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What Is the ’Man Box’? Breaking Out of It Can Make Men Better Feminists

Hillary E. Crawford - Bustle
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September 12, 2017
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Since the feminist movement picked up steam in the 1960s and transitioned from one ideological wave to the next, one tenet has remained constant: both women and men must band together to achieve a more egalitarian society. Promundo, a global organization that promotes gender justice through research and policy development, is dedicated to engaging boys and men worldwide to challenge the most severely ingrained gender norms. Earlier in 2017, Promundo began studying the "man box" to determine how best to transform what it traditionally means to be "masculine." And in Trump's America, the findings are more consequential than ever.

Sexism is oftentimes rooted in gender norms that have become so accepted, they’re barely noticeable. And exposure to these gender norms begins during boyhood. "Children start facing norms that define 'masculine' and 'feminine' from an early age," UNICEF's page on "early gender socialization" reads. "Boys are told not to cry, not to fear, not to be forgiving and instead to be assertive, and strong."

According to Promundo founder Gary Barker, these societal expectations can contribute to sexist behavior later in life. So, Promundo launched a new study, "The Man Box: A Study on Being a Young Man in the US, UK, and Mexico," alongside Axe to map out the consequences.

“[The man box has] been a term used by advocates and colleagues working in the field of pro-feminist men's work for a very long time, referring to just the notions that boxed us in about what it means about men,” Barker explains. “That we're not supposed to ask for help, that we have to show our dominance over women and over other men, that we're more likely to fight than have a dialogue about it, and that we're told these things sort of from the moment that we're born.”

Research from Promundo tackles the Man Box, a set of beliefs that traps young men into harmful, outdated behaviors. https://t.co/sAqwAHfVh0 pic.twitter.com/8MCg9YF0eK

— Gender Partnership (@GenderPartnrshp) April 10, 2017

The "man box" and toxic masculinity aren't new concepts — Promundo's study builds upon findings from numerous others on masculinity. For example, as far back as 1992, Dr. Ronald Levant created the Male Role Norms Inventory, which evaluates how strongly a man conforms to masculine ideologies prevalent in the western world including aggression, homophobia, and restricted expression of emotion, among others. In 2007, research conducted by both Levant and Katherine Richmond suggested that men who adhere to these ideologies are more likely to fear intimacy, be sexually aggressive, and feel hesitant to seek out psychological help.

Of course, no one is forcing men to fulfill these outdated expectations and harass or assault women. An individual is always responsible for his or her actions — and that will never change. But it would be ignorant to overlook the fact that young boys are conditioned to act in ways that could ultimately prove toxic to both them and women.

Read the rest at Bustle


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