The man box

// 11 December 2010

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Tony Porter, co-founder of A Call to Men, talks about his own life experiences, the restrictions men face by trying to fit into the oppressive “man box”, and also the damage this can do to women. (Trigger warning: this talk includes a description of a sexual assault).

(Shakesville has posted a transcript)

More videos and posts about the TEDWomen conference

Comments From You

Mica // Posted 11 December 2010 at 3:06 am

Amazing and very moving. It is about time that men were held accountable for their actions and encouraged to change their attitudes and values. If more men do this then future generations of young boys will have better role models. We will never be able to achieve complete equality until this happens.

SnowdropExplodes // Posted 11 December 2010 at 2:30 pm

Absolutely amazing stuff.

If I have one quibble, it’s that he seems to slip into a version the classic “appeal to daughters” argument at the end (i.e. appealing to the notion “you wouldn’t want this to happen to your daughter, would you?”) that always ends up subtly sounding to me like still assuming proprietorial rights over daughters (and therefore, women). I’m pretty sure from context etc that’s not how Tony Porter means it, but I wonder if that undercurrent/implication is what gets picked up unconsciously by men hearing this sort of thing.

Jennifer Drew // Posted 12 December 2010 at 11:23 am

A couple of caveats concerning Tony Poter and his organisation. Firstly Porter does not name the sex which is overwhelmingly committing violence against women. I wonder why, given A Call To Men challenges them on their misogyny and contempt for women. Secondly I am at a loss as to why Porter’s speech focuses on males’ supposed constraints and pressures, given his audience is a female one not a male one.

I am certain many women are not concerned with how men are suffering but rather want men and boys to cease their misogyny and hatred for women. Porter could have used his time better to illustrate the difficulties his organisation experiences in attempting to challenge men’s and boys’ ingrained attitudes and beliefs. Or, Porter could at the very least acknowledge his and many other men’s debt to feminism – because without feminism men such as Porter would continue to believe male violence against women is not their problem.

Yes Porter’s organisation is doing good work but remember this work is not one wherein men earn ‘cookies’ from women for doing the work they should be doing. This work is essential because women as it happens are human – something which most men continue to dispute. So ‘giving cookies’ to organisations such as A Call to Men is not what is required.

There is a clear danger of Porter depicting men as ‘victims’ of something which just happens and this conveniently ignores how our male supremacist society consistently rewards men and boys for their conformity by allocating them power and domination over women.

I’ve yet to hear any woman proclaim ‘its wonderful being a woman’ but Porter proclaimed ‘its wonderful being a man.’ In fact it is ‘wonderful being human’ but that ignores the fact women are not seen as human but just men’s inferiors.

So, Porter next time don’t tell female audiences about the pain men and boys suffer – instead inform female audiences what your organisation is doing to challenge misogny and make the statement that all women and girls own their bodies and sexualities and we are not men’s disposable sexual service stations.

Yes it is good A Call to Men is challenging men but there is a danger of exploiting female children in order to bolster men’s belief they are doing good things. Remember actions always speak louder than words.

Jess McCabe // Posted 12 December 2010 at 4:26 pm

@Jennifer Drew I really disagree, it’s very clear from that video that Tony Porter is talking about men.

Clearly his organisation is aimed at men, I don’t see there’s much problem with him giving the talk at an event like TEDWomen (although how much more powerful if he’d been invited to give the same talk at the main TED conference.).

Also, I don’t see his talk as asking for cookies or exploiting girls!

Kate Grace // Posted 12 December 2010 at 6:46 pm

I also disagree with Jennifer Drew- I think it is crucial for men to stand up and talk publicly about their feelings on social conditioning and gender roles. How can we move forward into a feminist future if we don’t listen to people of all genders, sexualities, and backgrounds talk about their experiences?

Porter is not talking about ‘how men are suffering’- he is pointing out some of the underlying socio-economic factors that contribute to certain groups of men acting in a discrimanatory or abusive fashion towards women. He is highlighting the fact that patriarchy is a system that helps no one.

Suzi Malaquias // Posted 12 December 2010 at 6:55 pm

Thanks so much for posting this Jess and the F-word… I think it’s so good to see men speaking out against VAW and are not shy to say they are feminists ( which I think he says in his speech)- after all I believe that we are, as feminists aiming to change people’s minds and hearts about sexism and Tony Porter is doing what he can to change the status quo in his work with A call to men. (also see Byron Hurt and From Boyhood to Manhood as well the White ribbon campaign for other men led work to stop VAW and sexism if interested in this subject)

Hannah // Posted 13 December 2010 at 9:14 pm

Thanks for posting this, there’s nothing more encouraging for me as a feminist to see men taking our ideas, running with them and making them their own. As you say Kate, patriarchy benefits no-one, and it is so amazing when men realise this and talk about their feelings.

I know it’s kind of sad for us to be all excited when we see one man talking about gender theory and gendered behaviour, and that it’s kind of indicative of the lack of involvement of men in feminism so far, but still…it makes me a bit more hopeful.

Katimon // Posted 14 December 2010 at 3:06 am

I think there is something very powerful about this video. Whilst I am sceptical about the language and the attempts to depict violence against women in pyramid form, I think the content is invaluable.

This approach is a pragmatic one, not over ambitiously aiming to create a perfect egalitarian idyll tomorrow, but attempting to challenge the behaviours we are instilling in kids right now.

@hannah Whilst it is a shame that most men still feel too uncomfortable to engage in organised feminism, I think you would be pleasantly surprised by the amount of men who do undertake this kind of work in their jobs and everyday life, particularly when they work with young boys. (I know of many male teachers & social workers currently doing this).

@Jennifer Drew. Whilst I understand where you are coming from, I really think that Porter approaches this as best he could, doesn’t in any way revel in having the attention of a female audience and very frankly deals with issues of manhood. I think if he were to stand in front of a TED women’s event and tell the audience “that all women and girls own their bodies and sexualities” it would be fairly patronising.

All in all I hope he continues to speak at every possible event. I really feel that the more men who take up this fight, the more we can help boys and young men break the cycle of socialization that currently floods our society with misogynistic practices and culture.

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