The Man Box: The Link Between Emotional Suppression and Male Violence

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About Mark Greene

GMP Senior Editor Mark Greene is an Emmy Award winning animator and designer. He blogs and speaks on Men's Issues at the intersection of society, politics, relationships and parenting for the Good Men Project, HLN, Talking Cranes, The Shriver Report, The Huffington Post, Mamamia and Role Reboot. You can follow him on Twitter @megaSAHD and Google.
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  1. At a time when women were economically powerless and vulnerable, the bargain men struck was to accept rigid hierarchical work lives in exchange for absolute authority at home.
    This makes it sound like the system at work first chose to suppress women and then when it realized that someone had to do the work outside the home, just pushed it all on men. I’m not sure that’s how it went.

    • My theory comments on things in post war America, on the backside of the industrial revolution. Women still didn’t have the right to work after a brief stint during the second world war. Men did. Nothing here about pushing outside work on men per se. Simply a continuous status for men since the start of the industrial revolution when we moved away from an agrarian society.

  2. I enjoyed the essay very much. Thanks. I agree mostly. But believe this Man Box seems very USAish, if the term might be accepted. And I don’t mean to say it is not true outside your country (I am mexican and live in Mexico). We, mexicans, are in a decades long “endurance” race at becoming more and more like north americans (geographically Mexico is in North America, but thats not how I meant it here, of course) in many aspects of life. And this definitely includes the Man Box. But here in Mexico, and this is my conception, there are many of us not yet so embedded inside it. Another way of explaining what I am trying to say would be to understand the Man Box as some type of Matryoshka doll. So there is a smaller one, contained by a larger one, and so on. This way, top figures at corporations and governments would be inside a very rigid and almost hermetic little doll. Indians, still living close to how our ancestors lived, would be contained —if so— in a very large and open doll, way outside. I very much like your idea of the Man Box breaking apart, and hence, letting us humans become free. I totally agree this has to happen. I really hope it does soon.

  3. It’s worse in England and Australia from what I am told. But certainly bad enough here too. This article is long overdue for a variety of reasons. But the underlying cause of policing by men but especially by women today is the most important in my view.

  4. There’s a factor or facet that I feel is missed in this essay, as well as in several of your previous essays. We did not have some Grand Convention of Men to bang out the details of who, what, and how we were to be. These social structures evolved over time, presumably for a reason. They met some need or purpose, though it is arguable whether that purpose was for a few or many. Judging from the number of articles on the subject, is also arguable whether those social conventions are still needed, whether they are ‘good’ or ‘bad’ for us.

    This debate about the Man Box also highlights a sort of chicken and egg question, to me at least. If I’m in the box as a form of self-protection, why is it safe to come out now? We humans haven’t changed, so why do I want to pin a new bullseye on my back? There’s a reason we strive mightily to show no weakness. Our fellow humans will use it against us.

    • Thanks for you comment, CW.
      I agree that the mandates of the Man Box evolved out of the social pressure cooker of the early 20th century, but that said, there are many social and political forces today that actively and methodically seek to encourage and leverage its capacity to divide people and rule them.
      I would respectfully suggest that the Man Box offers very little in the way of protection and is a core reason why so many man live shorter and more unhappy lives. The thinking that drives the Man Box is a bigoted, fear based siege mentality that actually makes men weaker. Stepping out of this generations old club of bullies is where empowerment lies, because it acknowledges that we are social creatures who’s strengths lie in collaboration. When we collaborate instead of dominate, we rise into our better natures and live much more satisfying lives.

    • One of us is going to have to figure out a new handle. I’ve been commenting as CW or cw for quite a while…wouldnt want you to get confused with me. I’ll figure out something new…

      • CW The Usurper says:

        Sorry, cw. I will find a new nickname. I don’t comment enough to merit you changing a longstanding identity.

  5. “If he happens to get aggressive, belligerent, or violent sometimes, well, that’s just the price of real masculinity…”

    Brilliant, insightful writing…! It will be a bittersweet, yet more peaceful, holiday this year as we celebrate without the confusing and turbulent drama of some toxic friends (frenemies, really) who were still in our lives until several months ago….I walked past one old toxic friend while passing through one car to the next on the commuter train this week…he cast his gaze down with his baseball cap on as I walked by…too ashamed to meet my direct gaze…(he made attempts to disrupt my family as his own exploded around him…he is twice divorced and married to his third and mute wife)….Mark, thank you for writing this….I realize I have been blaming myself for a long time…and really, the truncated relationship had nothing to do with me….the baseball cap frenemy had a lot going on before he knew us and we were just too nice to call him out on his B.S….definitely not fair to take out one’s frustrations out on the people close to you….and I see the relationship patterns (he has battled other people in his life when the real targets of his rage lie in his father, his ex-wives, and whoever…)…the man box is definitely very isolating…he has driven away a lot of people….perhaps testing their limits….

    Some men are very scary close up…sometimes it is so much safer to stay away at a distance….the seemingly uncontrollable rage needs a punching bag, and it doesn’t care if it’s a family member or a friend….

  6. Mark makes some cogent points but the analysis is stunted because it presumes that the only brand of masculinity that exists is,for lack of a better term, white and American. Intersectionality was supposed to fix this problem in liberal analysis of gender and other social issues. It has not.

    The constitution created the framework of laws that then created the institutional hierarchies that still exist today.

    If we agree, on MLK day, that black people were not even enfranchised until the passage of the Civil Rights Act in ’64,obviously all men are similarly advantaged. Most social scientists agree that there are multiple brands of masculinity at play in American culture.Ther analysis presumes that all men adhere to mainstream values of masculinity. They don’t. Until men from the dominate masculinity make room for and learn from the voices of men from subordinate strains of masculinity, there can never be such a thing as “all men’.


  1. […] Man Box: The Link Between Emotional Suppression and Male Violence […]

  2. […] Man Box: The Link Between Emotional Suppression and Male Violence […]

  3. […] Man Box is a set of rigid expectations that define what a “real man” is, particularly in American culture. A real man is strong and stoic. He doesn’t show emotions other than anger and excitement. He is […]

  4. […] Man Box: The Link Between Emotional Suppression and Male Violence […]

  5. […] Man Box: The Link Between Emotional Suppression and Male Violence […]

  6. […] Man Box is a set of rigid expectations that define what a “real man” is, particularly in American culture. A real man is strong and stoic. He doesn’t show emotions other than anger and excitement. He is […]

  7. […] Man Box: The Link Between Emotional Suppression and Male Violence […]

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