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

man box photo by gingerpig2000

Mark Greene explores the Man Box, and how it leads to policing of behavior that dares to fall outside the boundaries of traditional masculinity.

Humankind is in the throes of a savage epidemic. It is a blight on every continent and is at the heart of every bloody war and every catastrophic environmental disaster. It reigns over the bodies of Trevon Martin and Matthew Shepard alike. It is an illness that has been with us since we came down out of the trees and its time to shake it off before it kills us all. Human beings are cursed with a marked tendency to track, identify and condemn difference. We do it every minute of every day of our lives. And we need to stop. Because if we don’t, all of us, learn to embrace the full range of human expression, cultures, race and religions we are not going to make it. We’re just not.

“Real man”, as defined by the Man Box, represents what is supposedly normative and acceptable within the tightly controlled performance of American male masculinity.

In America, we have many ways of isolating and attacking difference. For American men, the social mechanism many have come to call the Man Box is the dominant frame for performing masculinity. Charlie Glickman writes eloquently about it in his article titled Escape the “Act Like a Man” Box.  Glickman prefers the phrase “Act like a Man Box” over simply “Man Box” because he views masculinity as something we men perform, much like an actor performs a theatrical role. I agree with him. The fact is, men can choose to perform masculinity in any way they like. Which makes the Man Box all the more tragic. It is a choice.

According to Glickman and others, the Man Box is a set of rigid expectations that define what a “real man” is. A real man is strong and stoic. He doesn’t show emotions other than anger and excitement. He is a breadwinner. He is heterosexual. He is able-bodied. He plays or watches sports. He is the dominant participant in every exchange. He is a firefighter, a lawyer, a CEO. He is a man’s man. And whether or not we’d actually want to spend any time with him, we all know who he is.

This “real man”, as defined by the Man Box, represents what is supposedly normative and acceptable within the tightly controlled performance of American male masculinity. He dominates our movies and television. He defines what we expect from our political leaders. He is the archetypal sports star. He is our symbol for what is admirable and honorable in American men. And if he happens to get aggressive, belligerent and violent some times, well, that’s just the price of real masculinity.

And to be clear, although the Man Box defines and enforces what is considered to be “real manhood” women are as culpable as men in the policing and the enforcing of its harsh rules. When American men attempt to express masculinity in more diverse ways, it can often be the women in their lives who force them back into the Box. This can be due to fears of economic and social isolation or out of a refusal by those women to engage in the kind of self reflective emotional discourses that exiting the Man Box can trigger.

The Man Box is sustained by both men and women. It will take a concentrated effort by both men and women to dismantle its abusive grip on our daily lives.

Policing for Conformity

If the Man Box was simply about performing its constrained version of masculinity it would not be so problematic. But one very specific requirement of the Man Box is its highly aggressive critique of those who do not perform gender according to its rules. This policing of difference monitors the behavior of those both internal and external to the Man Box. It relies on a wide range of criteria to do so. Criteria which typically includes the overarching biases of  homophobia, racism, sexism and religious bigotry. But these overarching criteria are only a fraction of the full range of policing triggers. Policing is also applied on randomly subjective levels; being triggered by differences as minute as the color of a person’s shirt or how they might carry a book. In the Man Box, deviation from what is deemed normative, no matter how minute the deviation, is tracked and policed.

People who are labeled as sexually, racially, economically or socially non-normative become targets. And the attacks they face from both men and women who locate masculinity inside the Man Box can be brutal, even homicidal.

People who are labeled as sexually, racially, economically or socially non-normative become targets. And the attacks they face from both men and women who locate masculinity inside the Man Box can be brutal, even homicidal. Why does the Man Box dictate attacking difference? Is the Man Box’s ultimate goal to create a completely uniform culture?

Actually, no. Insuring universal conformity is not the purpose of the Man Box, it is the need to police that defines the Man Box. The Man Box exists to accrue power upward in its internal hierarchy and it does so by isolating men emotionally and then channeling their resulting anger into the repetitious and addictive act of policing and punishing others. Policing ranges from dismissal, sarcasm and contempt, to economic violence, physical brutality and murder.

Micro Aggression and the Man Box

The level of conformity needed in order to be fully accepted within the Man Box is not, in fact, possible to achieve. The more that men and women are herded toward conformity, the more slight the differences that are needed to trigger comment, harassment or attack. This is because the purpose of the Man Box is not to achieve social conformity. The purpose of the man box is to target difference and grant permission for acting out aggression. This self-perpetuating closed loop of emotional suppression, reactivity and policing is constantly taking place even among groups of men who reside entirely within the Man Box.

The level of conformity needed in order to be fully accepted within the Man Box is not, in fact, possible to achieve.

Take five of these men in a group. Put them in a bar. Much of their dialogue will center around the question of who gets to define the local standards for conformity. It can play out as follows:

Frank enters and approaches his friends. He is wearing a Dallas Cowboys shirt. All turn and say hello. Dan, who is wearing a New York Giants shirt says, “Frank, what the fuck? The Cowboys suck, dude.” Dan is smiling, but the message is clear. I’m dominant here. I’m the alpha. This is central to how the Man Box functions as a hierarchical system. Someone is always on top. Power and influence flows to him.

The other men in the group do a quick calculation. Is supporting the Cowboys not normative? The issue may play out as regional or based on the team’s win-loss record. Or the men in the group may know that Dan is more aggressive and don’t want to challenge him. Within seconds they chime in.

“Dude, the cowboys suck.” There is laughter all around. Frank shrugs off the aggression. He remains in the group. This momentary marking of difference plays out as a reinforcement of the group integrity and an indication of Dan’s alpha status within the group. The one thing Frank is not allowed to do is to exhibit emotional distress. His feelings can not be seen to be hurt. He is allowed to show aggression or disinterest but nothing else. In passing this test, he remains in the group.

This dance plays out dozens of time each hour. As more alcohol is consumed, the group’s interactions may become more volatile. It is a closed loop of internal judgement and policing which, at any moment, can switch its focus to external judgement. This constant internal policing within the Man Box is stress-inducing for all but those at the top of the hierarchical pyramid. Which makes the moment that policing goes external to the Man Box a great relief for those at the bottom of the pecking order. As such, they are always on the hunt for an external target. This is the most powerful factor which encourages marking and attacking others.

Empathy and the Man Box

Men who suffer from a lack of emotional connection typically struggle with higher levels of stress, alcoholism, drug abuse, violence, failed relationships and shorter lifespans.

Men who inhabit the Man Box exist in an unyielding web of micro aggressions and finely tuned conformities. Accordingly, the Man Box is both emotionally and relationally isolating. It does not encourage community through empathy or emotional connectivity. Men in the Man Box are “stoic” and “self reliant”. They do not reveal their deeper fears or insecurities. Accordingly, their hidden emotional landscape and the issues that arise from it are rarely addressed or resolved. Men who suffer from a lack of emotional connection typically struggle with higher levels of stress, alcoholism, drug abuse, violence, failed relationships and shorter lifespans.

Because the man box thrives on attacking difference, empathy and tolerance of diversity represent direct threats to the othering the Man Box requires to acquire external targets for policing. Inside the Man Box, men must be ready to join in the escalation of what Glickman calls “the performance of manhood” without hesitation or risk being cast out. This performance of manhood can range from conforming to a sports focused social culture to attacking a transexual person in a back alley.

Glickman writes, “The (Man) Box is one of main reasons why men harass women on the street and why catcalling and violence tends to escalate when men are in groups. Since the Box is hierarchical as well as performative, the guy at the bottom of the heap is at risk of being cast out. So each guy has to compete with the others in order to not be the one who’s outside the Box. And as each one’s performance becomes more vigorous, it forces the others to do the same.”

Ultimately, the internal pressure to police leaves men little choice but to attack what they are told to attack. As their capacity to connect emotionally is suppressed and their dependence on the narcotic thrill of attacking others is constantly reinforced, the stage is set for disastrous results in the social, political, religious and corporate cultures these men inhabit.

Corporations and the Man Box

It should come as no surprise that the Man Box blends itself quite seamlessly into the internal workings of corporate, political, religious and military institutions. The capacity it provides to reinforce conformity and obedience is particularly useful in rigid top down hierarchal command structures. The downside is the systemic suppression of creativity, individual initiative, and risk taking. Yet another depleting impact of this way of being.

Those who are not directly aligned with corporate leadership deserve to suffer; or worse, should actively be punished.

The illegal and unethical behavior by big banks like JP Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs in the lead up to the subprime mortgage collapse is the result of corporate cultures that continue to elevate their own interests above those of even their own clients. This capacity to dismiss ethical and moral responsibilities on a corporate scale is clearly a by-product of a culture of othering by which those who do not reside within a corporate culture have little value beyond being disposable sources of revenue. In corporations where the Man Box is embedded in the dominant organizing structures, corporate executives dismiss the interests of those who are outside the organization, often placing them in a collective adversarial category, in which those who are not directly aligned with corporate leadership deserve to suffer; or worse, should actively be punished.

A startling glimpse of this institutionalized punishment dynamic was revealed in 2004 when CBS News gained access to tapes of Enron energy traders who, after artificially spiking energy prices that had plunged California into rolling blackouts, then laughed at the results.

CBS reported:

During California’s rolling blackouts, when streets were lit only by head lights and families were trapped in elevators, Enron Energy traders laughed, reports CBS News Correspondent Vince Gonzales.

One trader is heard on tapes obtained by CBS News saying, “Just cut ‘em off. They’re so f—-d. They should just bring back f—–g horses and carriages, f—–g lamps, f—–g kerosene lamps.”

And when describing his reaction when a business owner complained about high energy prices, another trader is heard on tape saying, “I just looked at him. I said, ‘Move.’ (laughter) The guy was like horrified. I go, ‘Look, don’t take it the wrong way. Move. It isn’t getting fixed anytime soon.”

California’s attempt to deregulate energy markets became a disaster for consumers when companies like Enron manipulated the West Cost power market and even shut down plants so they could drive up prices.

To hear audio of Enron employees blaming the victims of Enron’s morally corrupt policies listen here.

The repetitive policing and punishing of others which takes place at the personal level in the Man Box ultimately can underpin entire institutional cultures which, in turn, dehumanize and prey on others on a vast scale.

The repetitive policing and punishing of others which takes place at the personal level in the Man Box ultimately underpins entire institutional cultures which, in turn, dehumanize and prey on others on a vast scale, resulting in economic, environmental and military violence. When individual othering goes global: the poor on other continents are defined as different and deserving of their suffering. Entire continents are marginalized and the body counts can run into the millions.

When the Man Box informs the worldview of those at the top of our private or public institutions, those institutions are automatically aligned against any who are not white, male, American, Christian, employed and so on. As private institutions like corporations undermine our global economic stability with impunity, public institutions like the US House of Representatives, lately a bastion of Man Box style thinking, attack the safety nets meant to cushion populations from the vicious boom and bust cycles unregulated corporate malfeasance creates. We all suffer the effects of this catastrophic othering, whether it is pollution and unemployment here, or endless military engagements overseas. Military engagements in places where drone strikes create “collateral human damage”, but that’s acceptable because it’s happening to “them”, and they are not like us. And in so much as economic and military violence are ongoing to this very day, we all are, on some level, able to collectively other those who lie below us on the global economic ladder

The Man Box and the Devil’s Bargain

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.

The Man Box told men in the last century that they were the king of their castles. 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. The Man Box granted legions of men permission to dish out whatever dictums they saw fit to their wives and children. Dictums that could range from the benevolent to the brutal. But even as women have gained significant degrees of economic freedom, corporations have abandoned the basic social contract with us all, no longer providing job security in any way shape or form. This alone has broken the central compact of the Man Box leaving many men economically powerless; operating in emotional spaces where they have to develop new and powerful interpersonal skills or risk the collapse of their families, social networks and personal identity.

The devil’s bargain of the Man Box is directly tied to privilege, patriarchy and the good old boys club. It is at the root of the glass ceiling and the backlash against women’s rights. When politicians stand up and say that the poor don’t want to work or that gay marriage will undermine the family, they speak from within the brittle confines of the Man Box. But we live in an age of change. The promise of the Man Box is collapsing under its own belligerent weight; under the litany of broken promises from elites who have abandoned even the slightest illusion of responsibility toward American families.What we need now is a more purposeful acknowledgment of our exit from the Man Box and all its attendant costs.

Additionally, as we continue to mark and address privilege, we need to take into account the relative rise of women and the fragmentation of the monolithic male patriarchy into to newer hybrid of elites drawn from men and women from across a range of races and cultures. The implications of patriarchy remain valid, that is, the damage done by those who condemn and attack difference, but the method of engaging it both institutionally and interpersonally need to evolve past a simple male/female binary or we risk punishing men (and women) who are actually on the leading edge of progress toward a more egalitarian gender and culture dynamic.

A Vast Landscape of Opportunity

In a time of social and economic upheaval, what may seem like  a raft of challenges for men and women actually represents a vast landscape of opportunity. The Man Box’s promise of economic security in exchange for social conformity is crumbling. Pension funds are collapsing. Jobs are gone overseas. Where there once was a promise of career security there is now none. The cheese that baited the Man Box trap is gone.

Into the vacuum of these broken social contracts, a new breed of men (and women) are emerging, as a generation of men have stepped out of the grey confines of old school corporate America and are seeking more personally meaningful lives…

Into the vacuum of these broken social contracts, a new breed of men and women are emerging. Among these are men who work as full time parents. Men who take joy in supporting their families emotionally as well as financially. Men who are struggling to end the rigid gender roles that our culture continues to force on their sons and daughters. Men who express gender in much more diverse ways.

Change is happening because a generation of men have stepped out of the grey confines of old school corporate America and are seeking more personally meaningful lives, either with companies that take a progressive view of their responsibilities in the world, or by finding entirely alternative ways to earn and live.

The work of undoing the Man Box and all it represents is ongoing. We  must model for our sons and daughters how to connect emotionally, how to encourage the entire diverse range of what it can mean to be a man and how to enjoy caring for the world instead of seeking to dominate it. We can support companies that value diversity and social justice. We can invest in more locally based economies around how we buy food and services. The voices that are calling for better more diverse lives for us all are growing daily. And while the halls of power continue to preach hate and policing, vast subterranean economic and cultural changes are in motion that will end the primacy of the Man Box once and all.

For us men, its about making the conscious choice to live fuller and more emotionally rewarding lives. With that simple choice, change for the better follows.

“There’s nothin’ in the world so sad as talking to a man
Who never knew his life was his for making.”

Ray Lamontagne, Old Before Your Time (click here to listen)

Follow Mark Greene on Twitter: 


 

More by Mark Greene:

How America’s Culture of Shame is a Killer for Boys

The Culture of Shame: Men, Love, and Emotional Self-Amputation

The Man Box: Why Men Police and Punish Others
“Every time you do this, you become less free. A rat in a cage. A dog on a chain. A prisoner.”

Why Men’s Friendships Can Feel Empty

What Are You Doing To A Man When You Call Him A Good Provider?

And Then I See Him Laughing—A Father’s Message for the New Year

Touch Isolation: Insisting Boys Learn Independence Creates an Isolating Trap for Men

The Lack of Gentle Platonic Touch in Men’s Lives is a Killer

Touch Isolation: How Homophobia Has Robbed All Men of Touch

Boys and Self-Loathing: The Conversations That Never Took Place

Our Society’s Brutal Economic Message to Straight Men About Expressing Gender Differently: You’d Better Not…

The Lego Rebellion, Vladimir Putin and the “You Might Be Gay” Dinner Conversation

The Dark Side of Women’s Requests of Progressive Men

The Last Late Show With My Father

 

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About Mark Greene

GMP Senior Editor Mark Greene writes and speaks on Men's Issues at the intersection of society, politics, relationships and parenting for the Good Men Project, the New York Times, The Shriver Report, Salon, HLN, The Huffington Post, and Mamamia. You can follow him on Twitter @megaSAHD and Google.
Click here to read more GMP articles by Mark Greene. Get Mark's fully illustrated children's book FLATMUNDER for iPad from iTunes about kid's fears and the power of play. For kids ages 4-8.

Comments

  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’.

    • My post should read all men are not similarly advantaged.

    • I don’t think Mark’s post “presumes that the only brand of masculinity that exists is,for lack of a better term, white and American”. He can only write from his own experience in the USA, so it would be improper to make any claims beyond that. And he specifically calls out the Man Box as having a racial hierarchy along with its other hierarchies. He doesn’t believe that white is the only brand, he just (accurately) recognizes that in this country, white is treated as the norm. He’s not promoting that, he’s saying it’s a problem. Though there are many definitions and forms of masculinity, white, WASPy masculinity is what is considered the top of the artificial Man Box hierarchy. There’s no presumption that “all men adhere to” any one version of masculinity, just that the pressure exists to conform to policing the definition of masculinity.

      • Mark Greene says:

        Thanks, JBeau,
        In naming a set of conditions for the man box, I don not mean to imply that all men inside or outside the man box are to be classified as making up a few simple groups. Quite the contrary. The fact is, the ways in which the Man Box suppresses men’s diversity is fairly simplistic, but the individuals who are being suppressed are infinitely complex.

  7. Steve White This is a really thought provoking article. It bears a lot of good points, and has some bad ones. I really enjoy the part titled policing for conformity, it brings to mind the idea that men/women are constantly playing an adult game of King/Queen of the Hill when they’re interacting with the same gender either one on one or in groups. The example of the guys in the bar is a great one. I’ve had many experiences like that where the group is an asshole to someone who steps outside their accepted box. Society views men who engage in this hierarchy establishment as “joking around” or “bros giving bros a hard time for good fun” but they’re NOT. It’s establishing whom is the alpha, and who are the beta’s. Much like the “cattiness” and backstabbing in female circles determines whom is the alpha and who are the beta’s. Where does this come from though? I feel like it comes down to sex, as the alphas have the best chances of mating with the best males/females and spreading the best genes (everything comes down to sex). This explains the absent of this behaviour in one on one male female interactions and the amplification of this behaviour in mixed groups.

    Anyways, new paragraph. Empathy and the Man Box is kind of a rehashing of the previous statement, and I actually think the author missed an opportunity here to tie the article back into the title. The emotional stress of being emotionally isolated builds up and explodes like a volcano. The violence that erupts is a symptom of a larger problem. A problem that he doesn’t address. Instead he takes up the mantle of “othering”, and “othering” is such a massive topic (considering everything on this planet all the way down to cells in everything does “othering” in one form or another, it’s what keeps us safe) it seems out of place for such a specific article. This section comes to a head with “Ultimately, the internal pressure to police leaves men little choice but to attack what they are told to attack”. RIGHT THERE! Did you see it? What they are TOLD to attack. Who’s telling them?? WHO. This oversight comes back later in the article to seriously fuck shit up.

    On to Corporations and the Man Box. He’s more or less on it, I mean, “The illegal and unethical behavior by big banks like JP Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs in the lead up to the subprime mortgage collapse is the result of corporate cultures that continue to elevate their own interests above those of even their own clients” is clearly right, “This capacity to dismiss ethical and moral responsibilities on a corporate scale is clearly a by-product of a culture of othering” is wrong! In corporations Greed is king. The culture of Greed and lust for power and money ties back into the adult King of the Hill game. And again WHOM IS TELLING THEM WHO TO ATTACK?!? Who are the others? The othering is just a perverse reaction of the greed. There are a lot of big concepts being brought up here and not being addressed. The rest of this section brings decent examples of corporate othering (caused by greed and lust for power), but fails to tie it back in to the title of the article.

    The devils bargain is where the article breaks apart for me. The author clearly has a dissonance between his understanding of pre-modern times, and he’s mistaking patriarchy with oligarchy <- the whom he failed to explain that is telling men and women who are the others, who to attack. He's writing like men actually had a choice about accepting their rigid work lives, like all the men met up and and said "hey if we accept this rigid work structure, that gives us "permission to dish out whatever dictums [we see] fit to [our] wives and children. Dictums that could range from the benevolent to the brutal." Which is ludicrous. Men were forced by the oligarchy into long hours in the factories because a youth boom and social pressure allowed the children to stop working in the factories. Not only that, in a time before birth control sex had real consequences, if you like someone enough to have sex with them dayum you better be ready to start a family. And hey, the man's gotta work 16 hours at the factories so the kids don't have to, and shit there's no tv, washing machine, dish washer, vacuum, radio, maintaining the house and looking after the kids is a tough gig, 16 hours a day tough. The factories were brutal, and amongst other brutal things, emotionally stifling. This ties back to the idea that a barren emotional landscape builds pressure and explodes, and we all know explosions are not filled with rainbows and butterflies and caring dinner parties.

    The last section is alright, I agree with the optimistic outlook of men freed from the emotional wasteland of grinding at work for a better paycheque and power. I think he got the "because" wrong again. It's not like men are choosing to "step out of the grey confines of old school corporate America" but instead are being forced out, just as they were forced in.

    I enjoyed this article. Its good points outweighed its follies. I think it's VERY pertinent to BOTH men and women and I would have liked to see a section on how women "are as culpable as men in the policing and the enforcing of ["real manhoods"] harsh rules" and how men "are as culpable as women in the policing and the enforcing of ["real womanhoods"] harsh rules". There's an elegant balance there that I feel brings us together as genders an opens up massive understanding.

  8. Robbie Knight says:

    This is a tough balance for women, to support men in coming out of the box. It can be invigorating, it can be disappointing, and it can be dangerous. No tiger waltzes out of a cage-they tend to pounce.

    I’ve been fortunate. I wasn’t brought up to be an ornament. A lot of my friends were boys when I was a kid; I had a decent relationship with my Dad. I’ve been working in a predominantly male field for 30+ years. I don’t think of men as providers, in fact I’ve never been financially supported by a man. But I’ve had, as a serial monogamist, a handful of very good romantic relationships with men. I’ve usually had great relationships with my male bosses.

    So I don’t stereotype men the way many women I know do. I don’t think that a man is supposed to kill the spider or buy dinner every time. In fact, I much prefer to work with men because the ground rules are rules I understand and they don’t shift much, and honor, in a very man-culture way, still does exist in my experience. If you can do the job, that’s what matters. I like the simplicity and, in many ways, the purity of dealing with men. They tend to have a CODE.

    That said, when the ground shakes, when the rules get shaken up, it shakes men to the core, in part because men feel responsible for Fixing The Whole World. It’s why crying at work for women use to be such a taboo, in my opinion: it meant a male coworker suddenly was supposed to rescue you, and you are not there to be rescued-you are there to do a job (for the record, estrogen makes you so MAD at work occasionally that crying can rescue OTHERS from an ugly death. Women often cry to keep themselves from exploding in anger, but you already knew all this). When the old rules and old forms of security and orientation come crashing down it’s very hard for everyone, but especially for those who are responsible for holding them up.

    This can result in all kinds of amazing moments: men confiding, feeling better about crying, men sinking even deeper into the Box, men snarling with hatred, men lashing out with the power of tigers.

    I’ve witnessed this a lot because I was not raised to expect men to be IN the box, but to step aside so they could come out, and also to take responsibility for my own life. As a woman, I’ve been branded as “ferociously independent”, but never “mean”. I LIKE men. I LOVE some of them. I want to be a part of men being themselves, and to contribute to that.

    But it’s not always simple. And sometimes it’s dangerous.

Trackbacks

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  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 […]

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

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