This past year’s #MeToo movement has been a powerful coming forward by women to address long-standing gendered abuses about which our society’s norms and institutions have enforced by creating a cultural silence around the issues.
This got us thinking—if men were to come forward with long-standing abuses about which they have long been silent, what would they say?
While it is certainly true that men and boys can be and are sexually abused—and problem of great importance that must be addressed—these abuses do not seem culturally sanctioned and perpetuated by media in the way that the abuse of women is. Rather, the culturally canonized silent abuses of men find their roots in gendered notions of what it means to “be a man,” and the policing of the narrow view of masculinity, which we have referred to as ‘The Man Box.’
We think understanding this framework is important. Men are abused in *different* ways than women—and this abuse is often minimized, because it has become so normalized we barely see it.
— Remember when Mitt Romney was called out for holding down a kid who Mitt thought was gay and cutting his hair? That was abuse of someone for stepping outside of the man-box, abuse rooted in homophobia. But it was minimized and dismissed pretty quickly.
— Football players who are told to “suck it up” and “get back in the game”. Men are encouraged to be heroes—often at the risk of death or irreparable injuries. In the case of football players, it’s brain damage. Knowingly inflicting brain damage on someone else should be seen as abuse. Instead, we call it “football.”
— Men are bombarded with cultural messages telling them to be a financial success at all costs… and if they dare to want to be part of their children’s life, society makes it much more difficult than it should be. The cultural messages are often that men are in some ways less competent as nurturing, engaged, present parents. Emotional abuse by getting in the way of fully realized relationships is abuse too.
— Fraternity hazings. Locker room hazings. Military hazings. A lot of abuse happens those places. They are seen as “behind closed doors” for a reason. Yes, it’s a choice to join those places—but people in those places are held up as “heroes” and “real men”. Somehow, soldiers, football players and frat boys are seen as more “manly men’ than those who are not.
— Abusive fathers. For our first Father’s Day at The Good Men Project, we were shocked to come to understand the level of abuse men had often received from their dads. It was not your typical Hallmark holiday.
— Workplace abuse. This can take the form of bullying, competitiveness, overwork and undue stress. Men often put up with it precisely because of society’s expectation that they will be the “provider” for their family. Men also take on the most dangerous jobs, with the highest amounts of workplace deaths. That’s “man’s work.” Even if it kills them.
— Male victims of sexual abuse are routinely silenced. Although sexual abuse against men is not as common as it is against women—the cultural pressure to stay silent about the abuse is strong and can compound the original damage.
— “Reparative Therapy” for LGBTQ kids, which is often abuse in disguised as morality.
— Normalization and minimization of these abuses by the media.
What do YOU think?
How do we #DetoxTheManBox? If you were to come forward with a long-standing abuse about which you have long been silent, what would you say? Only by sharing these stories, by opening up the national and worldwide conversation, can we #OpenTheManBox and get #OutsideTheManBox.
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