Sissy, punk, b*itchassness central, “He ‘ain’t strong, he ‘ain’t a real man.”
These are just some of the derogatory catchphrases a man can hear from both men and women alike if he’s deemed “too emotional.” God forbid he cries. But who created this rule?
On Sunday night I was involved in a unity circle (circle of loved ones pouring libations and speaking about what they’re thankful for) in honor of a close friend who was moving to Ghana. He was leaving to work with the Supreme Court there through a fellowship with his law school. It was an emotional moment for all of those who were involved, both men and women. I felt myself getting choked up when I spoke about my love for my friends, my own shortcomings and my fear of the unknown. But subconsciously I was thinking to myself: “YOU BETTER NOT CRY!”
Fortunately I grew up with a mother who taught me that showing emotion was a sign of strength rather than weakness. But what about all the brothers who were taught to keep it all in? I have a pretty progressive group of friends so I immediately threw the question out to the group. One of my boys said something profound: “Suppression is not strength.”
That’s when it hit me harder–It’s deeper than men not crying and more about men not learning or being taught how to deal with their feelings as a result of trying to be strong. How many women do you know who complain that their man is emotionally cold, and that they can’t get anything out of him? On one side of the spectrum you have the man who can’t put his feelings into words, which alienates his partner. But in worse scenarios you have men who have suppressed feelings, and their rage winds up manifesting itself in the form of verbal and physical abuse towards their loved ones (or somewhat innocent third parties).
Men have been raised in a culture that promotes brute over reasoning. To reason, one must be in tune with how they feel about a topic. To fight, all you need is enough anger to throw that first punch–the rest is mere survival instinct.
We can sit around and blame rap music, television shows and video games for the stunted growth of men but until we look in the mirror and reflect on our interactions with men and the boxes we put men in, we’ll see the same cycle. It starts in the home; in those personal spaces that we share with loved ones. It starts with redefining what it means to be a man, as well as what it means to be a woman. ‘Real Men don’t cry’ – what constitutes a real man? Until we start looking at gender differently and how men and women can socialize, we’ll remain in these boxes that are too small for the complexity that is we.
Do you get down on men for being too emotional? How do you teach young boys to share their feelings?