Millions of Men Can’t See the Violence We’re Doing to Ourselves
It’s what Niobe Way calls a “crisis of connection.”
Our culture of masculinity is dominance-based. Which means boys and men are trained to validate their masculinity by dominating those around them including women. The result is that beginning in infancy, boys are bullied out of human connection and community. By the time boys reach late adolescence, their suicide rates become four times that of girls their age. It’s what Niobe Way calls a “crisis of connection.”
While tens of thousands of men and women are working to replace man box culture with a masculine culture of connection most boys are still at the mercy of the man box. I certainly was.
What’s worse, is that our dominance-based Man Box culture of masculinity is so universal. It’s the water we swim in, the air we breathe. So much so that most men don’t even know that it exists. We see the culture that shaped our ideas about what it means to be a man as simply as “my identity.” This means that when women call out our dominant or abusive behavior, we take it as a personal attack. Defensiveness is a clear marker of dominance culture. “I’m never wrong.”
If men can’t see the violence Man Box culture is creating in our own lives, we certainly won’t see the violence it’s doing to those we love, and to those we’ve never even met. Which is why it’s so deeply frustrating to watch some men do violence to themselves over and over.
I would ask this of any man reading this. If a women says “please don’t do that” and you feel anger welling up, self-reflect. Ask yourself “why?” This is the crucial question that men in the Man Box are never encouraged to ask. “Why do I get angry when I’m asked to change my behavior?” It’s the key to everything. The key to ending our isolation, our anxiety, and our fear that we’re never enough no matter how hard we try.
I say it’s the key to everything for this reason. It is in the back and forth of creating agreements with others that we form healthy mutually-empowering relationships. When we co-design our agreements with others about how to be in personal and professional relationships with them, we move away from role based connection and in to something much deeper and more resilient.
The loss of human connection forced on men by Man Box culture leaves us reactive and easily angered. Breaking out of the Man Box means leaning into connection which by definition means listening to and caring for others. The result, we also get cared for. We are able to enter a healthy cycle of caring in our personal and professional relationships.
So, men, the next time you feel that anger rise up when someone asks you to change your behavior, ask yourself
1) Why am I quick to get angry?
2) Is this anger serving me or ruling me?
3) What will happen if I instead try to be open to what is being asked of me?
To do this requires we do our men’s work. To unpack all the trauma and harm done to us by our dominance-based culture of masculinity beginning when we were too young to even know what was happening. This is what men’s work is about. Unpacking our own histories.
There is no other path out of the Man Box but to self reflect. To name our challenges, pain, trauma. Over time to own them. And some day to move them on. Men are waiting to do this work with us. Good men in organizations like HUMEN and The Mankind Project are ready to help. There are many others. Find the one that fits for you.
Want to get a sense of how it feels to break out of Man Box culture? → Join Charles Matheus, Boysen Hodgson and myself on Oct 1st, (or any day you can, we’re there every two weeks) on Clubhouse for “Emotional Leadership Practice” — We’re helping men understand how it feels to create a masculinity of connection. ALL GENDERS WELCOME. Speak or just listen. https://www.clubhouse.com/join/remaking-manhood/LA2cEbRe/xlyrwBJX