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Over the past few months I’ve been having interesting conversations about how men and women communicate. While women tend to be more vocal about our feelings, men traditionally are a little more silent and introspective. If you’ve ever gotten into an argument with your boyfriend/husband/brother/best friend and he’s withdrawn into himself (or lashed out at the slightest conflict), instead of spoken to you honestly about his feelings, then you know what I mean.

But how did we get here?

How can we possibly want and crave conversations from men about their thoughts and feelings (and be welcoming of such), but struggle to have them?

It’s simple really. From the time they are young, we (society) put men in boxes. We build a box of masculinity and ridicule men who don’t fit within our limited definitions of what that box allows. To be fair, this also happens to women (and I’ve discussed this before), but men in boxes can not only wreak havoc on relationships, but they can also be dangerous.

Recently, a woman in a Facebook group I’m apart of posted about a man she was dating. Apparently, she was turned off because he called her crying…about life. Although she was ready to be supportive of his tears had they been for his dead homie or his mama, life kickin’ his ass wasn’t on the list of acceptable reasons to cry.

Many women in the thread chimed in with, “Oh, he sounds like a bitch ass” or “He needs to man up!” But what I found most interesting is that many of the men—perhaps in jest, but I’m willing to bet they were serious—commented that they felt she was being a little bit harsh, when a brotha just needed some support.

I found that telling.

For once, men weren’t shaming dude for being beat down by life (and crying!)—perhaps they understood? Even with the tears?—but women went IN. They felt that because we are often able to make struggling look so effortless, men should suck it up and do the same. We’ll call it Superwoman syndrome.

Some women will try their hardest to balance the world on their shoulders, despite the fact that it’s actually crushing them. Moreover, they’ll continue to do so with a smile on their faces, while patting themselves on the back for being “strong” and “independent,” but in reality, they are suffering inside.

I’d wager the reason my Facebook pal reacted so harshly to her friend venting about his life was because she felt if SHE complained about her struggles it would signal a chink in her Superwoman armor.

I spoke up (one of the only women to do so) to mention that perhaps ol’ boy felt comfortable enough to be vulnerable with her. After all, through vulnerability comes love. When we are able to feel safe enough to share our ugly parts with someone else, then we can REALLY love them, right?

But you don’t hear me, though.

Putting men in boxes is just as dangerous to women as it is to men. If we limit a man’s ability to safely express himself—even the “weak” parts—we are not only limiting his ability to love, but also setting up a dangerous climate in which anger is the only emotion deemed “manly.”

Think about it.

If a man is expressing his love for his partner, he is prone to be called all sorts of things—a punk, thirsty, gay, emo, a bitch. But when he’s telling a woman how much he’d like to “beat it up,” or how he’s going to “blow her back out,” or how he’d “kick any man’s ass who put hands on his woman,” we’re cool with that. But let a man cry about his everyday struggles in life, and he’s automatically bitchass.

What’s wrong with this picture?

How do we expect men to be open with their thoughts or feelings when we discourage them from expressing those same emotions at every turn?

As the mother of a young son, my aim is to raise him differently. I want him to know it’s ok to cry, and it’s certainly ok to discuss how you feel about things. I’ve seen too many men and boys whose first inclination is to hit something or someone because they don’t know how to express their emotions, and I’m working overtime to make sure my son will not be one of them.

Your (future) daughters will thank me later.

Do you encourage vulnerability in men? 

 

*This article was originally published on WhoUCallinABitch.com, a blog about love, sex, dating, and everything in between.

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  • Buttons

    These are some great comments. I happen to admire men that express their emotions, I see it as I sign of strength and courage. There are so many men walking around bottled up inside because they are going through life wearing their game face, afraid and ashamed to show or tell someone that their hurting. When a man breaks down and cry, he is usually at a low point in his life. So, I would never kick a man while he’s down. (as the saying goes)

  • I used to see guys that cry or express delicate emotions as weak, but my views on that has changed a long time ago. It’s just plain unfair to label someone as weak because they show weakness. If I don’t want to be labelled weak when I cry, then I can’t do it to anyone else man or woman.

  • Ravi

    I think that it takes strength to show vulnerability. Oftentimes, the men that don’t want to show their emotions do so because they are afraid. Afraid to be labeled as bitches or weak. It’s ironic that in their fear to show weakness, men show their true weakness.

  • complexity

    I agree with this article. Jesus wept. Hypermasculinity (esp. in black community) needs to end. I appreciate a man who is man enough to cry and surpass gender stereotypes.

  • Ozzie

    It’s not just crying. I appreciate a man who can show his vulnerable side in general. I think too often, we as women swear we want a man to be “sensitive” to our needs, but we also want him to fit the stereotypical hype/type of what a “strong man” should be.

    We have to encourage our sons, when they are small, to understand that being vulnerable emotionally, does not detract from their masculinity. Excellent article.