Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Why men act out against women

By Anthony Porter, Special to CNN
Click to play
Tony Porter: A call to men
  • Anthony Porter says most men respect women and honor the women in their lives
  • He says male attitudes enable some to lash out at women
  • Men are taught not to express their emotions, Porter says
  • Men who treat women as property or as objects help enable violence, he says

Editor's note: TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to "Ideas worth spreading," which it distributes through talks posted on its website. Anthony Porter is co-founder of "A Call to Men," a national organization addressing domestic and sexual violence prevention and the promotion of healthy manhood.

(CNN) -- It's time for those of us who are good men to start acknowledging the role that male socialization plays in domestic and sexual violence. As good men, we must begin to acknowledge and own our responsibility to be part of the solution to ending violence against women and girls.

What is a good man?

A good man is a man who believes women should be respected. A good man would not assault a woman. A good man believes in equality for women. A good man honors the women in his life. A good man, for all practical purposes, is a nice guy. We believe this to be the majority of men.

There is a minority of men who perpetuate a tremendous amount of violence against women. These men are counting on good men to stay true to rules -- the rules that actually allow them to be who they are in the presence of good men. These rules are what we call the ingredients in the "man box." These rules are also the foundation of how we as men collectively define manhood.

The man box teaches us as men that we must be tough, strong, aggressive and dominating. We are taught not to show feelings and emotions. We are taught that we should be in charge, leaders and protectors. And if we fall short we lose our status and are placed outside the box. Rachel Botsman on the case for collaborative consumption

Outside the box is reserved for women, and for men defined as being less than fully male, or "woman-like". The man box at times can be hypermasculine and extremely homophobic. With that being said, "outside the man box" is a place most men don't want to be. So we find ourselves staying true to the rules of the man box, many times operating from a subconscious place, just on remote control, doing what's natural to us.

We as good men don't realize that every time we tell a boy that he is acting like a girl, we are actually saying that girls are "less than." We all know that a college freshman woman is known on campus as "fresh meat." And while we know that domestic violence is wrong and a crime, it continues to be tolerated in many of our communities.

It is with this understanding that our work, our vision, is not to beat up on good men, but instead to help us understand, through a process of re-education and accountability, that with all of our goodness, we still have been socialized to maintain a system of domination, dehumanization and oppression over women. While we as good men would never hurt women, our collective socialization is the foundation that violence against women is built upon. Sam Martin on the quirky world of "manspaces"

There are three key aspects of male socialization that are the foundation of men's violence against women:

• Men viewing women as "less than;"

• Men treating women as property;

• Men viewing women as objects.

We as good men have to find our voice and began to challenge this collective socialization of men. We as good men have to teach our sons and other young men how to truly respect and promote equality for women.

We as good men have to envision the world we want to see for our daughters and other girls -- and in that world how would we want to see our sons and other men acting and behaving. We must as good men understand that the world we want for our daughters and other girls won't happen through osmosis. We as good men have to break out of the man box, stand up and speak out to end violence against women and girls.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Anthony Porter.