Inside the Box: Violence and Masculinity

Violence against women is a problem in many countries around the world, and statistics indicate the situation isn’t improving. The American Psychology Association estimates that at least three women are murdered by boyfriends, husbands or exes every day in United States. One in four women have experienced violence at the hands of a current or former boyfriend or husband at some point in their lives.

Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44 in the United States. World-wide, it is estimated that half of all female victims of homicide were killed by a family member of intimate partner.

Tony Porter believes that the ways men are socialized is the foundation of the culture of violence against women. Porter is an activist, teacher, and co-founder of A Call to Men: The National Association of Men and Women Committed to Ending Violence Against Women.

In a recent TED talk, Porter uses the concept of the “Man Box” to describe a group of masculine stereotypes that hold men and boys to a certain set of standards. Men and boys, Porter says, are expected to be aggressive, domineering and athletic and to never show emotion, except for anger. Women are weak, inferior and less valuable.

This type of thinking, Porter says, “Paralyzes us and holds us hostage.” Porter has worked with groups of men, including the NFL (National Football League), NBA (National Basketball Association), the U.S. Naval Academy and numerous universities and colleges around the world. He encourages men to redefine what it means to be a man, to challenge current thinking and begin to think differently, and to explore the connection between male socialization and violence against women.

His hope is that men will discover the good things about being a man. While it’s okay to experience and display feelings and emotions, it’s not okay to dominate women. He notes that fathers have a tremendous impact on the way their sons view women. If men can serve as better role models for boys by supporting equality for men and women, life will be better for future generations.

Male Socialization and Substance Abuse

Male socialization plays a role in substance abuse and addiction, as a person’s decision to use drugs and alcohol is largely influenced by the culture in which they live. Studies indicate that at least 60 percent of batterers use or abuse drugs and alcohol, and often blame being under the influence as reason for violence towards a girlfriend or spouse.

Women who have been abused are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. Women with a substance abuse problem are less likely to leave a violent relationship.

Drug treatment and rehab is often needed to help both men and women work through anger, depression, anxiety or other problems underlying substance abuse and addiction. Counseling can help men examine their attitudes towards women, while learning better coping techniques and ways of dealing with anger and stress.

Watch Tony Porter’s TED Talk here.

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