Escaping the Man Box

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Led by The Men’s Project at Jesuit Social Services, The Man Box is a comprehensive study that focuses on the attitudes to manhood and the behaviours of young Australian men aged 18 to 30. The study found that men in ‘the Man Box’ (a set of rules, behaviours and stereotypes about masculinity) experience negative life outcomes themselves and they’re more likely to engage in behaviour that harms others. The full report can be accessed here. Similar research is being undertaken with boys aged 11 – 18 years and the report is expected to be published during 2020.

The objectives of The Man Box research were:

  1. To understand the pressures young men experience around being a ‘real man’ by asking them whether they felt pressure to comply with 17 rules of the Man Box– for example, to be strong, stoic, in control, to not back down from threats, to use violence to get respect, to be the breadwinner and to have many sexual partners.
  2. To understand whether young men personally agree with these Man Box social messages, and finally
  3. To understand the influence, if any, that agreeing with these rules has on the lives of young men and those around them including impacts on mental health, use and experience of violence, sexual harassment, binge drinking and traffic accidents.

The seven pillars of the Man Box are: self-sufficiency, acting tough, physical attractiveness, rigid gender roles, heterosexuality and homophobia, hypersexuality, aggression and control. The three Man Box rules associated with the final pillar seem particularity evident in recent high profile incidents of family and domestic violence. They are:

  • Men should use violence to get respect if necessary.
  • A man should always have the final say about decisions in his relationship or marriage.
  • If a guy has a girlfriend or wife, he deserves to know where she is all the time.

The research has been used to design and deliver effective interventions to reduce men’s violence and other harmful behaviours.

Read more about The Man Box here.