Inside the ‘Man Box’: Tony Porter on Masculinity and Violence

by Brittany Houlihan

Something I can get behind: a man critically evaluating how society views traditional “manhood” and how this limiting perspective is affecting women all over the world.

Tony Porter is a co-founder of A Call to Men, an organization that works to end violence against women by promoting healthier attitudes about masculinity. Porter and his co-founder Ted Bunch have spread the message of A Call to Men everywhere from the NFL to West Point to the U.N., and in his 2010 TED Talk, Porter uses poignant personal experiences to explain why he thinks the socialization of manhood, what he calls the “man box,” needs to be revisited.

Porter once asked a 12-year-old football player how he would feel if “in front of all the players, your coach told you that you were playing like a girl.” The boy responded, “It would destroy me.” Porter was taken aback: “I said to myself, ‘God, if it would destroy him to be called a girl, what are we then teaching him about girls?’”

Porter also tells the sobering story of when an older neighborhood friend invited him to have sex with — that is, rape — a mentally disabled neighbor. Though Porter got out of the situation without harming the girl, he found himself pretending that he’d done the deed. Though he knew rape was wrong, he didn’t want to be seen as something less than a man in front of his friends.

This was the catalyst for a change in how Porter considered his own masculine identity, and having a son only reinforced his desire to teach better models of manhood to future generations:

“I need you on board. I need you working with me and me working with you on how we raise our sons and teach them to be men. That it’s okay to not be dominating. That it’s okay to have feelings and emotions. That it’s okay to promote equality. That it’s okay to have women that are just friends and that’s it. That it’s okay to be whole. That my liberation as a man is tied to your liberation as a woman.”

It’s pretty powerful stuff.  If you haven’t already, check it out below:

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