Women struggle with addiction nearly as often as men now.
Last week I wrote about how the Man Box is at the root of a lot of the violence experienced by women, but it can impact women in another way too.
To start, let me tell you a little bit about myself. I’m female, and not only am I female, I’m a petite female. I was always one of the smallest kids in my class and I never completely caught up. I’m still one of the smallest of my friends.
Even when I was young, I could tell when people patronized me or treated me differently than they treated boys my age. People often looked at my gender, diminutive size, and assumed I was fragile.
I felt insulted when people made these types of assumptions, so I started fighting back. I started trying to prove I was strong, capable and athletic. I started suppressing my emotions so no one could ever accuse me of being “overly emotional.”
In time, as I perfected this effort, I almost completely forgot how to cry. It’s still hard for me to show vulnerability because I don’t want anyone to accuse me of being a “weak little girl.” To this day, my husband can count on one hand the number of times he’s seen me cry; and we’ve been married almost 20 years.
Because our culture values traditionally masculine characteristics (strength, independence, power) more than it values traditionally feminine characteristics (warmth, sociality, vulnerability), some women shun femininity and get trapped in the Man Box themselves.
When that happens, the Man Box impacts women much the same way it impacts men. It prevents them from forming close relationships and prevents them from getting their emotional needs met. This makes it more likely that women will soothe themselves with emotion numbing substances or activities.
Historically, there have always been more men struggling with addictions than women; but both of the addiction experts I interviewed said that trend is changing. Women are struggling with addiction nearly as often as men now.
The Man Box code says femininity is weak, but that’s a lie. Being warm, social, and vulnerable is just as important as being strong, independent and powerful. Everyone, male or female, is made up of both strength and vulnerability. Owning all the pieces that make us who we are is how we connect with people around us and find lasting happiness and fulfillment.