The internet is full of articles on how men are “misandrists” for not having more masculine bodies, and that they should be ashamed of their “feminine” parts.
But a recent study suggests that these beliefs are more likely to be the result of social pressure than biology.
The findings are from a study published in the journal Psychological Science, and they indicate that when a man expresses “non-manly” thoughts, like a concern for “social status”, his own social network reacts by suppressing the “masculine” aspects of his thoughts.
“These findings suggest that the more masculinized we think about ourselves, the more social pressure we feel,” said study author Jason A. Fuhrman, a psychology professor at UC Davis.
For example, when a person is asked “what are you worried about?”, the social network of the person with whom they are speaking (i.e. friends, co-workers, family, etc.) will suppress any masculine thoughts, even if those thoughts are not the most “masseuse” of masculinity.
“We believe that this suppression may be related to the fact that, for some people, the social pressure to conform to a masculine identity may be more intense,” Fuhrsman said.
In the study, participants were asked to rate their social anxiety based on five different “types” of social anxiety: body image anxiety, social anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and post-partum depression.
The researchers then used a questionnaire to ask participants if they thought their body was a reflection of their self, their gender, or both.
The findings suggest the social media platforms and websites that we use to express our opinions about our bodies and our identities may also be contributing to our mental health.
“While we would expect to see the majority of people’s experiences of social phobia and anxiety to be positive, social media may also contribute to these experiences by suppressing certain kinds of masculinities,” Fufrsman told Business Insider.
“We believe these suppression processes may play a role in how men and women view themselves, but also how others see them,” he said.
Fuhrsmans study also found that people who expressed more masculine-sounding thoughts were more likely than those who expressed less masculine- sounding thoughts to experience social phobic or anxiety.
People who were less masculine were also more likely be the targets of social ostracism.
“People who express more masculine social identities are less likely to feel comfortable interacting with others, and may be less likely or unable to do so,” Fuchrsman explained.
“This is likely to have a negative impact on social relationships and friendships,” he continued.
A survey of 5,500 American men and 50,000 women revealed that social phobias and anxiety are not universal and are not limited to just one gender.
According to the American Psychological Association, people with mental health issues are more than twice as likely to experience body image and social anxiety issues than those without.
But it’s also possible that men with these problems are experiencing social anxiety more than women who don’t have it.
“Many men may be anxious about how their body and appearance are perceived, but it is also possible to experience anxiety about their own masculinity,” Fucshmans study found.
“Men may feel pressure to fit in socially, and it may be difficult for them to see themselves in a positive light, and in some cases, they may be uncomfortable being themselves.”
So what do you do when a friend or co-worker posts a comment that suggests you’re “manly”?
If the person has a sense of entitlement, or is afraid to let you know that he or she is feeling “manish”, you might want to steer clear.