Is it OK for Men to Feel Sad?

The obvious answer is yes, of course. But they often do not show it.


The obvious answer is yes, of course. But they often do not show it. Crying is the universal indicator that a person is in emotional or physical pain, but men are far less likely to cry than women. More often than not, they are often derided if they do.

The gendered notion that crying is for sissies (read: women) is not an entirely modern phenomenon. While there are plenty of biblical and historical examples of men crying — from “Jesus wept” (John 11:35) to Walker Cronkite’s on-air breakdown after JFK’s assassination — unless you are Roger Federer losing for the umpteenth time to Nadal, the male cry is usually met with uneasiness. Oftentimes, it’s interpreted as weakness, which is, in turn, interpreted as womanly. Even Laertes admits that when he is done shedding tears for Ophelia, his “woman will be out” (Hamlet, Act 4, Scene 7).

The male cry is usually met with uneasiness.

In her famous TED Talk on vulnerability, shame researcher Brene Brown tells the story of a man who came to her book signing and asked why she didn’t study men. When she asked why he thought it was “convenient” that she didn’t, he tells her point blank, “When we [men] reach out and be vulnerable, we get the shit beat out of us.”

It’s a telling cultural inconsistency — we encourage men to open up about their feelings, just not too much, because then that’s bad. It’s a gendered logic that often excludes men from conversations on trauma, war, sickness, death — pretty much anything terrible that happens to people of all sexes. Dan Bell, editor of insideMAN: Pioneering Stories About Men and Boys notes that when men do try to express their feelings to one another in a safe space, they are often met with a “deep-seated fear” that if “they are allowed to talk by themselves about their own experiences, in ways that come naturally to them as men” they will do so in ways that are "sexist" or "reactionary." The resulting attitude is a lose-lose: If men choose to share their vulnerabilities, then they are not taken seriously, or worse, perceived as imposing for wanting to share their feelings.

It’s a telling cultural inconsistency — we encourage men to open up about their feelings, just not too much, because then that’s bad.

The anxieties surrounding male crying speak to our conflicting perceptions of gender's relationship to power, hierarchy, and hegemony. Yet, in the end, we are all human and humans are the only animals that shed tears, after all. 

***

Daphne Muller is a New York City-based writer who has written for Salon, Ms. Magazine, The Huffington Post, and reviewed books for ELLE and Publishers Weekly. Most recently, she completed a novel and screenplay. You can follow her on Instagram @daphonay and on Twitter @DaphneEMuller.

Photo courtesy of OZAN KOSE / Stringer

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

10 books to check out from Jordan Peterson's 'Great Books' list

The Canadian professor has an extensive collection posted on his site.

Jordan Peterson with Carl Jung and the cover art of Jaak Panksepp's 'Affective Neuroscience' (Image: Chris Williamson/Getty Images/Big Think)
Personal Growth
  • Peterson's Great Books list features classics by Orwell, Jung, Huxley, and Dostoevsky.
  • Categories include literature, neuroscience, religion, and systems analysis.
  • Having recently left Patreon for "freedom of speech" reasons, Peterson is taking direct donations through Paypal (and Bitcoin).
Keep reading Show less

Your body’s full of stuff you no longer need. Here's a list.

Evolution doesn't clean up after itself very well.

Image source: Ernst Haeckel
Surprising Science
  • An evolutionary biologist got people swapping ideas about our lingering vestigia.
  • Basically, this is the stuff that served some evolutionary purpose at some point, but now is kind of, well, extra.
  • Here are the six traits that inaugurated the fun.
Keep reading Show less

Should you invest in China's stock market? Know this one thing first.

Despite incredible economic growth, it is not necessarily an investor's paradise.

Videos
  • China's stock market is just 27 years old. It's economy has grown 30x over that time.
  • Imagine if you had invested early and gotten in on the ground floor.
  • Actually, you would have lost money. Here's how that's possible.