#WearOrange weekend: The Man Box and Male Violence

I’m wearing orange this weekend to remember the thousands of Americans who die each year due to gun violence.

Mass shootings are far, far too common in the United States — and they are almost always committed by men. There have been 161 mass shootings (with four or more people shot) in the U.S. so far in 2019. That’s more than one per day. And 97% of all mass shootings since 1982 were committed by men (usually white men).

Many people associate #WearOrange weekend with gun safety legislation. But that’s not what I’m writing about today. I’m writing about the role of men in perpetuating violence and our opportunity to end it — together.

Why are these tragedies happening so often? And why are they almost always committed by men? The answer, in part, is inside the Man Box.

I coined the term The Man Box back in the mid 1990s to refer to the collective socialization of men. Boys are discouraged from showing emotion by the time they are of school age. We push our boys beyond their feelings to aggression and they see it reflected back to them in video games, music, movies, and pornography. The teachings of the Man Box create a damaging cycle of harm — from insecurity and pain and shame to detachment and — too often — violence.

This pain, insecurity and shame are echoed in the words of many mass shooters. Their vengeance is a proclaimed retaliation for rejection, for the rise of feminism, and in seeking to recreate a place where they again have the power and control.

A heart-wrenching new article from the Washington Post tells the story of a man who was driven by a deep hatred of women to kill two people and wound five others at a Tallahassee yoga studio — and the deeply disturbing male supremacist movement that celebrated him. His story is an extreme example of male supremacy and its dangerous connections to hate of all kinds.

Read the article here »

We know the vast majority of men are not violent. We know mass shooters are the exception. But we also know that the Man Box often plays a role in the pain they feel and the pain they cause.

Understanding, practicing, and promoting healthy manhood is the solution to prevent violence in our communities — from bullying and verbal abuse to mass shootings. Healthy manhood relieves men and boys of a lifetime of trying to measure up, of trying to be man enough, of endless performance and constant suppression of emotion — all at the expense of the women, girls, LGBQ, trans, and gender-nonconforming people, as well as other men and boys.

In the wake of each shooting, we’re left wondering what we can do to go beyond thoughts and prayers. One action I urge all of us to take is to think about how the Man Box plays a role in our lives and our communities, how we might be perpetrating its teachings, and how we can move beyond it.

Speak to boys and men in your life about expressing emotion, about valuing and respecting women and girls. There’s an urgent need for us to create a more peaceful society together, and it won’t happen unless we break out of the Man Box.