When you see a man cry, what do you think of him? Words like sissy, wimp, coward, weak, maybe even woman, might come to mind. Emotion is an area that women seem to have more freedoms in than men.
For women, it is okay to cry and get emotional, but men are expected to stay strong and resolute in upsetting situations.
Emotions are associated with women, making men appear frail and weak if they show emotion because those emotions are also associated with showing weakness.
Women who are considered cold or unemotional are judged for not showing emotions since they are going against the stereotype of “nurturer.”
However, if a woman shows too much emotion she is also judged for being too emotional; her femininity may even be attacked by pointing a finger at her menstrual cycle as the source of her strong emotions or changes in emotion.
Men are mocked for showing the slightest bit of emotion since they are expected to be the “macho” breadwinner that doesn’t care about anything. According to western society, men aren’t allowed to care too much because caring is a sign of weakness.
Alison M. Jaggar, a known feminist philosopher, wrote about differences in how women and men express emotion in “Love and Knowledge: Emotion in Feminist Epistemology.”
She explains that philosophy has discussed how women are seen as more emotional and irrational and therefore inferior, while men are seen as rational and reasonable and therefore, were originally seen as the only people able to make decisions in politics and society.
Men still have emotions, they just can’t show that they have emotions or else they risk losing their “cool guy” cover.
“In contemporary western culture, emotionally inexpressive women are suspect as not being real women,” Jaggar wrote.
“Resting bitch face” comes from the notion that women have to be happy and cheerful all of the time like “real women.”
They are supposed to be kind and willing to please everyone so seeing a woman who appears even the slightest bit mean or “bitchy” is absurd and obviously means something is wrong with her.
“Whereas men who express their emotions freely are suspected of being homosexual or in some other way deviant from the masculine ideal,” Jaggar wrote.
Sometimes men who show emotion are mocked for being gay, which causes some men to lash out to prove their heterosexuality and resort to physical violence (because gay men can’t be violent, right?).
On the other hand, the expectations of men’s behavior is the opposing character to how women are expected to act. They need to have their emotions in check and hide anything that makes them upset.
In a society where men are three and a half times more likely to commit suicide, we need to acknowledge emotion as real and worthy of acknowledgement. Societal expectations play heavily on self-identity and self-esteem.
Gloria Anzaldua, a chicana feminist writer, has written about the connection between that expectation of “macho” men and the occurrence of domestic violence in “La Conciencia de la Mestiza/ Towards a New Consciousness.”
“The loss of a sense of dignity and respect in the macho [man] … leads him to put down women and even to brutalize them” Anzaldua wrote.
Emotions happen for a reason and if a person isn’t able to express themselves in a healthy way, situations tend to blow up.
If a man can’t cry as a reaction to the birth of a child or the death of a loved one, how will they be able to process those strong emotions of joy and grief?
One in 16 men are sexually assaulted on U.S. college campuses each year. This is not always seen as much of a problem because the statistic is fairly higher for women.
However, it’s important for the man falling into that stat to reach out for help as he heals from the trauma and not have to worry about keeping up a “macho” facade. Society should be willing to accept that he is in pain and help him through a difficult time emotionally.
Emotions have become a source of shame, but they happen for a reason. We have evolved to have emotions so that we can react to our environment.
As feminists we focus on equality. However, we can’t demand equality for ourselves while also denying men the right to show emotion.
If women want to be treated with respect we need to respect men as who they are instead of them as the idea of “manly man.”
So let men cry, let women be cold and let people deal with emotions however they need to.