How a ‘men’s Box’ Can Help You Understand the Masculinity of a Prison
Many men are haunted by social expectations of being men . This is the reason many guys abandon therapy, letting their emotional struggles bubble beneath the surface until it inevitably evaporates, sometimes in the form of abusive behavior . The idea that men should be models of courage, strength, determination and should never express pain or vulnerability sounds old-fashioned, but it’s still very obvious, built on centuries of social conditioning – and you can think of all of that. these toxic norms exist in a shaped box.
What is a “man’s box”?
The “man’s box” illustrates the idea that men are forced to submit to rigid social norms that determine who they are and who they can be, or, as the University of Richmond summarized several studies, it is a “set of rules.” expectations, perceptions and behavior of what is ‘masculine’ behavior. ” Millions of men live in the men’s box, suspecting nothing, and this is a lonely place to exist.
The male box theory encompasses the concept of masculinity as a kind of prison that traps men in a suffocating pattern of denial of their emotions in order to create a sense of control. Although the term was coined byCall to Men , the general concept has been studied and researched by academics for decades.
The male box concept is an elegant metaphor for pressure that “tries to control, manipulate and shame men into being in a certain way,” psychologist Heather Stevenson told Lifehacker. “Anything outside the male box, [for example] that is emotional, vulnerable, or showing compassion, is not only forbidden, but also deprives men of their masculinity or rejects them from the tribe.”
Social conditioning can begin at a young age. Parents often use more emotional language and are more willing to discuss emotional topics with girls than with boys. For many boys, anger is the only emotion they are allowed to display – a disturbing concept, given research that shows that young boys can be naturally more emotional than girls.
“Every time we force people to deny a part of themselves, it creates a feeling of shame,” says Stevenson. “A lot of men are so caught up in this concept that they believe they don’t really have that innate capacity for emotional range and expression that women do, and that’s completely wrong.”
This dynamic can be disastrous for a man’s relationship with other people. “Being able to experience and express more emotion than anger or happiness is incredibly liberating,” says Justin Lioy, a licensed clinical social worker. “[It] allows us to better appear to our partners, friends, children and ourselves.” On the other hand, men who live their lives in men’s boxing pose a much higher risk of committing acts of violence against women.
Thinking about traditional notions of masculinity within this framework – as a closed prison from which to break free – can help men understand this thinking as a choice, albeit an unconscious one, and not as an inevitable one.
How to Break Out of the Male Box and Traditional Notions of Masculinity
Expanding your understanding of masculinity beyond the masculine framework begins by recognizing that emotional responses do not indicate weakness, and that feelings of sadness and anxiety are simply part of being human. Like the broader construct of gender and everything related to it, the male box is a bogus set of standards created by widespread social pressures and expectations.
This understanding is a vital step towards dismantling the male box, Stevenson said. “When men can begin to view the box as simply a social construct designed to be controlled and suppressed, it becomes easier to get rid of limiting ideas and notions of who they are allowed to be.”
She offers a metaphor to help men imagine how they can overcome these limitations, telling Lifehacker:
I like to think of men’s boxing as a mask that men are forced to wear, which allows only a small part of their humanity to be shown. If men can begin to remove this mask, allow their fullness to manifest, and learn to feel comfortable with all parts of themselves, they will not only feel better, but they will also be able to have better connections and relationships with others.
Much of this work can start with therapy; vocalizing previously hidden or unconscious thoughts in a safe and confidential manner is an important part of healing. But simply knowing that much of the social pressure placed on humans is artificially created and not innate and unchanging is the true first step in dismantling the male box.