The tears of the most powerful man in the world and breaking the taboo of masculinity

Whereas you are a woman or a man, you will always be faced with societal expectations you will feel obliged to meet. If women have to fit that perfect idea of being clever, beautiful and gifted in the kitchen, men have to spend their lives proving they are manly, tough and emotionless.

When Obama cried during his final rally this week, there was uproar. CNN – possibly due to slow news, to be fair to them – had a whole segment about how Obama had shed a single tear in front of his voters. Even though crying in public because you have been fighting for that moment for a while wasn’t really a big deal, they made it a big deal. And it made me think of all society teaches us; men must be manly and strong and grr no emotions, but anger! Don’t act like a girl, that’s not right, that means you’re weak!

This idea of manliness is equally detrimental to both genders. The ‘boys don’t cry’ culture creates not only an unfriendly environment for those who are different (i.e. transsexuals, transvestites, androginous people, cross-dressers, gays, lesbians… I could go on) but it also creates a gender supremacy of men over women that teaches us that boys are essentially better, stronger, more capable than girls.

A couple of weeks ago I went to an amazing event about women’s role in society. One of the most interesting presentations was by Tony Porter and it was called A Call to Men: the Next Generation of Manhood. Porter is the White House’s consultant on domestic violence against women and girls. He says that even though a majority of men is not violent to women, their attitude towards manliness and its supremacy is the foundation to domestic violence.

He told his own eye opening story of when he was a coach and used to tell his players not to play like girls.

He said: “When I was a coach and I said to a boy to stop playing like a girl. It never registered for me that as a follow up question if I tell him to stop playing like a girl, what am I then saying about girls? I was just trying to motivate the boy, but what am I saying about girls?”

It was slowly dawning on him that minor comments like that contribute to something bigger, a life-long lesson that girls are simply not as good as boys. With that in mind, he asked his players what they would feel like if he said they played like girls.

“I thought they would say they’d be sad or angry. But they said: ‘it would destroy me.’ If It would destroy him to know he’s playing like a girl what are we teaching them about girls? What does that teach us about girls?

“It teaches us that women are objects, that they belong to men. And we believe that ownership is an equation to violence against women. We’re not doing the violence but were part of the equation that allows that to happen.”

“Even if we don’t do the violence, we’re part of the foundation that’s required for the violence to exist. We, as men, we don’t perpetrate the violence but being taught women is the property of men it has helped to build the foundation for this violence to exist.”

Porter also said that this is something that starts early on in a child’s upbringing and that men tend to live in something called the Man Box. The box is a limiting device for the male gender, it doesn’t let men do things that are not deemed ‘appropriate’ for men. Like what? Like love and fear; talking about love, being emotional is not manly. Being scared is not manly.

Our sons can’t talk about fear because we don’t talk about fear. Think about all the stupid stuff you did because you didn’t say you were afraid. We never say we’re scared, we say something like I’m concerned. I’m a little stressed. You ain’t a little stressed man, you scared!”

Why is gender something that should limit your emotions? Why is President Obama shedding a tear or two a big thing that needs to morph into a whole segment of the news? Why is crying a weakness for men and the norm for women? And for God’s sake, why is it so damn unacceptable when we ALL HAVE TEAR DUCTS?

And there’s a lot more to deal with here; the difference between male and female products we all – independent of gender – use everyday is ridiculous. All male products have to be advertised IN CAPS, with a tone and vocabulary that implies using that product will increase their manliness. A loofah for men is not a loofah, it’s a SHOWER TOOL. Products for men that are used everyday enforce this idea of manliness that drives us all apart in the equality and acceptance issues.

Can we really pretend to be fooled by this nonsense? We’re all individuals, and we shouldn’t abide to these standards.

A president who cries in public is a president full of courage and passion. If the most powerful man in the world can cry, other men can too. We just need to start breaking the taboo of masculinity ourselves.

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