Why do we teach boys not to cry?
Emotion is an astonishing ability that nature has given to us, that made us superior to other animals and organisms. They allow us to understand others and others to understand us. Yet, we teach boys not to cry. We allow ourselves and our people to lose this wonderful connection, and to enclose ourselves in our own little world where we forget or choose not to feel those emotions—not appreciating all those gifts that make us human.
Boys and girls cry the same amount when they are babies and toddlers, research shows. “It’s around age 5 that boys get the message that anger is acceptable, but that they’re not supposed to show other feelings, like vulnerability,” said Tony Porter, co-founder of A Call to Men, an organization that helps to promote a healthy and respectful manhood and shift attitudes and behaviors that devalue women, girls and other marginalized groups.
In Cambodia, as well as many parts of the world, elders often teach boys not to cry. They believe that crying is a representation of weakness. They also believe that boys need to be strong and tough; therefore, the perfect way to do it is by not letting boys cry.
One common phrase that Cambodia elders always told the boys is “ធ្វេីជាកូនប្រុសសូ៑បង្ហូរឈាម មិនបង្ហូរទឹកភ្នែក,” translated as, “A man rather bleed than cry”.
We allow our daughters to be human beings by allowing them to show their emotions, but do we really want to teach our sons to be robots and bury their emotions? Absolutely not.
Cara Shelton, a literacy teacher at the Liger Leadership Academy, believes that it is unfair and could end up being very dangerous for not allowing boys to express their emotions. She stated, “It bothers me that only women seem emotional. Our society today thinks that emotions are weak.” She continued, “ When boys are taught not to cry and to be tough, it can allow violence and bullying to happen. It’s seen as more appropriate for the boys to make fun of each other, to bully each other, and to hit each other rather than to express their emotions.”
When men are not able to express their emotions, stress can accumulate within them. This can cause them to get depression and can lead men to commit suicide. Research has shown that globally, death by suicide occurred about 1.8 times more often among males than among females in 2008, and 1.7 times in 2015. In the western world, males die three to four times more often by means of suicide than do females.
For a very long time, society indoctrinates us, boys and men, with countless stereotypes, especially dealing with our emotional expression. Since it is deemed as a “weakness,” often boys and men mask their faces, hiding feelings and emotions. In truth, it is human nature to express how we feel. It is extremely challenging to bury our emotions. Therefore, males should start breaking the societal stereotypes that are placed upon them and stop living up to those expectations. Overall, your emotion is your voice. It is a gift; thus, appreciate it.
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