Why Can’t Men Cry???

September 27, 2011  |  

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?

Email nativenotes at nativenotes@gmail.com or follow him on Facebook/Twitter/Tumblr and check out some his writings over at Notes of This Native Son

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  • Ally

    If we repress our emotions, you could trigger your physiological changes.
    Also, crying is natural.

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  • As a man who does cry and works with other men through free men's groups I agree – there is a double standard. If we are to break out of that bind we also need women to accept men learning to be emotional.

  • pink

    dont mind if a man cry after all they a human beings i have three bros and seen them cry

  • Ron

    There is nothing wrong with a man who cries. Too much maybe. But I grew up being told show no emotion. None at all. But it wasn’t from my dad. The block taught me this. And af age 29, I still have these “laws” I live by. I was told/taught that showing emotion gives people an upper hand. They’ll know how to hurt you. I really don’t remember the last time I “cried”. But it is what it is!!
    Just my thoughts!!

  • This is a really well written piece and I agree with most of what you said. With that said. A man's actions usually revolve around survival. No man can really survive in this world if he is at the mercy of his feelings/emotions. Granted we do not live in caveman days but those instincts are ingrained in us.

    I struggle with my feelings and dealing with all kinds of pain but I usually do my emotional crap in private. If a man expresses his feelings publicly it changes the way he is perceived and therefore changes how people treat him. I didn't make these rules I just leave within the confines of them.

  • L-Boogie

    "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." This is a perfect quote. Men, especially in American society, have been taught to suppress but in reality as HUMAN BEINGS they need an emotional outlet as well. Men should be allowed to cry without it being seen as effeminate. The reality is everyone has emotions our interpretation of those emotions is what hinders growth and maturity.

  • Kayla

    it takes a real man to cry. now i would be a little put off if he cried everyday. But there's nothing wrong with a tear or two.

  • Big Mike

    Thank you cfx! The word "man" has taken on a negative connotation in today's society. The only time people value a black man's opinion if is it's one of our nauseating "black leaders", a movie star they'll never meet, or some stankin ass rapper.

    • Big Mike

      I don't cry, but I don't take my frustrations out on other people either (which is just an excuse for those abusive types – don't let them off the hook that easy). What works for me is that i go take a long walk to collect my thoughts and figure out my next move. I do it in hard emotional times and when I'm thinking of ideas for my business. Poeple in the neighborhood think I'm crazy but its just my way of letting everything out, assessing, and reflecting.

    • IllyPhilly

      So true and sad! I can't take cues from a man who wears makeup and if they in Hollywood in any way shape or form, they wear makeup!


        I'm right up there with you. A man is supposed to be the guide & protector in a family (& even in society). How do you see the way or the solution through the tears. A true man should be able to control his emotions. Crying is not what prevents us from beating our spouses & abusing our offspring. It is discipline that makes us play our roles properly. Care for & protect our women & children & lead them along the right path. As the Jamaicans say: man a man so bare dry cry!

  • cfx

    there is no healthy or functional place for a man to express himself. Sadly, the only times that many men are actually heard and taken seriously is when they are expressing anger through some violent or destructive manifestation.

    • IllyPhilly

      This is why a strong woman understands that pain. I can only speak from my point of view as a war veteran who's been married to war veterans, I would NEVER disrespect my man for shedding tears every damn day when terrible thoughts cross his mind and keep him up at night or when he can't focus or is going through rough patches. We lean on each other. WOMEN need to come up off those supposed old school thoughts of how a real man is suppose to act. Cuz in that case "real" men would be cheating and beating on their spouses cuz that's what some O' heads use to believe, "my man love cuz he beat me."

  • cfx

    This is just another one of the many paradoxes of life in America and I think the comments by “Ummm” provides a perfect example of how it plays out in everyday life… Truth is, too much crying by ANY adult makes them seem weak and unable to handle life; not just men. And since there is a perceived allowance for females to not only be overcome by life events but to also have a (her) man to lean on when she does,

  • Stanley

    I can't say anything.

    • Ummm

      I don't have a problem with a man crying, but I DO have a problem if they're like crying every other day. That's NOT a good look for any man in my opinion. Case in point: Terrell Owens. Dude cries snot and boogers EVERY episode. It's too much. Who wants a man that is always overwhelmed with emotions and problems. Hell… that's MY part. Who am I supposed to lean on if my man is just as overcome by life events as I am? Call me old fashion, but…. too much crying from a man makes him seem weak and unable to handle life. That is not attractive.