Rethinking masculinity: It is okay to cry

The emotionally relieving act helps break down societal stigmas.


Tim Seeberger/THE CHIMES

Tim Seeberger, Writer

The death of a family member. The end of a relationship. Failure. Physical pain. These scenarios seem like ones where it is natural to release emotions through crying. In some cases, it seems expected. Seeking an outlet to express physical, mental or emotional distress for a male can be a terrible feeling. According to studies, men have a hard time recognizing and expressing emotions. Men need to break this stereotype of what it means to “act like a man.” For men, it is okay to cry.

Emotional supression

Societal gender norms still perpetuate the suppression of any kind of emotion that festers within a man. This thinly-veiled stereotype manifests itself in films like “American Sniper.” They portray the fragility of masculinity as a concept that men can find their true identity in without having to think twice about what emotions feel like to them. Car commercials, such as Ford or Chevy, although not overtly promoting the idea that men cannot cry, promote hegemonic masculinity.

This concept, coined by gender sociologist Raewyn Connell in 1987, states that society creates an archetypal mold for men in society. For example, American society promotes “hard” men. This theory says this mold is the golden standard for society, and all men who do not live up to this standard are deemed inadequate.

Clearly, crying is not a part of this stereotype of what men look like. The notion that men must shroud their emotions can lead to fatal effects.

Tearing down social constructs

Australian non-profit Man Up seeks to cut the rate of suicide in males ages 15 to 44. In this demographic, this self-destructive death is the number one cause of death. Much like America, societal norms in Australia breed stoicism and avoidance of negative emotions. The lack of discussion of emotions can lead to substance abuse and suicidal thoughts. The main goal of Man Up is to reverse the notion that men cannot talk about their emotions. They seek to create a healthy and safe environment where men can openly discuss their feelings without negative societal sanctions.

For men, crying is not just something that should happen. Rather, men need to cry. This simple act releases myriad emotions to relieve mental tension. It begins to help break down the mental barrier put in place by society in a man’s mind, telling him that crying is not “manly.” The concept of “manliness” itself is social construct. Apart from what the Bible tells men how to act, which it briefly does, society made up the image of manliness. Advertisement made up a majority of what a man looks like.

In the macrocosm of society, the promotion of emotionally-relieving acts such as crying breaks down the barrier of the taboo of men’s mental health across generations and different types of males. Creating dialogue helps foster a better understanding of what it looks like to have a healthy mental outlook on the world rather than being confined to the emotionally damaging system known as “manliness” within society today.

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