A Man’s Role in Social Change

Tony Porter references “the man box” as a list of assumed characteristics of a man that are imposed upon men through socialization. He talks throughout the video about this stereotype of men that they cannot show weakness because this shows vulnerability, and this leaves the individual’s identity susceptible to attack. Therefore, the remedy provided by this stereotype is to stuff down emotions repress them, and the repression of emotion is a prized characteristic among men; it illustrates what means to be a ‘man’ because it is supposed to illustrate strength. However, I believe it does quite the opposite.

Suppressing emotion does not show strength, it shows cowardice. The acceptance of emotions and walking out into the uncharted waters of vulnerability show courage and bravery. Real strength lies in the ability to be comfortable and secure, while simultaneously being vulnerable. I believe we should be fostering the traits of resiliency, sensitivity, hardiness and adaptive self-regulation in both men and women. However, the dominant narrative self-perpetuates through culture.

My mom was the strongest caregiver of my life and my most influential role model. She encouraged the idea that there are times to be tough and there are times to sensitive. But toughness was not strength and sensitivity was not weakness. Instead, she prized perseverance as strength. It was not about never having problems or being invincible to struggles; it was about addressing them and handling them properly. It was not about not having fear; it was about handling fear with courage.

However, I still have to work to overcome what feels like a built in script of this “man box.” It serves as a point of reference – a template for ‘manliness.’ A template that I believe has largely been impressed upon me through a combination of cultural influence and socialization. I think much of this idea of “manhood” is transmitted unconsciously and, therefore, only resolved through awareness. However, awareness alone is not enough to uproot erroneous world views. It also requires action. Tony Porter’s uses his horrific anecdote to demonstrate how all men take part in this “collective socialization” which allows for violence against women. Therefore, it is the impetus of all men to change this social paradigm.

Reference: https://www.ted.com/talks/tony_porter_a_call_to_men