Growing up around a lot of men, I was taught many things about masculinity. Most of it was taught jokingly, but there was always that under the surface truth to what these men were saying. One of the top rules to being a man was this: crying is a sign of weakness. And not just crying, but showing any kind of vulnerable emotion. It wasn’t just the men saying this either. I remember my little cousin’s aunt and mom always telling him not to cry whenever he started shedding tears.
In today’s culture, it’s becoming more and more acceptable for men to cry, but it all depends on the circumstances and setting. A debate going on right now is whether it’s acceptable for men to cry in public or not. In the “Art of Manliness,” Brett comments that in some cases, it has even become more acceptable for a man to cry in public than a woman. He says, “Hillary Clinton’s tears in New Hampshire brought some compassion, but also criticism that such vulnerability made her ill-suited for leadership. Yet Mitt Romney choked up several times on various news programs without the slightest attention being paid to it.”
What’s really being called into question, though, is whether it’s manly to cry. Today, crying is associated with women. Women are stereotypically seen as sensitive with little control over their emotions. Men are supposed to be the strong ones with complete control of their emotions. This stereotype is a relatively new cultural development. In his article, “Why is it so Hard for Men to Cry?” Derek Whitney pointed out that world history and literature shows many instances of men crying, because “Tears meant that a man lived by a code of values and cared enough to show emotion when things went wrong.” Brett further adds, “Tears were seen as proof of a man’s sincerity, honesty, and integrity.” During the Enlightenment was when a more rational ideal of manhood came about.
Crying is a sign of vulnerability, especially crying in front of someone else. It’s not only difficult for men to cry, but many women struggle with this too. It’s not always appropriate to cry, but when you need to cry, it needs to come out. My mom has told me all my life that crying cleanses the soul. If you don’t cry, you keep everything bottled up inside and it will eat away at you. Instead of dealing with a problem and letting it out, it’ll bother you much longer.
Research has shown that repressed emotions can lead to physical symptoms such as high blood pressure. Also, “In 1985, University of Minnesota researchers found that emotional tears… help rid the body of toxins released under stress.” Thus, crying is beneficial for your physical and mental health.
Even with this knowledge, it is still not fully culturally acceptable for men to cry. Men’s Health surveyed 500 men to find out about their crying patterns. The survey was extensive and asked many specific questions, even comparing how often men cried to how often their wives/girlfriends cried: 12.4% of men admitted to crying once a month; 33.8% said their significant other cried once a month. The findings ultimately showed that men cried much less often than women and only from sadness about specific things, which contrasted with women who also cry out of loneliness, frustration, and for many other reasons.
So, should a man cry? I think the better question is when is it appropriate for both women and men to cry, because both have the need to cry and both should be able to.
p.s. I found this website very helpful and recommend it for others to read: http://www.artofmanliness.com/2008/06/19/when-is-it-okay-for-a-man-to-cry/