Achieving gender equality must, and has, involved efforts to understand the vulnerabilities and risks that adolescent girls and young women face every day – but how much do we know about the realities of adolescent boys and young men? This report takes a deeper look at the daily lives of adolescent boys and young men around the world and at how they can join the movement towards improved health and gender equality.
The notion of the ‘Man Box’ names influential and restrictive norms of manhood. The ‘Act Like a Man’ box or ‘Man Box’ has been a common teaching tool in efforts over the past three decades to engage men and boys in critical reflections on men and gender (Kivel, 2007). The ‘box’ names the qualities men are expected to show, the rewards they earn for doing so, and the punishments they are dealt if they step ‘outside’ the box. It emphasises that these dominant standards are restrictive and limiting for men, as well as harmful for women. Individual qualities in the Man Box are not necessarily bad, and indeed some may be useful or desirable in some contexts. On the other hand, some of the qualities are negative in themselves, the range of qualities available to men is narrow, and men are expected not to deviate from them. The Man Box norms also sustain forms of privilege or unfair advantage for men, and men’s attitudes and behaviours that underpin inequality between men and women. The reference to ‘acting like a man’ makes the point that masculinity is a ‘performance’, a set of qualities and behaviours practised in particular contexts.
The Man Box: A study on being a young man in Australia is the first comprehensive study that focuses on the attitudes to manhood and the behaviours of young Australian men aged 18 to 30. It involved an online survey of a representative sample of 1,000 young men from across the country, as well as focus group discussions with two groups of young men.
How do we prevent our sons from becoming rapists?
Media headlines lately have been dominated by violence – young men’s violence against other men outside pubs and in the street, and men’s sexual assaults of women. Most boys and men do not use violence. But a minority do. The confronting truth is, some of the boys growing up right now will force or pressure a girl or woman into sex.
Meaningful engagement with men and boys is increasingly recognized as critical to gender equality and equity, necessary not only for women’s empowerment, but also for transforming the social and gender norms that reinforce patriarchy and inequality and harm both women and men. The primary challenge embedded in this work is how to engage men and boys effectively without instrumentalizing them as a pathway to women’s empowerment on the one hand, or marginalizing women and girls in gender equity work on the other.
How can parents raise feminist sons? How, for example, can mothers and fathers encourage their sons to grow up to respect girls and women? Here are some recent and accessible discussions of raising boys:
Also see the bibiography of works here: http://www.xyonline.net/content/ii-raising-sons-raising-boys. And these online pieces:
“Far too many boys approach adolescence having experienced violence, witnessed violence, dropped out of school, had risky sex, or practiced other risk-taking behaviors because they believe that they must do so to be seen by their peers and their communities as “real men.” This has real and long-lasting impacts on the lives of women and girls and inhibits the creation of respectful and equal relationships.”
White Ribbon New Zealand has recently developed Start With Respect, a new resource for young men that gives tips on how to start a respectful relationship with women.
It is available from http://whiteribbon.org.nz/2016/02/14/start-with-respect/
This is a free, public resource and can be used in many different settings - please distribute it out and use it to prevent sexual violence and promote positive male behaviour.
Is a lack of ‘male role models’ the source of the problems faced - and caused - by young men today? Does involving more men in boys’ care and welfare make a difference? How much do we actually know about the importance of gender in work with young men?