People just don’t get men, says Ryan McKelley, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
They rarely fit the common stereotypes of the bumbling idiot father like Homer Simpson or the machismo-filled action star like Clint Eastwood.
Men, McKelley said, are much more complicated.
They care about body image, are emotional, and want the same things as women from personal relationships.
McKelley, 36, has made a career of studying men in non-traditional roles. He is a regular guest on the Internet radio show “The Secret Lives of Men,” which attracts 15,000 listeners a week.
He aims to offer men an alternative to the stereotype-fueled perceptions they feel pressure to live up to.
“I’m not saying give up being a man,” McKelley said. “But wouldn’t it be great to have some other ways to cope?”
Depictions of men are largely shaped by something McKelley calls a “negativity bias.”
Men might be more likely to appear in the news in violent disputes, but that doesn’t mean most men are violent, McKelley said.
“The access to a more diverse range of men is lacking,” McKelley said.
He compares it to getting cut off by another car on the morning drive to work.
“You passed 1,000 cars that were uneventful, but you focus on the emotional impact,” McKelley said.
A licensed psychologist, McKelley is incorporating his research into real-world advice he gives on his radio show.
The program covers “things that block men from being able to think or interact,” said Chris Blazina, an author and psychology professor at Tennessee State University who created the show. “It really hinders you from making connections.”
The two met at conventions, and Blazina invited McKelley to appear on a show he was doing to promote his book.
The book was published in 2008, but Blazina’s radio show continued and McKelley became a weekly guest.
“Critics say, ‘Why study men when it’s always been about men,’” McKelley said. “I say, ‘Yes, but it’s not been about men’s inner lives.’”