While a student at Colby, Eric Barthold ’12 cofounded Mules Against Violence (MAV) with the mission to educate the student body about sexual violence on college campuses and challenge gender stereotypes.

MAV activities have included members joining Colby’s Quilting Club to knit a giant quilt in the middle of Pulver Pavilion and encouraging male athletes to attend the Take Back the Night rally every year. MAV also presents the Man Box activity, which begins with the question, “What does it take to be a ‘real’ man?” A box is drawn, and responses are written inside it. Characteristics not typically associated with masculinity are written outside the box.

Inside the box, Barthold said, “You almost always get ‘strong,’ ‘powerful,’ ‘controlling,’ ‘drinks beer’ or ‘can hold his alcohol,’ ‘can get lots of girls,’ ‘heterosexual,’ ‘no emotions,’” while outside the box are terms such as emotional, sensitive, and caring.

“The exercise shows the anxiety that guys feel to be manly,” Barthold said. “If they’re in the box, they’re okay. But if they fall outside the box, they get targeted.”

Barthold is bringing the Man Box activity to all-boys middle and high schools in the hope of starting change at a younger age.