Emotion: Another Four-letter Word


Author’s Note: Sections in italics are quotes directly from the article “Men Can, Too“.

Can I just say that I LOVE The Well Written Woman? They always publish such excellent articles. Heaven only know what they see in mine. ^_^ But today’s really made my day.

We have heard so much lately about gender equality, feminism, etc., and I really tend to stay out of these discussions because people are just so…angry. So I stay out of the discussions and keep my thoughts to myself. But I very much appreciated this article that Tammie Niewedde wrote (“Men Can, Too”). In the article, she quotes her son, after asking him what he thought of an article that showed men screwing up various jobs,

“Being a man who has chosen to be a stay-at-home dad for part of my son’s life, and being that I was ridiculed and criticized by my in-laws, I don’t think these things are funny at all. These supposed jokes are why men try to stay away from being helpful and sensitive. If we are projected as being good at ‘women’s work’, we completely give up our man card. We’re only allowed to be violent and domineering, and that’s what ticks me off.”

And it breaks my heart. Why do we vilify this? Call it ‘unmanly’, ‘unmasculine’? Why do we not celebrate it more? For example, have male friends who put me to shame with the way they care for their homes and the mastery they show at cooking. I admire them beyond words and, actually, strive to emulate them in many ways.

I am not a strong voice in the crowd when it comes to social issues. I usually keep my feelings private or for one-on-one discussions with my spouse and friends. But this…this is near and dear to my heart as I have met far too many men whose hearts and souls are wounded by this. With everything that’s been in the news lately, it can be so easy to make blanket statements from either side.

“All men can be violent assholes/rapists/abusers/etc.”

“All women can be bitches/teases/ballbusters.”

There is nothing built from this! Nothing at all! On either side. I don’t believe in statements like this. I don’t believe in “I know all men aren’t like this but…” I know that the men that I have chosen to cut out of my life are the exception, the aberration in my world. On the whole, the men in my life are wonderful and caring, intelligent and loving. And yet I know that they still struggle with this. I have spoken to them about it, cried with them through it, and loved on them to try to combat it. Destruction of self-esteem and self-image is not a poison regulated to women only. Please don’t forget that. This is a poison that has become so internalized in our adulthood that the damage is often consistent and difficult to repair when it wounds again and again.

My husband is the most masculine man I know, though he might not fall into the damaging cultural stereotype of masculine. He doesn’t like sports, though he played his fair share as a young kid. He gave it up in a preference for poetry, languages, and culture as he became a teenager. He likes music and Swamp Thing, speaking in German, reading poetry to our daughter, playing on his Xbox, singing, and reading fantasy and science fiction novels. He doesn’t run/jog, lift weights, watch football, or things like that. He debates education reform, he’s a conscientious objector, he mows our lawn, teaches Outdoor Pursuits to young people, is an NRA-licensed rifle instructor, and he’s the most masculine man I know.

And that is because he cares for his family, he encourages and supports his wife, he loves on and giggles with his daughter. He calls his mother just about every night and tells her about his day; he seeks out the advice of his parents on his job and important decisions. And yet he struggles with this. I know he does. But he puts one foot in front of the other every day and does his best to be the man I know he is, to be as true to himself as he can. And I love him for it.

I have never been drawn to the posturing, macho, crowing men – the ones who see their ‘man card’ as needing verification. The ones who whistled at me, sidled up to and touched me uninvited in a club, asked me as I passed them if I believed in love at first sight. I am attracted to men with kind hearts, gentle eyes and hands, clever minds, and loving personalities. THAT is my idea of masculinity, THAT is a man to me. THAT is a good person to me.

But in this world, emotion/sensitivity/kindness are seen as weakness. My husband brought up a good point today. What do we do when we see someone crying in public? We try not to pay attention. We may tell ourselves this is so that we do not embarrass the cryer, but the truth is that we are trained to avoid public emotion. It is seen as unseemly or ‘making a scene’ to allow emotion in public. But isn’t that the point of emotion, the reason our bodies have physical responses to it, like crying? Crying is a way our heart cries out for comfort, for the need of someone else – their care, their love, their strength – even when we don’t realize it. Why do we wish to quash this? In men and women? Men who show emotion are considered weak or unmasculine. Women who show emotion are referred to as a ‘bullet’ to be dodged or, more often, we refer to ourselves as a ‘hot mess’, quashing our own freedom to feel. I’ve even noticed this behavior in some of my characters whom I write for, which I think I need to strongly reconsider.

In the Victorian age, displays of emotion were labeled as a medical/psychological illness; we called it hysteria. Hysteria was treated by isolation, which often led to depression (called ‘exhaustion’), when really what that person most likely needed was someone to recognize their need and answer that emotion’s call.

We – men and women – are not weak in our emotion. We are strong in the fact that we are given opportunities to minister to and love on each other. We are given opportunities to strengthen each other in our actions and in our hearts, regardless of what the stereotypical gender roles would have us do. I don’t think I would call myself a feminist (I don’t really like calling myself an anything really, as I’ve discovered lately) but I do believe in the need for equal support from both sides.

As much as there is a war against women with the SCOTUS decision about birth control and such, there is also war against men that orders them to never, ever act like a woman. It’s as if during this war, the male camp calls out its own members as traitors if they can cook or clean or change a diaper. Moreover, if a man shows sadness or weakness, even in losing a child, his admission to the Man Club is revoked, and not only by other men, but sometimes by women as well.

[…]

It’s not about superiority. It’s not about winning. It’s about being human.

Amen.

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