We will continue our exploration into why men crying is viewed as something to be discouraged by our society today. If you have not already please check out the original post on this subject which can be found here. As much a you guys are going to hate me for it I want to start this post by taking a journey into the deepest recesses of materialistic pop culture, I hate to do it but there’s a compelling anecdote I would like to share with you regarding one vapid male debutante. He is Jayden Smith, son of famed actor Will Smith and in all ways he lives up to the reputation one would expect of a privileged hollywood teenager.
I have a bit of patience for the kid… us normal folk had the luxury of not having our most cringeworthy teenage growing pains broadcasted to the world by an unrelenting paparazzi desperate for any kind of celebrity gossip or drama. At some point in our teenaged lives, a great many of us become the enlightened know it all, we’ve discovered the word “philosophy” and now wish to grace the world with our awesome teenaged intellect. All of a sudden we insist that we know what “real music” is, or we discover that the illuminati is in control of the world economy and proselytize to others about 9-11 “truth” or we dress like goth’s or hipsters etc.
Anything to differentiate ourselves. It is actually a crucial point in teenaged development where a young mind begins to make an attempt to fashion an identity for him or herself. But again, this can result in some pretty cringeworthy stuff. I’ll begin with exhibit A, the now viral meme consisting of an assortment of Jayden’s most… introspective tweets.
Cringeworthy indeed… and another
Yes, It’s hilariously pretentious. I know at this point you may be asking yourself what is the point of all this? What does a teenaged pseudo-intellectual boy have to do with men’s issues? Well, gentleman, within this adolescent period of self discovery, despite the fact that it consists of hilariously awkward musings more often than not, we find the occasional insightful act bubbling up to the surface. Jayden made headlines when he was spotted wearing what appeared to be a a dress.
Yes a dress, he nonchalantly decided to incorporate a decidedly “female” dress into his wardrobe, and by all accounts he seems to be perfectly content and at ease with his decision.
Ok, I’ll pause here a bit to absorb my fellow men’s gynocentric outrage, please by all means, call me a pussy call me a sissy whatever just get it all out of your system… I can take it.
For the record, I’m not trying to say that it’s “cool” or hip or whatever if you’re a man that wears women’s clothing, I understand that a lot of us, myself included are perfectly happy wearing our traditionally masculine, anatomically correct garb, and I celebrate that. It will become clear what I’m trying to illustrate to you here with the picture below:
All of a sudden this is manly again? What is the difference between Jayden and this man? A utilitarian backpack perhaps? the backdrop of the wilderness? these are all surface level distinctions that have nothing to do with the essential fact that neither of these two styles of dress vary in any significant way, it is instead our perception that varies.
Society has attached the label of masculinity to one dress and not the other. In other words, this demonstrates to us that for men, their masculine identity isn’t for them to decide, but it is instead decided for them by society at large. That is the brilliance of Jaydens fashion statement, that in the vapid, appearance crazy culture he lives in, he thought to himself:
“Why should women be the ones to enjoy this type of fashion, I’m reclaiming it as my own, and I don’t care who doesn’t like it.”
It is an example of a young man, independently defining his own masculinity on his own terms without the help of a history of Kilt wearing men to bolster his risky fashion statement. Jayden doesn’t seem to be wearing these garments with any kind of desire to emulate femininity, he seems to be doing so with a desire to explore his own masculinity without the closing of avenues that society has pre-ordained to be a no-go, and this, whether our young friend knows it or not is a small revolutionary act for the conceptualization of masculinity.
This is where we should look if we wish to understand the changes that are taking place in the current envirnment men find themselves in. Little clues here and there that allow us, if we know what to look for to tease out a changing perspective on masculinity coming from young men and boys in particular.
The advent of the internet has changed language forever. Before the internet, the likelihood that the letters “lol” would become synonymous with laughter was probably very slim. An entirely new lexicology has arisen giving completely new meanings to words like “troll”, our has become more abbreviated and acronym friendly, and in many ways, the preponderance of the use of emoji for example, our language has learned to rely a bit less on alphanumerical communication and more on pictographic communication. Instead of saying we are feeling sad or happy we now have these little critters at our disposal.
I’m all for it. I’m all for having as many ways as possible to communicate our thoughts available to us. The limitation of language is is what you could call double plus ungood. It results in less avenues for self expression and transmission of thought to our fellow human being. Given this, I welcome emoticons and all of their derivatives into the toolbox of human language. Now, gentleman consider the following article titled Should Grown Men Use Emoji? it says the following:
A specter is haunting our communications: the specter of emoji. Right now, it’s likely that someone you know is texting a thumbs-up image to confirm a meeting, or maybe sending off a friendly ghost emoji to say “boo” to a friend.
Yet the little guys (and gals, and farm animals, and foodstuffs) aren’t without controversy. Word-centric fuddy-duddies see the decline of literacy reflected in their heart-shaped eyes, while guardians of decorum lament the spread of greasy kid stuff dripping from the characters’ snail trails.
Given their resemblance to the stickers that adorn the notebooks of schoolgirls, not to mention their widespread adoption as the lingua franca of tweens and teens everywhere, some people wonder whether grown men should be using them at all.
Already we’re being told that a simple tool for language isn’t masculine enough, that emoji’s are similar to “stickers that adorn notebooks of schoolgirls”. Our language may have changed, but it seems that in terms of our desire to preemptively decide what masculinity is in hopes of limiting the way men can express themselves we appear to still be in the stone-age. Of course no man is going to want to use them if the cultural narrative succeds in giving them an inherently feminine connottation. The article continues.
Other experts (that is, emoji users themselves) are less definitive. “It’s a fine line,” said Melissa Karlin, 35, a Chicago-based accounts manager for Kenshoo, a software company. “Emoji-ing is a dance.”
She noted that some men use emoji in ways she finds inscrutable, particularly in the context of romance, when they are given to texting the symbol of the winky face with the tongue sticking out. “I don’t know what it means,” Ms. Karlin said.
She offered a piece of advice for potential suitors: “Use your words. I’m a big fan of using your words.”
In a discussion that appeared last year on Yahoo Answers, one anonymous poster said of emoji: “They’re fun but I just find them emasculating!” In a spirited thread on the same topic over on Reddit, another emoji user counseled, “Like anything else, moderation is key.”
In fairness to the article there were some instances of men thinking that the use of emoji and emoticons were exactly what they are… just a trivial non gender-specific way to convey thoughts.
Jordan Peele, of the sketch comedy duo Key & Peele, proved his fluency when he retold the story of “The Shining” through 96 carefully selected emoji packed into a single tweet, an effort that has won him more than 13,000 retweets.
Certain men embrace emoji while holding them at a remove. Gil Schwartz, a CBS executive who writes under the name Stanley Bing, called himself a “rare user of ironic emojis.” He said he is partial to the pig and the horse. “I use them because I think they’re stupid,” he said. “At some point, texting is kind of stupid.”
He has no fear that using them may somehow put a dent in his masculinity. “For a moment you’re Taylor Swift,” said Mr. Schwartz, who is 63. “If you’re confident in your manhood, you can certainly lapse into Taylor Swift-hood momentarily.”
“Taylor swift-hood” That’s the pejorative used for men that express themselves a little to readily with emoticons. It would indicate that when men do this they are perceived as being vapid, self centered and devoid of self control…and therein lies the rub folks. It is ok for women and women only to do this, because our society allows them to be vapid perpetual adolescents with very little self control. That last bit is a tacit admission of this. You might think it is pedantic of me to be bringing this up, that maybe I’m looking for issues that aren’t there, or that aren’t important, and maybe you’re right…I don’t know.
But I believe that while these specific observations are on the surface, very trivial, they also manage to work their way up to the serious matters that effect men in the same fashion. Take for instance the following article titled Society Needs to Allow Men the Right to Cry it begins with the following:
On Monday, just as the Tim Hunt “women get in the way of science” thing seemed to be dying down, London mayor Boris Johnson stepped in with the helpful clarification—via his Telegraph column—that Hunt had simply been describing a “natural phenomenon.” The reason women are crying this sea of snot and tears into petri dishes, he said, is largely down to their lady bodies.
Johnson pointed to “all sorts of biological explanations” for the fact that women cry more. And cry more they do, particularly in certain cultures, such as ours. According to world crying expert, Professor Ad Vingerhoets of Tilburg University, who Johnson quoted, women cry 30 to 64 times a year on average, compared to six to 17 times for men.
“Men are said to have differently shaped tear ducts, for instance, and can therefore retain the tears for longer before they splash down the cheek,” Johnson wrote. “Women are said to have more prolactin, a hormone associated with weeping. I would have thought that all this stuff could be filed as the latest stunning discovery from the University of the Bleeding Obvious.”
Except, as with anything gender-related, it’s not obvious at all. Vingerhoets himself is certainly not making any such simplistic claim.
“I have no doubts that with respect to crying there are substantial differences between adult men and adult women,” he told VICE. However, Vingerhoets cites a range of influences affecting this propensity to sob, including exposure to emotional events, relative feelings of helplessness, and socialization.
The latter, of course, is key. I grew up with four brothers and have clear memories of my dad stepping in when I was fighting with them. I couldn’t untangle it back then, but hearing my brothers told, “Stop, you’ll upset your sister,” put me instantly in the weaker position and, most likely, I’d cry. Well, boo-hoo, you say. But the cultural acceptance of women’s tears and, for men, the shame associated with crying, has far-reaching effects.
There are some gender differences in the frequency with which children cry. But from 12, the difference becomes marked.
“In terms of social learning, the reactions of peers are more important than those of the parents,” Vingerhoets says. “Especially boys aged 12 to 15 are very sensitive to this influence. They don’t want to be considered ‘sissies.'”
After a bit about the biological and neurological differences that cause men and women to cry differently they continue on saying:
Whatever the underlying reason for the tears that Boris describes as “splashing down women’s cheeks,” what we should be asking is whether crying is a bad thing. Does crying make you unfit to do a job, or do we just associate crying with weakness because we associate it with women?
Last year, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, author of Lean In, told Harvard graduates that crying at work is nothing to be afraid of. “I’ve cried at work,” she said. “I’ve told people I’ve cried at work. […] It is all professional and it is all personal, all at the same time.”
I’ve been on and off antidepressants since I was 17, and the times I’m off them I inevitably end up crying at some point. I’ve cried in pretty much every job I’ve ever had. Has it affected my ability to work? No.
One in four adults will experience a mental health problem in the course of a year, with anxiety and depression topping the list. Of course, crying doesn’t always indicate a mental health issue, but a culture which resolutely refuses to tolerate emotions or vulnerability is toxic. There’s plenty in real life—never mind the size of our tear ducts—to make us cry. The way forward seems to be more, not less, acknowledgement of this. Bring on the male tears.
A couple things, First, I should stress that the key here isn’t for men to ask society to “allow” them to cry, the key here, is for men to literally go their own way and embrace the full range of human emotion, crying included. We should not ask for permission from anyone, society included to experience anything, but we should be cognizant of the consequences of unapologetically doing so.
Sheryl Sandberg and her ilk have access to a societal “default setting” if you will that extends to them some form of compassion, simply for being women. Coupled with the fact that they are feminists, women such as this have leveraged society for the maximum amount of special treatment and privilege possible. A man who cries too much at the workplace can expect immediate ridicule on the first occasion, and if the behavior continues, he will likely lose his job. And as the article states, starting as early as age 12 boys understand this social penalty for expressing emotion, internalize it and carry it with them into adulthood. They learn to aggressively negotiate for their wages while the Sheryl Sandberg’s and Ellen Pao’s of the world learn to ban salary negotiations and “cry at work” when they need to.
Lastly, and on to the most serious issue I will cover here, The following article titled These Photos Of Men Crying Will Challenge Your Gender Perceptions highlights, I think, a triumph for men. As many of you may already know the Lithuanian government reintroduced conscription in 2015 and is set to conscript approximately 3,000 men against their will from a list of 37,000 eligible men aged 19–26. Lithuania, a country which has not only the highest suicide rate in the world, but a gendered suicide rate which has men killing themselves almost six times as often as women is now seeing fit to forcibly make these men fight and possibly die in combat.
Photos have surfaced of Lithuanian men dressed in uniform shedding tears as protest against their unlawful conscription. Neringa Rekasiute the photographer behind the project was quoted as saying the following about the images:
“We wanted to show how dangerous gender expectations are: A man is expected to be rational, emotionless and aggressive. It is very important that we, as a society, allow men to express their emotions and not force a stereotypical archaic role onto them.”
The photos, which I’ll post below are not the triumph in and of themselves, the triumph is that men weren’t afraid to publicly show themselves weeping in response to what is a camouflaged, socially accepted form of modern day slavery. The images seem a bit over the top, a bit contrived, but they exist, and the fact that they do exist is a small victory for men everywhere. The true victory will come when men no longer cry in response to being forced to fight, but when they refuse to fight altogether, choosing only to fight in self defense against those that would aggress against them by forcing them to fight in wars that they want no part of.
Here are some of the images and their captions below:
We will finish here gentleman, remember… it is up to you and you alone to determine what your masculinity is. Society will war against you both mentally and physically to prevent you from doing so…you must not let them.