Pathologising Masculinity

The Portman NHS Trust is subordinating the therapeutic relationship to ideology.

I recommend the YouTube video from New-Culture-Forum that is featured below. Peter Whittle, the host, interviews Amy Gallagher who is a nurse who was training to be a psychotherapist at the Tavistock Clinic (yes that one). Unfortunately, she fell foul of social justice orthodoxy and her training was terminated. Amy plans to sue the NHS and is now crowdfunding her court case. I encourage as many people as possible to contribute via her gofundme page here. Although the interview is mostly about critical race theory it also touches on the impact of critical theory on masculinity making it relevant to this blog.

Amy starts by telling us that she is mental health nurse who works in the NHS. She had already completed two years of training at the Tavistock clinic and graduated with a postgraduate diploma. To become a qualified psychotherapist she needed to do two more years of training. At this point, she began to have issues with some of the course material. At 2.40 Amy tells us,

It started with a lecture I had to attend called ‘race and racism’ and it was extraordinarily political, it really had nothing to do with psychology or psychotherapy. There are psychological studies about race and racism – none of that was mentioned. It was all about Black-Lives-Matter and Meghan Markle. The critical race theorists were being quoted, not psychologists. Christianity was being mentioned quite negatively on a couple of occasions……… it had an agenda that was not relevant to the training. So at the end of that session, I said “do you know this feels quite politically biased and I am curious about why you are singling out Christianity”….. The lecturer said, “well Christianity is responsible for racism because it is European.”

There seemed to be this idea that I was wrong for even questioning it- so I started to be quite concerned about the political bent of the course and then not long after that I was sent a lecture Whiteness a Problem for our Time… it was a celebratory lecture of a hundred years of the Tavistock … it was essentially critical race theory, saying whiteness and racism where the same thing and they put on the website that it is the job of white people to tackle racism specifically.. It was just an hour of ideology, no reference to psychological research, no debate, no other side to what they were teaching,…..

Amy went on to challenge the worldview of the Tavistock Clinic and explained to the course leaders,

As clinicians, we could be treating patients who don’t like these views and don’t view the world in this way and I encouraged a debate essentially.

For daring to challenge their orthodoxy, Amy was called into meeting that was framed in a reprimanding tone, by the course leader. ‘We need to talk about how you responded’ she was told ‘if you do not agree with these ideas the course might not be right for you – we are an anti-racist organisation.’ Amy explains..

I am also an anti-racist, I am against racism and my understanding of that is not judging a person by the colour of their skin, treating people equally not having prejudice towards anyone. She said “we see that as discredited and outdated at the Tavistock” They don’t say how it has been discredited or by whom? They’ve just decided that. They don’t care about any kind of evidence for their assertions. The lecturer went on to say “its a bit like the way there is an inherent sexism in all men” I said, well I don’t agree with that either so that doesn’t really help me.

The interview with the course leader ended with the idea that Amy would have to watch what she was going to say. Amy is now seeing the Portman NHS Trust of which the Tavistock clinic is a part for racial discrimination, religious discrimination, discrimination on the grounds of philosophical belief, harassment and victimisation. If what she is telling us is true she deserves to win.

What concerns me is her account of the corruption of the therapeutic relationship by Critical Theory. Instead of seeing a patient as an individual with a problem, they are to be seen as members of a problematic identity group if they are male or white. It is noteworthy that someone with a religious faith should see the obvious flaw in this. If you believe we are all equal in the eyes of God then any form of discrimination against an identity group would be anathema to you. Although I do not myself have a religious faith, some of those who have been most effective in challenging Critical Theory infused dogma have done so from a religious perspective. It seems to me that religion is an effective vaccine against the extremes of CSJ and perhaps this is why some activists display such visceral hatred towards Christianity.

Have Critical Theory infused ideas affected practice in reality? The evidence is that they have. Take, for example, the American Psychological Association’s practice guidelines for men and boys that made sweeping generalisations about masculinity. The guidelines were written in the progressive jargon of power, privilege and intersection couched in language that places the blame on men themselves. The guidelines also assumed that masculinity is a social construct without any influence of biology and that masculinity is problematic due to the influence of patriarchy. Even if true, these beliefs would deter more traditional men from seeking help. The APA document was rightly criticised for reading like an invective against masculinity and it could be argued that it might lead to conversion therapies away from masculinity with the supposed aim of improving mental health. The APA has had its ‘Gillette moment’ when it faced outrage, but whether it will learn from this remains to be seen. For a good account of this fiasco see here and for a more scholarly account see The American psychological Association’s practice guidelines for men and boys: Are they hurting rather than helping male mental wellness? that was published in New Ideas in Psychology.

These ideas also go against the best available evidence. A meta-analysis evaluating research on the role of gender in depression was published in Journal of Affective Studies in 2021. That study found that masculinity was protective. On the other hand, there was a weak but significant association between femininity and depression. This is not in any way to blame women for their problems or pathologist femininity. I aim only to challenge the belief that it is masculinity itself that is harming men. It isn’t.

We should reject these ideas for obvious reasons. Biological denialism helps no one, male or female. We are a dimorphic species and we are shaped by complex and poorly understood interactions between our biology and our environment. A scientist who rejected the influence of the environment including culture, in shaping who we are, would be laughed off the podium. Yet in the social sciences and humanities, the opposite view, that all differences are socially constructed, has become mainstream. I suspect at some level they know they are wrong and this is why they react so badly when challenged – as Amy Gallagher has found to her cost. I would call this fragility – Critical Theory fragility, to be more precise.

The other obvious danger is that the APA guidelines and the wider culture in psychotherapy may deter traditional men and families from coming forward for fear of being judged for belonging to the wrong identity group.

Men, women, boys and girls deserve something better than this confected nonsense.

By femgoggles

I was abandoned by my parents in the black mountains and raised by timberwolves. On my return to the 'civilised world' with questionable table manners, I became a detached observer of human behaviour in general and gender relations in particular. This blog is the product of those observations.


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