It's Time to End Our Double Standard Over Men Crying

November 16th 2015

Out of the all progress we have made as a society there is still one double standard that needs some work: men crying.

Although there are certain occasions where it is socially acceptable and understandable for men to cry, men typically aren't as free as women to turn on the water works.

Related: The Science of Crying

In a poll conducted by AskMen, 74 percent of men confirmed that they do in fact shed tears, however, who sees them cry is another story. When asked whether they would cry in front of a woman, men's willingness to cry drastically dropped. Forty-five percent of men said they would not cry in front of a woman compared to 55 percent who said they would.

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Masculinity and crying

Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of California Irvine, Catherine Bolzendahl told ATTN: that part of the reason men hold back their tears is how crying affects the perception of a man's masculinity.

"Crying is associated with a sense of weakness and dependence and that's also associated with how we think of women and there is so much pressure on men not to be feminine," Bolzendahl said. "Masculinity is built in relation to femininity so if crying is seen as feminine then men don't' want to do that."

Crying is generally viewed as a feminine behavior because it is associated with expressing emotions. And being emotional is not something that Bolzendahl says social constructions encourage men to do. In fact, it has been argued that men have very few emotions that they can pull from to express their feelings. Whereas it is not taboo for women to express both vulnerability and anger, men usually are socially allowed to express only one of these emotions according Tony Porter, co-founder of national violence prevention organization Call to Men.

In a TED Talk in 2010, Porter outlines expectations of men in what he calls "The Man Box." In it, he lists characteristics that society deems appropriate behavior for a man, including:

  • Protector
  • Do not show weakness of fear
  • Tough/athletic/strength/courage
  • Makes decisions/does not need help
  • Demonstrate power/control
  • Do not be "like a woman"
  • Heterosexual
  • Don't cry openly or express emotions

Often, expectations like these fall into the category of hegemonic masculinity — the term for a more machismo or dominant masculinity. Bolzendahl acknowledges that not all men fall into this category and it is completely possible for groups of men to reject this type of masculinity based on culture and individualism. However, this form of masculinity can be problematic because of its strict application of gender norms that permeate society today.

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Benefits of crying

Out of the all species in the animal kingdom, humans are the only ones that cry in response to emotions, and with this evolutionary adaption comes many advantages.

According to Medicine Daily, crying builds better communication, boosts mood, releases toxins and relieves stress. In an interview with Medicine Daily, psychotherapist Sharon Martin explained what a cathartic experience crying can be.

"Crying is a safe and effective way to deal with stress," Martin told Medicine Daily. "It provides an emotional release to pent up negative feelings, stresses and frustrations." He added that trying to suppress emotions actually works to one's disadvantage.

If that is true then it is time to reconsider the negative stigma attached to men crying. Because of the limited ways for men to socially display emotion, it is possible that the lack of crying and expressing emotions is a contributor to stress-related illnesses.

"They say that's men's problem with hypertension or with stress," Bolzendahl said. "If [men] could have more of an outlet for these emotions, if [men] could express their emotions more, then it would be better for their health, for their physical health, for their mental health."

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Do you feel comfortable crying in front of others?

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