There’s no denying that a box can be a handy thing when used correctly, but I wouldn’t ever want to be trapped in one. So, what is the Man Box?
In his book, Breaking out of the Man Box, Tony Porter describes the man box as the socialization of men. The man box promotes extreme views about women, sex and masculinity.
Think of it of it this way. Have you ever stopped yourself from showing emotion because “real men don’t cry”? Have you ever felt pressured to “put a woman in her place”? Have you ever stepped up to a fight because you needed to prove you were “a real man”? These are just some of the classic hallmarks of the Man Box - the rigid code that “manly” men are expected to live by. It prevents men from expressing themselves the way they would like to and it reinforces the idea that a “real man” has to behave in a certain way to gain the approval of society as a whole. It encourages negative attitudes such as homophobia and sexism, and it frowns on those who would speak out against this kind of behavior. In short, it is a box that many men find themselves trapped in. But there is a way out, a way to emerge from the Man Box and transform it into something useful. The question is: how do I do it?
● There is no right way, just a better way
Knowledge is power. I’ve found the better I am at developing my emotional intelligence the less of a hold the Man Box has over me. When you feel compelled to speak or act in a certain way, stop and ask yourself: Is this how I really feel? Or is this the Man Box pressuring me to conform? Identifying the flaws of the Man Box gives us the power to make a different choice.
● Get to know the dark side of your personality
Like it or not, we all have a darker side to our personality, so take the time to get to know it better. When are you most likely to act in a way that you later regret? Ask yourself what about this is troubling me so much? Do I have a value that is being challenged or violated? Are my values out of sync with my spiritual well-being? Further educating yourself by understanding what makes you tick will give you the power to shatter the Man box if your willing to do the discovery work. Only then will you be able to prevent this behavior from recurring!
As men, we need to speak openly and honestly with other men about how they deal with this sort of thing. Just be sure that the "echo chamber” serves a greater good and not the Man Box.
● Allow bravery to conquer fear
It takes a brave individual to speak out when they see something happening that they know is wrong. Most people will experience fear in this situation, which is why it’s so important to seek advice from others when working through the contents of the Man Box. Identify your fears, get to know your values and really develop strong emotional intelligence skills. These are the keys to successfully overcoming Man Box situations. That is true bravery.
The Man Box has been imprisoning men for centuries; understanding just how flimsy the box is can be the first step towards freeing yourself and others. Allow yourself to show respect for all people. Talk with other men about the limitations of the Man Box. And teach our sons that real bravery happens when we lean into our fears not by avoiding our fears.