Did you know you’re in a box?
Simply by being a woman, people put you in a box…
The Woman Box.
Because you’re a woman, you’re supposed to be:
- A good listener
- Emotionally attuned
- Giving, and most of all…
And if you break those expectations, you get judged. You might even hear:
“Women are not supposed to be:
- Innovators, and most of all…
Because if a loud, strong, powerful woman goes on a date, and she refuses to squeeze herself into the Woman Box, no man will love her and she’ll be alone forever.
Am I right??
He’s in a Box, Too
We women are not always aware we live inside a box.
But men are.
Men are taught from an incredibly young age that they must stay inside their box or risk being called a wuss, a pansy, a girl, or worse.
Men live inside what’s known as the Man Box.
The Man Box is even stricter than the Woman Box.
The Man Box punishes men if they aren’t:
- Impervious to pain
- Obsessed with sex
- Powerful, and most of all…
Unlike women, who can occasionally step out of the Woman Box, men must stay inside the Man Box at all times.
Now, the rules can be flexed a little bit when a man becomes a father, but only if his child is a daughter.
If his child is a son, it’s the father’s job to make sure his son learns about the Man Box at the earliest opportunity and follows its rules.
Because he knows—and his son will quickly learn—that there is no place in this world for a man who is emotional, sensitive, unsure of himself, and even the slightest bit weak or afraid.
Any weakness will attract the Man Box police.
The Man Box police are people—including women—who take great delight in judging and punishing men who refuse to stay inside their box.
When guys are policing other guys, it’s obvious. They’ll call a guy names or bully him for being too emotional or expressing too much love for his girlfriend (because part of the Man Box—a very ugly part—is seeing women as objects).
When women are policing men, it’s not always so obvious.
Maybe you have female friends who dream about attracting a strong, powerful, dominant man.
They imagine meeting the kind of hero they read about in romance novels.
They get frustrated with all these beta males they keep meeting: quiet, shy guys who don’t have their lives together and never make the first move and expect the woman to take control.
That is also Man Box policing in action.
When a guy doesn’t fit our expectations of what a man should be, we look down on him. We certainly don’t feel sexually attracted to him. He ends up in the Friend Zone.
The Magnet Theory of Sexual Chemistry
Back in the 1990s, a neuroscientist named David Deida noticed that women seemed to pass over kind, sensitive guys in favor of powerful jerks.
He developed a theory around it.
He said that sexual chemistry is like a magnetic charge. It requires two opposing poles: a masculine pole and a feminine pole.
The more masculine a man, the more sexually charged he will become in the presence of a feminine woman.
So, if a woman wants a powerful, dominant man, she cannot herself be powerful and dominant. That would be putting the positive side of a magnet next to the positive side of another magnet: they’d be repelled.
She has to be feminine, the more feminine the better.
In other words…
She’s got to stay inside HER box, and he’s got to stay inside HIS box.
If they dare step out of their box, neither of them will be attractive to the opposite sex.
That’s a pretty powerful reason to stay inside the box!
The Science of Strong, Sexy Relationships
But that theory is pseudoscience.
It’s not scientific, and it’s not backed by the research.
The research says that the very best marriages are between what’s known as psychologically androgynous partners…
People who don’t care so much about gender expectations and instead work flexibly around each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
When you hear androgynous, you don’t think “sexy,” do you?
But psychologically androgynous people have another name:
They’re psychologically whole.
This means they’ve embraced the fact that they have both masculine and feminine traits, and they feel comfortable with both sides of themselves.
Psychologically whole people make great managers. They make great parents. And they make great lovers.
Studies show that they have better sex lives and more satisfying relationships than marriages between masculine men and feminine women.
So why do we believe the B.S. that powerful women need to tone themselves down around men?
It’s because the Woman Box is still an incredibly powerful social construct.
When You’re Caged, Freedom is Threatening
Men who’ve spent their life trying to stay within the bars of the Man Box feel threatened by a woman who has stepped outside of her box.
She gets to be both masculine and feminine whenever it suits her.
She’s strong AND sensitive. She’s loud AND a good listener. She’s loving AND a leader.
It’s terrifying for men.
Because if she gets to move in and out of masculinity and femininity at will, where does that leave him?
He can’t claim the Man Box as his exclusive territory.
He has to share it with her.
And he doesn’t get to go where she goes. He’s still terrified of any shred of feminine empathy and sensitive and gentleness he’s got inside.
Men inside the Man Box aren’t free, and they find it hard to be with a woman who IS free.
Now, to me, the conclusion I’d draw is NOT that women should get back inside their box.
The conclusion I’d draw is that…
As free women, we want to find other free men.
We want to find men who are psychologically whole.
Who are sensitive AND strong. Decisive AND receptive. Gentle AND fierce.
These men can be frightening, on one level.
They’ll tell you they love you.
They will walk away if you play mind games with them.
They’ll say what they mean, and they’ll expect honesty from you, too.
And the one thing they won’t tolerate is being shamed for being who they are.
You don’t think a soft and gentle guy is a real man? Fine. He’s not for you, then.
Why I Care
This topic matters a lot to me because I was raised in a culture where there was only one place for me as a woman:
At a man’s side.
If I didn’t have a husband that I served, through cooking him meals and supporting his business and bearing him children, then I really had no worth.
And I saw what that did to the other girls I grew up with.
I saw them reducing their power to sexuality and getting a man and having a nice house.
And they got the life they wanted. They got the guy, they got the house, they got the family.
The only thing they didn’t get was themselves.
They never got to find out who they were, without family to define them, without men to define them, without hometown expectations to define them, without gender roles to define them.
And I’m not saying that they aren’t happy. They’re just fine. They have exactly what they want.
But for me, and maybe for you, there is so much more to life.
There is adventure. There is risk. There is discovery.
There is a path through the woods, covered by leaves, undetectable to the casual eye, known as “the hero’s journey.”
It’s where you get to take on challenges, fight through obstacles, and emerge transformed, with a fuller understanding of your gifts.
The hero’s journey has typically been understood as a man’s journey, but I see it as a journey of the masculine within all of us, women as well as men.
Our masculine essence gives us strength and power, and we need that strength and power for what’s ahead.
Imagine telling a powerful woman like Amanda Gorman that she’s too masculine; men won’t like her.
Why would you want to see a magnificent woman, who shines like a star, squeeze herself inside a box?
Is male approval really that important?
No More Boxes
Here at Your Brilliance, we want you to shine.
We don’t want you to squeeze yourself inside a box.
We don’t want to tell you who you should be.
It’s our goal to shed light on some of the obstacles and challenges that face us as women.
Others have walked this path before. They know how it’s done. They can help us.
Wherever you choose to go, whatever destination puts a sparkle in your eye, we’ll support you on the way there.
Take good care of yourself. And if you know someone who needs to hear this message, please pass it on.