My kids were video-chatting with their grandparents today, and one thing led to another and my not yet 3 y/o son was told to man up and not cry, because boys don’t cry, apparently. Of course I explained to my parents that it was an inappropriate and harmful thing to say to a child, but this also gave me an idea for a post.
Why is it that girls are allowed and expected to cry, but boys can NOT even think about it, and they keep being reminded to hold the tears and not be like girls. Sexism aside, why do we think it is normal to expect girls to release their negative emotions through the most natural way that crying is, but boys are not given the privilege?
Everyone agrees that stress and negativity can not, and should not, be kept inside and must be dealt with before it gets too late and medical intervention is required. We all know that bottled up emotions start eating you inside and lead to various health-related issues, both mental and physical. And what is the most natural way of dealing with emotions? Right, by letting them out in a peaceful way through talking them over with someone you trust, and crying, if necessary. And what happens when a boy is refused that right of having a shoulder to cry on, or having his tears accepted without a fuss? Emotions don’t get expressed, the boy learns that people don’t care about what he feels, but more about how presentable and “manly” he looks when in pain. So he learns to keep quiet and never learns to ask for help. And then he gets older and finds it more difficult to deal with all the stress that being a teenager brings his way. At some point it gets too much, and sometimes tragedies happen.
And if he manages to grow up without any physical harm done to himself or others, then he probably doesn’t really learn to have emotionally healthy relationships with representatives of the more emotional world, and by that I mean women. Why? Because women are used to expressing their emotions and being allowed to cry, and they expect that their partners are the same way and will turn to them for support when having problems. But guess what? Our grown up boy is not really like that. He has no idea that someone would be interested in his feelings, and by now he is used to putting on a brave face and shedding tears deep inside without anyone noticing anything. And then things are left unspoken and/or discussed, and misunderstandings/conflicts/break-ups happen.
Do you find this scenario sad? Me too. Do you think we could avoid having so many depressed teenagers and adults who sometimes are tempted to, or actually do take their own lives? Maybe? And whom does it hurt to try to be more gentle with our own sons who are really not that much different from our daughters, maybe even more vulnerable in this cruel world where boys are not given the right to have feelings. So, if crying is human, why can’t boys cry? They are human, aren’t they?
Photo: Zachariah Judy (Flickr)