Women challenging men’s abusive behavior doesn’t mean women hate us. But for some men, losing the right to dominate women can feel like loss of identity. When dominating women is central to our performance of manhood, having the power to do so taken away leaves men unsure of who we are.
This is why too many men become enraged when our abuse is blocked by women’s growing equity and power. Raised in dominance-based Man Box masculinity, millions of us never learned the relational capacities we need to form fully authentic balanced relationships. Dominance/anger is all we have.
Among the capacities boys in Man Box culture are blocked from developing are care-giving, empathy, emotional expression, holding uncertainty, and caring for relationships. Wrongly gendered as “feminine capacities” the suppression of these capacities leave us equity illiterate.
It also leaves men deeply isolated. We can’t form authentic healthy friendships with men we exercise dominance over any more than those who exercise power over us. The dog-eat-dog hierarchy of the Man Box leaves men anxiety ridden, competing, distrusting each other, disconnected.
Eventually men trapped in the dominance-based hierarchy of Man Box culture find ourselves in crisis. To arrive at old age, or a major illness, or divorce or loss of employment without a community of authentic male friendships to resource us, means men in Man Box culture crash and crash hard. It’s a recipe for failure and despair. The disconnection it creates is driving our epidemic levels of suicide among men, especially those of us who are older.
Some men, when they hit their crisis, finally start self reflecting, asking hard questions, taking stock. Some of these men seek out men’s groups like The Mankind Project to do their work, to grow, to create community. Some find a therapist. Other get books. There are many ways to begin our work.
But some men hit their crisis and they do what Man Box culture taught them over the course of their lives. They double down on dominance. They blame women, immigrants, BIPOC, anyone but themselves. They rage and attack. Some turn that rage on themselves, commit suicide. But any one of us can take the first path not the second.
It is never to early or too late to start our men’s work. To undo the disconnection that domination-based masculinity has created in our lives. All we have to do is say, “I’m tired of living this way.” Men are waiting to do this work with us.
If you want peace brothers, all you have to do is open that door. But we have to make the choice to do so. We have to realize we have been bullied by Man Box culture into swapping the fundamental joy of human connection for an empty, isolating, alpha male pecking order.
Men have been cheated. Not by women, immigrants, or people who don’t look like us. The drumbeat of male rage that floods our media and surges up in our national politics is rooted in the collective self-alienation and social isolation that defines our culture of masculinity.
Each of us must make the personal decision to break out of the Man Box; to create a healthy masculinity of expression/connection. Until we do, we will continue to be cheated out of our birthright of community and connection and everyone else will keep paying the price.
Previously Published on Medium