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Society Lies: Real Men Don't Cry

Image provided by Pakorn and freedigitalphotos.netImage provided by Pakorn and freedigitalphotos.netFrom my experience of working within an industry that tests the emotional strengths of every parent, I find myself often saying to the Dads, “It’s OK to cry”. I can sometimes see the tears well up,  or how they may avoid eye contact, some Dad’s change the subject, unreassuringly reassure everyone that “we will be OK”, joke about something else or just get up and leave the meeting. They are dealing with some incredibly strenuous times and they often feel like they have to be strong for their wife and children. The perception is that their family needs them to be strong; their strength is what holds the family together – and crying is a sign of weakness.

 I think reminding our Dads, husbands, brothers and sons that it IS OK to cry is important. Normalising this emotion - not making a big deal out of tears being shed by males and by providing emotional support and comfort to males- is a great start. If you can get a male to open up and talk about something, you’re doing an awesome job. Man and women deal with things differently, very differently. However, with women tending to open up more and show emotions to others, they tend to receive the most support from outsiders of the family, often leaving the Dad overlooked and causing the Dad to once again be forced into bottling things up.

The saddest thing about this whole topic, is that we have to talk about it. We have built it into our social norms that “boys (or ‘real men’) don’t cry”, “boys need to be strong for their mums, or family” and “crying is for girls”. Men are ridiculed in the media if they show a sign of weakness – for instance Andy from the latest season of The Block (2015) was ridiculed continuously for having a breakdown, the tears he shed were repeated in numerous episodes; he was portrayed as weak for this and widely criticised on social media by viewers. Why do we do this? We know the producers edited out an emotional breakdown of a female contestant on the same show and it was never mentioned – so why ridicule Andy? Were they trying to break the social norms and help normalise it? I think not. The repetition of the footage throughout the season and its advertisements is not normalising anything. We, as a society, have a lot to answer for.

If we experience grief in our life we want the male to show emotions, we want them to grieve. But how can we expect this to occur when in the same breath we are criticising a grown man for crying on TV, or telling our young son that ‘Boys don’t cry’ as a way to stop him from doing it. We need to stop sending mixed messages, we need to make ourselves comfortable with the fact that men need to cry in order for them to grieve…and IT IS OK TO CRY – after all, crying is a natural bodily function that we use from the moment we are born; society is just turning making males turn the function off.  

So, to the men of our community, if you need to shed a tear- do it. If it needs to be in a room alone or in front of others – it is ok. No one can judge you for having emotions and no one could handle the situation any better than what you are doing. You are strong for getting through difficult situations; your strength is not measured on whether you cry and you are definitely not any less of a man for having moment of ‘weakness’.

 

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