The Living OUT Podcast — LOP082
Mark Greene is an Emmy Winning animator, author, speaker, parent and Senior Editor at The Good Men Project.
He is the founder of Remaking Manhood, a Facebook community promoting a wider-ranging conversation about masculinity. Mark’s articles on masculinity have been shared half a million times on social media with 20 million page views. He has written and spoken about men’s issues at Salon, Shriver Report, Huffington Post, HLN, BBC, and the New York Times.
In this Living OUT Leadership Interview we cover a broad range of topics that relate to the problems of masculinity and man box culture, the patriarchy, bullying, silencing, and policing gender.
The Man Box and #MeToo for Men
Mark explains where the term, “man box” came from and how he defines “masculinity”. Men have been taught to suppress, deny and take for granted their masculine identities. Men are taught from an early age, as young boys, to think in a certain way, including to not show their emotions, to be a leader, aggressive, dominant, sexually active, care and talk about sports, and to be a real man.
“Wrongly gendering the universal capacity for human connection as feminine and then coaching boys to see feminine as less is how we block our sons from the trial and error process of growing their powerful relational capacities, leading to a lifetime of isolation.”
The challenge with man box culture is that it is brutally enforced between men.
It abuses boys and men to conform to restrictive ideas for decades over the course of men’s lives that has a traumatic impact on men’s emotional state, sense of identity, the performance of masculinity, and connection with others. These are all crucial aspect in whether men can or cannot form relationships at all, and is one of the reasons for the increase in social isolation and loneliness of men.
Bullying as a form of control and reinforcing the hierarchy
What are the effects of bullying on men — on the person being bullied, and the bully himself?
“In what is clearly representative of the isolating impact of man box culture, boys entering late adolescence are shamed and bullied into seeing their close authentic connection with their best friend as weak (feminine). Accordingly, they slowly disengage from their closest friendships. It is at this time that suicide rates for boys rise, becoming four times the rate for girls.”
The cruel fact of man box culture
Greene explains that we all knew the script. We were all taught the script. We had to denigrate women and LGBT people in order to be allowed to not be a target and to fit in. The kids and boys in our community who were awkward, with disabilities, or couldn’t pull off the appearance of masculinity became permanent targets. A culture of dominance, hierarchy and abuse needs a permanent population of targets, namely women, LGBT people, and boys who don’t fit in.
Empathy: Not the kind of courage men are taught to present
We beat out of young boys empathy, connecting across difference, and caregiving. Then we shame them if they exhibit those tendencies.
“The list of central relational capacities that man box culture suppresses includes empathy. The suppression of boys’ and men’s empathy is no accident. It is the suppression of empathy that makes a culture of ruthless competition, bullying and codified inequality possible. It is in the absence of empathy that men fail to see women’s equality and many other social issues for what they are: simple and easily enacted moral imperatives.”
Policing gender performance: LGBTQ
In the world of gay men, we often see self-identified, straight-acting gay men who may use terms on dating apps like, “Masc4masc, looking for other “dudes”, and “no femmes”. The word straight-acting is an ironic misnomer: those claiming it are in fact, acting!
Many gay men do not know how to be men within the dominant culture, let alone within the culture of other gay men. In my Living OUT Interview
with Jeffry J. Iovannone, we spoke about what Iovannone calls the “normate” gay:
“Gay culture, like the dominant culture, creates a hierarchy based on norms of masculinity. At the top are those who occupy the position of what we might call the “ normate gay”: those who are thin, toned, muscular, white, cis, able-bodied, and express their gender in conventionally masculine ways. Despite pervasive stereotypes that gay men are improperly feminine in comparison to straight men, gay male culture often dictates that conventional masculinity is the most desirable. This hierarchy of gay masculinity also contributes to our inescapable culture of sexual violence. Part of masculinity is domination over those deemed feminine (not solely those who possess “female” bodies), so sexual violence functions as one way to reinforce what it means to be “masculine.” Source
Normalization of identity to subjugate the feminine
When men don’t speak up about everything from locker-room talk to rape, they continue to reinforce silence and condone the behaviours of man box culture.
“Engaging in locker-room talk doesn’t make us predators, but it most certainly perpetuates a culture in which predators can hide.”
Greene references the recent Gillette advertising campaign that challenged man box behaviour and rilled up people like Piers Morgan and James Woods. The pushback against Gillette is what Greene refers to in his book as “suppressing fire”, a warfare term that is way to reinforce the “integrity bind” that controls men’s speaking “out of term”, to keep them from questioning man box culture and to remain silent, thus preserving the status quo.
We wrap up the interview with Greene’s thoughts on ending the gender binary, Kevin Spacey and the privilege of sex and power, the current “man box culture 101” president of the United States, the dangerous and extreme version of the patriarchy in fundamentalist religion, and finally some hope for the younger generation in terms of the expression of self in gender, sexuality, and politics.
Where to Find Mark Greene
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes are from Mark Greene’s book, The Little #MeToo Book for Men.