the past 5 decades. A factor which has been operative for generations cannot explain that increase. In fact, I think the elements of masculine training which you lay out here have decreased in the past 20 years.
So: what do you think explains the increase in male loneliness? Common sense tells us that this can't be a factor which has stayed constant or decreased with time.
Also, loneliness is particularly acute for men in relation to women. Male friends CANNOT fill the hole that lack of marriage or partners leave in many mens' lives. Male loneliness and female loneliness are two sides of the same coin and they are both increasing rapidly. This isn't about 'blame.' Obviously if men or women are seeing a drastic increase in loneliness the opposite sex is going to be involved in that and affected by it. First, though... my first question. Why do YOU think men are lonelier?
I agree that the idea that women are responsible for male loneliness is ridiculous.
Men are in need of their own revolution. I think we need changes in the cultural infrastructure to really get this going. If we want men to be emotionally engaged then we must value that in our society. Most women value that but our societal structure does not. Women fought to get in the door at work. We now need to fight to get men out the door of work on time. If men leave work on time then we are saying "we expect you to have an emotional and social life outside work." Give parents parental leave and require spouses take half the time. (This is one way that Sweden pushed employers to accept men taking parental leave.) Many younger men are embracing the joys of early parenthood but they have to fight to have the time to do that. Employers expect more and more time from their employees. Once a woman becomes a mother she's kicked off the "success" ladder but at least is able to take some time for family. Men stay on the "success" ladder but are expected to make no changes at work for a family. The best way to help women be able to stay on the success ladder, if they want, is to create an environment in which all workers leave at the end of the day and get their weekends off. This also gives single men time to have hobbies, clubs, etc. that allow them to make male friendships. In addition, when fathers parent newborns they develop bonds that move family and relationships to the forefront. This increased fatherly involvement (if they get the time for it) can allow boys growing up to see adult males in a nurturing relationship. This could further help break down old stereotypes. We are so focused on working more, harder, and longer in our society. We value works so so much. Much of that work mandate is aimed directly at men. We've all drunk the same poison. Many European cultures place much greater value on an adult's life outside of work. They have infrastructure that protects that time from greedy employers. We want men to break out of toxic masculinity and find friends? We need to ditch the workaholic cutlture and value time for human connection.