Health

Turns Out That Being Sexist is Bad for Your Mental Health

Turns out that conforming to toxic masculine stereotypes all the time is actually a massive strain on the brain. Who knew?
November 22, 2016, 12:00am

All of those men whining that they are affected by sexism, too? Turns out they're right. Well, sort of. A new study published in the Journal of Counseling Psychology has associated men's sexist behaviours towards women with negative mental health outcomes. Turns out that conforming to toxic masculine stereotypes all the time is actually a massive strain on the brain. Who knew?

Examining findings from more than 19,000 participants, the study's researchers considered the effects of 11 masculine "norms" that included emotional control, self-reliance, risk-taking, violence, winning, dominance, playboy behaviours, seeking power over women, and holding disdain for homosexuals. As the study notes, not all men exhibit these traits—they're constructs that society perpetuates as gender-dictated norms.

It was found that only four of these typically masculine behaviours could be linked to poor mental health outcomes such as depression—emotional control, playboy behaviours, self-reliance, and exerting power over women. Men who exhibited these traits were more likely to seek psychological help than those who did not.

"Conformity to the specific masculine norms of self-reliance, power over women, and playboy were [unfavourably], robustly, and consistently related to mental health-related outcomes," the study reads. "Heterosexual men who adhere strongly to norms associated with sexism might struggle in their relationships with women, leading to poorer mental health."

Meanwhile, while the other "masculine" behaviours less explicitly related to sexism were found to produce poor social outcomes (hating LGBTQI people won't exactly enhance your social status), their mental health effects were fairly negligible. In fact, the study found that many of these behaviours helped men in the long run—especially if they were white and college-educated. For example, it was found that there was a negative association between the masculine norm of "winning" and substance abuse in white American college-educated men.

While the authors acknowledged some limitations to their study—one being that it did not report the sexual orientations of its participants—they said that there was broad conformity between the most sexist of the "masculine" traits they identified with negative mental health outcomes.

"Overall, conformity to masculine norms was significantly and [unfavourably] associated with mental health and psychological help seeking," the study concludes. "[The findings] highlight the need to disaggregate the generic construct of masculine norms and focus instead on specific dimensions of conformity to masculine norms and their differential associations with other outcomes."

In other words, let's break down that gendered behaviour binary once and for all—doing so will benefit everyone.

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