What's Wrong with Boxes?
Being in a "box" is to be trapped in by stereotypes and expectations set on us by societal norms around gender. Common examples are that "girls can't be good at sports" or "men can't be sensitive". We hear these stereotypes about men and women virtually every day, sometimes in media, sometimes by the people around us. They limit our freedom and stifle our potential.
When defining ourselves as men or as women is more important than defining ourselves as people, our whole community loses. When looking at gender stereotypes, certain themes begin to emerge - in particular, the idea that men are expected to be strong, dominating, and physical while women are expected to be weaker, submissive, and often seen as objects to fulfill the needs of men. These generalizations put us all in boxes and create inequality between men and women, highlighting the idea that men need to be in control and women are "less than" men. When this imbalance of power is tolerated in society, inequity emerges. The absence of fairness and justice, when it comes to gender, creates conditions where sexual violence - including gender - based bullying, harassment, and sexual assault - can thrive.
In Texas, 2 in 5 women and 1 in 5 men are assaulted at some point in their lives. That translates to 6.3 million Texans. Additionally, 65% of victims report multiple victimizations. While gender violence takes many forms, it is important to remember that a common thread is the abuse of power of the perpetrator over the victim.
It is clear that we need to change the culture so that fewer acts of gender violence are committed. This starts with breaking down the boxes of gender inequity that marginalize women while encouraging dominance and aggression in men. The polar opposites in gender expectations lead to our imbalance as a society and create an environment that tolerates and even subtly propagates gender violence against our friends, partners, co-workers, neighbors, parents, children, and more than 33% of all Texans.
Break the Box is a public awareness initiative which is all about identifying and breaking free from gender stereotypes that can lead to gender violence. The initiative consists of a collection of materials. The success of Break the Box tells us that we recognize the harm of gender stereotypes and are primed and ready to challenge them. Break the Box Week takes place the third week of November. It is an opportunity for groups across Texas to challenge gender stereotypes and break the boxes that limit us all. Participants ultimately shape and drive what the week looks like in our community. The groups will focus on identify the following objectives:
1. Identify some ways in which gender stereotypes are formed and solidified.
2. Understand how gender stereotypes limit people.
3. Take some collective action to challenge gender stereotypes in our community.
We believe participants in Break the Box will have an impact in our community that is both deep and wide. Events like these tend to reach a broad segment of the population. Everyone can be exposed to the Break the Box messaging and, even if they don't participate directly, will witness others participating throughout the week. The subject matter being discussed is very personal and the are designed to be either introspective or interactive - both of which deepen the impact of the experience. Thank you for participating in our survey. Your feedback is important.