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You guys, I have two confessions to make. Here goes.

1.   I marathon shows on Netflix so much it’s a wonder I am gainfully employed.

2.   I cry. A lot. Happy tears, sad tears, angry tears, oh-my-goodness-I-finally-found-my-moan tears. Lots and lots of tears.

"She doesn't even go here!"

FEELINGS.

Naturally, there are many ways in which these two personal tidbits intersect.

For example, I refuse to move past THAT EPISODE in the 6th season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer because, being a human who lives on the Internet, I already know that THAT CHARACTER is going to die. (Sorry, Kate. I still haven’t read your Buffy post. I’m working on it.) I stopped watching Grey’s Anatomy because besides the fact that things got absolutely RIDICULOUS, I just didn’t feel like having scheduled crying time every Thursday at 9PM EST. Seriously, the swelling music and the gut-wrenching emotional story lines were just way too much for me. 

But, I digress. What I really want to talk to you about is my latest obsession:

Being Human: the BBC version, obviously.

The BBC version, obviously. From Left: Mitchell, George, and Annie.

Being Human follows the adventures of a vampire, a werewolf, and a ghost sharing an apartment in Bristol, where apparently all supernatural beings ever live and vacation. I’m only on the second season, so I will forgo a full-blown feminist critique until I’m more caught up. In the meantime, I highly suggest you watch it. It features interesting, nuanced representations of gender — some amazing, some more problematic.  However, what strikes me the most is how many times men cry on this show. 

George, a werewolf, cries in practically EVERY. SINGLE. EPISODE. Mitchell, a brooding, manly vampire, ALSO cries. Never in my television-watching life have I ever seen a man cry so many times on television.

To make matters even better, when female characters cry, they cry about real, emotionally difficult issues in ways that encourage empathy, not derision.

SO. MUCH. POSITIVE. CRYING. It’s AMAZING.

Why am I so excited about this?

Simple. I’m done with the gendered crap that comes with crying. I could tell you to google”should women cry” or “should men cry” to see the sexist bullshit yourself, but I don’t want to do that to you.  Instead, I’ve made you a handy chart:

The Quadruple Crying Standard: According to the Internet

Women

Men

Strong Women

Weak Women

Strong Men

Weak Men

  • Cry as catharsis.
  • Understand that crying has many purposes.
  • Are stronger because they cry.
  • Resist crying because it’s too weak.
  • Use their tears to express emotions.
  • Cry as catharsis.
  • Cry for any reason.
  • Are unstable and overly emotional because they cry.
  • Cry because they can’t handle something.
  • Use their tears to manipulate other people.
  • Never cry. That’s for women.
  • Are strong enough to show their sensitive side.
  • Cry when something is REALLY REALLY BAD.
  • Get misty-eyed occasionally and its endearing.
  • Never betray emotion during difficult situations.
  • Allow themselves to show emotion during difficult situations.
  • Cry.
  • Are sensitive.
  • Cry when something is REALLY REALLY BAD.
  • Are wimps.
  • Get misty-eyed occasionally and it’s a sign they should question their sexuality.
  • Are afraid to show their emotions during difficult situations.
  • Allow themselves to show emotion during difficult situations.

Notice any inconsistencies? I thought you might. Clearly these people didn’t listen to “It’s Alright to Cry” as children.

It frustrates me because not only do we have such contradictory standards, but we sling them back and forth at each other like weapons. As Miss X pointed out in her excellent post on Rejection Ninjas, men are socialized to fear women’s tears, and feel extreme shame at causing them. Moreover, men — and women, too — have historically used terms like “overly emotional” and “hysterical” as a way to dismiss women’s thoughts and ideas. (Don’t even get me started on hysteria.)

Many women are socialized to scoff at men who cry, or simply aren’t taught to expect it. I’ve heard over and over again how “heartbreaking” or “awkward” it would be to see a man cry or how they just “wouldn’t know what to do about it.”

In my own experiences, I’ve struggled with these conflicting constructions. I have more license to cry than the average man does, but that emotional leeway comes with a price. I used to be extremely self-conscious about my crying, especially when it came to dating. Even though I’ve mostly embraced it now, I’m still bothered by it sometimes.  For example, I hate that my own feelings get undermined when I’m angry because tears spring to my eyes. Even worse, I hate that my thoughts might be disregarded by some because I’m “overly emotional.”

When I see my 20-year-old brother cry, I’m torn between wanting to comfort him and feeling an automatic twinge of embarrassment on his behalf. I HATE that twinge of embarrassment, and I question myself whenever I get it.

At the end of the day, though, I see crying as just another way to communicate, right along with speaking, listening, reading and writing. In the last week, I cried after an argument, I cried after the groundbreakingly awesome sex I had afterwards. I’ll probably cry later this week when I get around to watching that Buffy episode or when I’m overjoyed to see my family this holiday weekend.

Where does that leave me? I’m not sure, but the more I’ve learned to accept that about myself, the easier it became to communicate that to my friends, family, and romantic partners. And (shocking!) they deal with it just fine.

But what about you? I can only speak for myself and my own experiences. Maybe you’re a crier. Or maybe someone you hang out with, share chromosomes with, or like to date is a crier. How do you navigate crying as it relates to your gender identity and/or expression? Do you pay attention to it? Ignore it? Barrel on through like the boss that you are?

I want to hear from you.

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