A ground-breaking new report from The Men’s Project at Jesuit Social Services finds that a young man’s belief in rigid masculine stereotypes can much more accurately predict harmful behaviours such as violence and sexual harassment than other demographic information such as education levels, cultural heritage and where he lives.

Executive Director of The Men’s Project, Matt Tyler, says the report, Unpacking the Man Box, builds on the findings of 2018 The Man Box report. Both reports draw on the findings of a survey of 1,000 young Australian men aged 18 to 30 about what it means to be ‘a real man’.

“Through this research, we have found that too many young men are constrained by rigid ideas about what it means to be ‘a real man’”, says Matt. “To be ‘inside the Man Box’ means endorsing a set of rigid ideas about masculinity, including always acting tough, using violence to get respect, never seeking support for personal problems and always being the main breadwinner for a household.”

“Our 2018 Man Box report showed the dangers for young Australian men who believe in rigidly adhering to traditional masculine stereotypes – in that they are at higher risk of using and experiencing violence, engaging in risky drinking and report poorer levels of mental health. Clearly, these attitudes can have dangerous consequences for men themselves as well as the women and children in their lives.”

Unpacking the Man Box shows that masculine norms were 25 times more likely than demographic variables, such as where someone lives, their employment status, educational level, cultural background or sexuality, to predict the use of physical violence, sexual harassment, bullying and cyber bullying.

In addition, they were 11 times more likely than the above demographic variables to predict very risky drinking and ten times more likely than the demographic variables to predict negative feelings such as distress, guilt, being scared, jittery, ashamed and hostile.

The new report contains a range of recommendations to support boys and men to be free of the Man Box and to be their best selves. A key recommendation is the building of workforce capacity to engage on issues related to the Man Box.

Matt says it is crucial that this work reaches people who work with men and boys every day, such as teachers, sports coaches and social workers.

“These types of community leaders have the capacity to support sustained progress on the definition of what it means to be a man and ultimately work to prevent violence and mental illness.

“This means safer and stronger communities for everyone.”

Find out more information about the new report here.