What It Looks Like When a Woman Enforces Man Box Culture
Some intimate partners can be the first to police men back into the box.
Today, a women posted this on twitter. “women are biologically wired to cry more than men. I should be able to trust a male partner’s levelheadedness in joint decisions when I’m beside myself with grief, pregnant, in labour, sleep-deprived, sick, etc. This is very attractive in a male partner!”
To state that women are biologically more prone to emotion than men simply isn’t supported by the research or simple common sense. It’s rooted in the gender binary which itself is deeply harmful. Human beings are diverse, our expression of gender is diverse, our individual levels of emotional expression are trauma informed, diverse, and change day to day, as well as over time.
Biology-based arguments such as this one, that women are biologically more emotional is just one of a wide range of retrogressive biology-based arguments supporting retrogressive masculine ideas. It seeks to paint men as inherently emotionally stoic even as it is deeply disempowering for women, often used as a rationale for the most extremist views of gender. “Women are too emotional to be good leaders,” being the first among them.
Biology-based reinforcements of Man Box culture, our dominant cultural rules of masculinity, are rooted in ideas of masculinity that are harmful to all of us. So, a hard pass on that part of her statement.
But what she is doing here points to a huge challenge that some men will face when we seek to do our work and shift towards a healthier more expressive and connecting version of masculinity. Namely that the women in our lives seek to police us back into the man box if we start to show too much emotion.
It’s important to understand that men who have yet to do the work (therapy, men’s groups, etc.) that many of us need to do to transcend the trauma inflicted on us by our man box culture of masculinity, will often feel immense grief when we begin this work. It is emotionally front loaded. Our grief is rooted in the realization of the cost of our culturally enforced emotional isolation over the course of our lives.
Author and researcher Niobe Way says our culture’s message to boys to hide our emotions, to be invulnerable, is traumatizing. A man’s decision to reconnect with emotional expression/connection will reflect the grief of decades of the loss of it. To emerge from isolation will include grief and crying and rightfully so.
Additionally, we are quick to frame discussions of men’s emotional expression as “men crying.” Man Box culture’s suppression of male emotional expression suppresses the full range of emotional aspects in men. Empathy, joy, giddiness, delight, all the deeply human aspects we see displayed abundantly in young boys. The loss of this level of expression and the isolation it creates in men’s lives has a measurable impact on our quality of life, success and longevity. The degree to which it contributes to male anxiety, reactivity and violence cannot be understated.
A big part of making the shift a healthy culture of masculine connection is for all of us to redefine masculine strength from false notions of emotional stoicism and dominance to those of masculine connection and community. Millions of men are choosing a healthier culture of masculinity. As front loaded work, this can be very emotional for us, but the result is more connected mutually empowering personal and professional relationships over the course of our remaining lives.
As promising as healthy masculine change can be in the men we love, it is also challenging, because it can require significant change of us as well. What we are able to witness, what we are able to hold space for.
Be we men, women or non-binary people, being in close proximity to a man doing his work, means we can find ourselves needing to do work of our own. When the agreements and balance begins to shift it can be unsettling, unknowable. But it is human work and powerful.
I did this work myself.
If you are a man seeking to do this work. To reconnect with your full range of human expression/connection, I recommend men’s work with organizations like the Mankind Project. There are many more. Remarkable men are waiting to welcome you in those organizations.
Learn more about our dominance-based Man Box culture of masculinity, how it blocks men from connection and harms all those whose lives we impact. Get your copy of Mark Greene’s The Little #MeToo Book for Men. Follow Mark on most social media platforms @RemakingManhood.