I have been thinking about this topic for a while now. I spent several hours on research in order to understand the difference between the way it is perceived and the way it really is. I have never dared to talk about it before with anyone due to its controversy. Truth be told, a small part of me remains hesitant about publishing this article. Then again, it is because a topic is viewed as controversial that it should be talked about. The approach I initially had for this topic was quickly dropped given that the information I dug out was often misleading, inconclusive or just not answering the question I was asking. Before you continue reading, I need to make one thing clear: if you feel offended or if you disagree with my opinion, remember that it is just an opinion and not a scientific fact. Feel free to contact me and we could talk more about it, under the condition that you do your research as well first.
A few months ago, I elaborated an article on the importance of gender equality, along with the rise of feminism. What is interesting today is to notice that once we click on the English version of the “Gender Equality” Wikipedia page, the side photo solely consists of the female gender. I understand that the entire movement started in order to give a woman the same rights as a man. This sight raised some questions in my mind as I was incapable to understand how gender equality could be achieved if we focus uniquely on what affects women negatively today while disregarding the dark effects of society on men. I will clarify my confusion by trying to answer the following question: why do we say that men are socially conditioned to hide tears and feelings?
According to the research that I conducted, showing any sign of emotion is perceived as a sign of weakness. By digging deeper into the subject, I stumbled upon an article written by Henry Montero saying that such a perception is one of the many traits of something called “toxic masculinity”. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, toxic masculinity regroups any idea or behaviour realised by men that could be harmful to themselves or people around them. One of the most famous stereotypes that caricatures this ideology is the classic “Boys will be boys” phrase. That quote is today associated as an excuse to justify any form of violence, sexual harassment and misogyny by men and boys. It can even extend to associating pink as a girl’s colour. The end result of all those social factors is a constant pressure on a man’s behaviour towards himself, his friends and his family. A process that starts at a very young age, as explained in Dr Audrey Nelson’s article in Psychology Today. As young as the second grade (7 or 8 year-olds). For many, this process is tied with the fact of ‘being a man’, an expression which if searched on the internet is often connected to terms like machismo and ruggedness.
Although I agree that this approach is not at all perfect, I will say that it has its upsides.
I sense that there is a fundamental basic reason as to why fathers tend to teach their sons to not cry, to not open up, to not show their emotion. That reason could be summed up in three words: time, business, politics. The world we live in today moves too quickly. Everybody is always rushing to get somewhere. We constantly try to do at least two things at the same time. One example is related to the French 35-hour work week law passed in February 2000. According to a study conducted by the BBC, the average French employee works close to 40 hours per week. In addition to that, the older a person gets, the more exposed to the harsh reality of how cold the real world is, in business and politics especially. Coming from a business background along with an exchange semester in political science, I can tell you that I learned all of that the hard way. Besides, who has time to listen to you and help you with your problems, when they barely have time to take care of their own?
If that were not enough, men rarely open up because they feel judged by others, as was found in a survey conducted by Ipsos MORI with charity organisation Movember on 4,000 men across the US, the UK, Canada, and Australia. This feeling of being can be connected to several past events: not being understood, being undermined, being exposed by the person they opened up to, or even PTSD from a past relationship in some cases. Along with incentivizing men to build walls up and keeping their emotions to themselves, this can develop into severe depression stats.
The reason why I prefer this approach to today’s world is that it helps me to learn to get back up on my own when I fall down. I know that I do not always have to do it alone, but having someone by my side to help me get back up is the exception, not the rule. It is not surprising that in today’s world:
“Darwin wins. Not Einstein.”
– Prison Break
As a conclusion, my answer is yes. Yes, I do have feelings. Yes, I do struggle to get out of bed every day. Yes, I do experience burnouts and breakdowns. Yes, I strongly have the urge to just explode sometimes. But then again, I do not show any of the above because this is my battle. Because right here right now, I am on my own. Some might view such behaviour as toxic; I view it as the best thing I ever did.