Stepping Out Of The Man Box
“Girls can wear jeans and cut their hair short, wear shirts and boots, ‘cause it’s OK to be a boy, but for a boy to look like a girl is degrading, ‘cause you think that being a girl is degrading.” –The Cement Garden.
Within the United States, the social expectations of what it means to “be a woman” or to “be a man” reside in two very distinct black and white boxes. Each box holds certain behaviors, which are socially appropriate for men and women to adhere by. Obviously, these expectations have a profound influence on our sexuality and generate certain behaviors. Through stereotypical gender roles, we are socialized to glorify masculinity and degrade femininity within our society. What happens when these roles are embraced? Tony Porter once gave a speech on Ted.com tilted “A Call to Men,” where he stated, “See collectively, we as men are taught to have less value in women, to view them as property and the objects of men. We see that as an equation that equals violence against women.”
The United States has the highest incidence of rape of all Western nations and the Centers for Disease Control reports that men’s violence against women is the number one health concern for women in the U.S. and abroad. Why? Anthropologist Dr. Sanday compared the incidences of rape in 95 societies. Her research indicated that the frequency of rape was influenced most by the nature of the relations between the sexes, the status of women, and the attitudes that boys acquire during their developmental years. Her studies further demonstrated that “rape-prone” societies tolerate and glorify masculine violence, encourage boys to be aggressive, view physical force as natural and exemplary, demean the role of women in economic and political aspects of life, and avoid “women’s work,” such as raising children and household chores.
Does this sound familiar? Within the United States, we teach males that being aggressive and forceful is the winning formula for how to “be a man.” Inevitably, many men struggle against the paradigm of “macho” conditioning (strong, independent, virile and dominant) and are socialized to be unemotional. The fear of being labeled a “sissy” drives the healthy expression of emotions deep within, left to fester. Strict adherence to these gender roles confines the way we express our sexuality; therefore, challenging these gender roles and questioning what it really means to “be a man” should be embraced.
- Baur, K., & Crooks, R. Our Sexuality. Belmont, CA: Wadworth, Cengage Learning. 2011.
- Kivel, P. Men’s Work: How to Stop the Violence That Tears Our Lives Apart. Center City, MN: Hazelden. 1992.
- Porter, T. (2010, December). Tony Porter: A call to men . In Technology, Education and Design. Retrieved May 22, 2011, from http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/tony_porter_a_call_to_men.html
- Sanday, P. (1981). The sociocultural context of rape: A cross-cultural study. Journal of Social Issues, 37, 5-27.
For more info, contact Dr. Tory Clark at (775) 843-9593.