The first time I watched the TEDx speech ”A call to men” by Tony Porter was in late 2010. This speech opened my eyes to the concept of the ”man box”. Porter argues that there is a destructive concept of what it means to be a man, and this is what he calls the ”man box.” Tony Porter makes a call to men to stop acting ”like a man” because what men have learned about what it means to be a man simply isn’t true. We’re all living up to this image, this limiting image that men has to be aggressive, that men can’t be emotionally expressive and that a man has to toughen up.
For me, Porters call was a wake-up call, and I got struck when Porter shares his story about a 10-year-old boy who says that it would destroy him if his friends in his football team would call him a girl. It struck me that I would be raising my son to live a life inside the ”man box” if I didn’t make some changes in my life.
You see, I did not get raised in a ghetto, my story is very different from Porters, however, yet so familiar. I’ve also been taught to keep my feelings on the inside; I’ve was taught that a man doesn’t cry. I’ve also been taught to be aggressive and dominating, and I don’t want to pass this on to the next generation.
Now, Porter connects this ”man box” to men’s disrespect, mistreatment and abuse of women and each other. He also relates it to porn, rape and violence towards women and rightly so. A person, of any sex, has to cut off the connection to his or her heart to be able to violate another human being. Today we teach our boys that he needs to cut off his heart to be a man, and this has to change.
Although Porter’s call to us men focus mostly on the destructive sides of masculine socialization, the point he is making is accurate in my point of view. And even though Porter’s speech is hovering mostly around violence and abuse I choose to be optimistic about our future, we can create new and much wider “boxes” for our boys to grow in. However, we need new guidelines, new role models and a much wider perception of manhood. We try to find answers to some of these important questions at Mensmovement.com.
Tony Porter leads the American NGO A Call to men aiming at reducing violence and sexual abuse against women.