I’m not saying that men aren’t emotional. I’m saying that they are– naturally so, humanly so– but society shames them for being so. But with “toxic masculinity” being more addressed on social platforms, there’s a start for positive change with how we treat men and the reexamination of what it means to be “tough” and “masculine.”
To be masculine itself is not toxic, and there is no one set, all-encompassing definition of “masculinity.” But the construction of what constitutes “masculinity” by society is dangerous and depriving.
It is extremely human for people to be emotional. It is extremely human, cathartic, and necessary for people to be expressive of their emotions, whether those feelings are “moderate” or “extreme,” positive or negative, good or bad.
It’s human to be vulnerable. And it’s brave to allow that vulnerability to be on display.
Why does society teach the opposite? What was it that made people start to believe that feelings are shameful, and things to be hidden– especially for men? That pretending like they don’t exist somehow makes you stronger? Or that depriving yourself of them somehow makes you tough?
How did running away from your problems be made to look “strong” while confronting them was made to look “weak”?
Confrontation– being able to do it, even with yourself, is something to be proud of. Being real with yourself, and being real in front of others, is something to be applauded and celebrated. This is especially the case in a world where people are so obsessed with looks and things at the surface-level– things that are convenient and refuse to take the effort of going deeper and being intimate.
It saddens me to see the way people avoid their emotions or block them, or block them and control them from going deeper in the way that they would, should go naturally. By depriving someone– whether it’s someone else or yourself– of the deep level of feelings, you’re depriving one of their humanity.
And that’s what society is doing– has been doing– to boys and men, with their expectations for them to “be tough,” to not “cry like a girl” and to not be”too sensitive” and “weak.”
Of course, much of the feelings that are frowned upon from being expressed are the negative ones of sadness and anger– things that take energy to deal with and can be emotionally draining. Feelings can be scary.
But they’re also so freaking beautiful.
They’re necessary for enriching your life. To experience the good extremes to the greatest possible extent, it’s also important to experience feelings of the lowest, darkest types.
Romantic love, for instance, it so freaking beautiful.
Do you ever stop to think about how amazing it is that it even exists? It brings feelings of inexplicible pleasure and happiness that makes you feel like you’re going to burst and fly off like a balloon because you can’t stay on the ground, trying to contain all that joy. But those good feelings of love come at a price– they come with the fear of losing that love, with the fear of losing the person you love.
But those fears, those “negatives”– they make the positives all the more worthwhile, more special. Even the price, with the way it drains and suffocates, is freeing and lively.
With the shaming of men for having feeling and being emotional comes the shaming of being “feminine.” Society ridicules a man’s masculinity for shedding tears, for being head over heels for a woman. For wanting to settle down instead of playing the field, for wanting to be fiercely loyal to one single woman that they love.
Yet, these roles are expected for women, and are attributed to a woman’s femininity. If a man is determined to commit to one lover, he’s made fun of. If a woman decides to play to field and would rather not commit, she’s called gendered slurs like “slut” and “wh**e.” As someone who is “female” and expected to be “feminine” and is made the butt of jokes for exhibiting “masculine” traits. Femininity is frowned upon in both cases– whether it’s women or men reflecting them.
At the end of the day, being “feminine” is associated with subjugation and shame. Why does society do that?
To feminize feelings is to feminize being human– and that’s not fair. Being human should be recognized for what is it is– being human, regardless of gender. Being emotional, being vulnerable, being passionate– craving love, craving affection, experiencing the clutches of loneliness and wanting to be freed from it.
The desires of humanity do not discriminate among gender.
The genderization of the humanity that is the expression of emotions and feelings comes at high costs for men’s mental health as it does for the validation for women.
Invaliding a man’s strength and masculinity as a result of viewing them as emotional creatures is also invalidating women as rational beings for being emotional. Being “emotional” and being “rational” are not mutually exclusive. They are both essential elements of being human, and in fact, one complements the other. For instance, someone’s feelings about a career decision can help them make a rational decision about whether or not they should take that career. If it doesn’t make them happy, but another one does, they would know by their feelings not to take the former.
Emotions and feelings aren’t just abstract objects of uselessness. Not only do they actually help with making rational choices, but they also are valuable and priceless on their own.
They give a reason for us to live.
What reason would we have to live if we didn’t feel?
If we didn’t experience love and desires?
What would be the whole point of living at all if we couldn’t feel– be– alive?
When boys and men are taught that they’re not “supposed” to feel– they’re being taught that they’re not allowed to be alive. They’re only taught to live in ways that are limited.
We can’t keep allowing society to rob men of their humanity. We cannot be okay with societal expectations that rob men of their quality of life.
And simultaneously, by fighting these absurd expectations that praise the suppression of men’s humanity, we are fighting the notion that separates rationality from femininity. We are fighting the notion that emotions and feelings are exclusively reserved for women and girls.
Don’t ever tell little boys that they need to be tough and not “cry like a girl” when they’re hurting. Don’t make fun of a guy for being a “p***y” when he doesn’t feel comfortable with doing something. When you make statements like these, you’re shaming people for being human. You’re shaming people for hurting, and that in itself should anger you.
And by shaming boys and men in these ways, in which you’re attributing their shame to being feminine, in attacking their masculinity– you’re shaming and degrading women.
Imagine what a beautiful world the place would be if people were more comfortable with confronting their emotions and being honest with each other and with themselves. Imagine how much more beautiful relationships would be if people were more willing to be vulnerable with their loved ones, and weren’t putting up such a front to upholding images for the sake of pleasing society with its stupid, dehumanizing, disgustingly constructed expectations and myths about masculinity versus femininity.
Men and women both deserve to feel comfortable in their humanity. They deserve to feel and know that is okay– that it is good– to be unapologetically human. Vulnerability is sexy in anyone.