The Man Box provides invaluable data on men and masculinities in Australia. As the first nationally representative study of the gender-related attitudes and behaviours of young Australian men, it offers an informative snapshot of young men’s experiences and perceptions of gender and the norms of manhood that structure these.
Men and gender
We have known for a long time that men and boys are as implicated in gender as women and girls – that men’s lives are shaped, as much as women’s, by gender. ‘Gender’, defined simply, refers to the meanings given to being male and female and the social organisation of men’s and women’s lives. Five decades of scholarship have documented extensively that gender is socially constructed – it is the outcome of social forces and relations. Boys and men learn to be ‘proper’ men for example through parental socialisation, peer groups, schools and universities and other institutions, sports, communities, and media and popular culture.
One of the key insights of contemporary scholarship on gender is that in any particular context particular definitions and images of womanhood and manhood are dominant. Whether a country, a community, or a more local setting, particular versions of femininity and masculinity will be the most celebrated, most desirable and most influential representations of how to be female and male. There are dominant forms of gender in media representations, but also in most settings, institutions and contexts. This is true for example of schools, sporting clubs, workplaces, faith institutions, governments, and so on. In other words, particular ways of being a boy and man are dominant, while others are stigmatised, punished, or silenced. These dominant constructions of gender shape boys’ and men’s lives. Boys and young men may conform to the dominant form of masculinity, or they may resist it or fail its expectations, but all live in its shadow.
Citation: Flood, M. (2018). Men and the Man Box: A commentary. In The Men’s Project & Flood, M, The Man Box: A Study on Being a Young Man in Australia (pp. 46-54). Melbourne: Jesuit Social Services.