At some point in our lives, we have all heard the saying, “real men don’t cry.”, whether directly or indirectly and I’m sure most of us have never taken a moment to ask, why. Why don’t real men cry? Are “real” men not human beings? And don’t human beings participate in natural behaviors, such as experiencing and expressing their feelings?
We live in a society that observes displays of emotion then labels them as weaknesses. Growing up, a young man is always told to “toughen up” or “get over it” when faced with any type of adversity that may evoke an emotional response. Rather than allowing young men to accept their feelings for what they are and express them, we tell them to push them down and radiate nothing but “toughness” and “manliness.” This conditioning of men, has given birth to an ugly concept called Hyper-masculinity. Hyper-masculinity, is a form of masculinity that displays manhood in an extreme way, to put it simply. According to Hyper-masculinity, in order to be a real man you must in no way shape or form resemble a woman, physically or emotionally. Hyper-masculinity incorporates hyper-aggression that typically turns into violence (towards Women especially), misogyny, sexism, and an array of many other harmful ideals.
Because of the ideals of being “effeminate” or “soft” that we have assigned to men who display anything other than strength and manliness, men have resorted to violent expressions of anger rather than coping healthily. Instead of speaking on their feelings and working towards understanding them in order to resolve whatever the problem may be, men tend to act out in an aggressive way. In a documentary that highlights the issue of Hyper-masculinity, especially focusing on the way in which it inherently breeds violence, Jackson Katz (Tough Guise 2) brings attention to an interesting fact about the commonality of violent crimes. Katz states that “violence is a men’s issue.” as he brings up the statistics of violent crimes committed in the United States. 86% of armed robberies, 99% of rape, approximately 90% of murder, and over the past 30 years 61 out of 62 mass shootings have all been committed by men. The questions that arise and I do believe need answering are: Why is violence a man’s issue? And how do we even begin to understand the dis-proportionality (and reason behind it) of these statistics? It starts with the extremely harmful and incorrect way in which we have taught men to process their emotions.
It is time that we as a society take it upon ourselves to change what it means to be emotional, especially in regards to men. We must provide a safe space for men to process, revel in, and express their feelings without subjecting to a groupthink mentality and immediately writing them off as weak. The first step in initiating this change is to stop assigning certain emotions to specific genders. Sadness and vulnerability, is not something exclusive to women. Anger and aggression is not always the reaction expected from men. It is OK to have feelings as a man and it is OK to cry.