We all deal with emotions on a daily basis – annoyance when our co-worker keeps interrupting us at work, happiness when we see a funny meme or video, and frustration when the traffic just isn’t going anywhere. But how society teaches us to interpret these emotions, particularly relating to gender, is very significant. I know it sounds dramatic, but it can literally be the difference between life and death. I read horrific stories on a daily basis about men murdering women because they can’t deal with their feelings of rejection and sadness in a healthy way. It makes me constantly worry about the potential consequences of brushing off a guy too abruptly or unintentionally leading him on, and that’s no way for women (and men) to live.
Many of you will also have some kind of experience or knowledge of how emotions are usually portrayed from both a masculine and feminine perspective. Emotions in themselves are often depicted as feminine and therefore weak, and many men often shut their emotions down for fear of seeming too feminine.
The general theory is that men are emotionless creatures, incapable of experiencing the range of emotions that women do, but that’s complete bullshit. Men are absolutely capable of every emotion, it’s just that how society expects men and women to deal with emotions is very different.
Women often meet vitriol or dismissal when we express emotion, from people believing we are weak when we cry or just on our period when we’re angry. Emotions are ‘women’s issues’ and they are something to be expected from us and tolerated to a point.
For men, emotions are expected to be almost non-existent – except for those that further the goals of the patriarchy.
As renowned feminist author bell hooks writes in her book, The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity and Love, the way in which the patriarchy manipulates men’s emotions is akin to psychological terrorism. This seems far-fetched until it doesn’t. Essentially the patriarchy has created a culture whereby the only emotions that are acceptable for men to feel are those associated with violence such as rage, hatred, jealousy; emotions that feed the patriarchal appetite for oppression and supremacy.
You see it everywhere; a man sees another man talking to his female partner and all hell breaks loose. The jealousy turns to anger at the threat against his pride, and violence often ensues. And people generally have no qualms about this – he’s just doing what any self-respecting male would do – and even though it’s illegal, this kind of violence seems to be completely socially acceptable. It’s saddening that men are expected to deal with their problems in this way rather than working out a more peaceful solution, but that’s just what the patriarchy encourages.
So rage grows and spreads like a virus because it’s the only outlet that men have that is acceptable to society. Even if what they are feeling is immense sadness or loneliness, it comes spiraling out as rage, and ultimately violence. Things like war propaganda, mass media movies and video games glorify violence and depict it as the only way to express your emotions and still ‘be a man.’
There is an old saying that even now makes my hackles rise every time I hear it – ‘Boys will be boys.’ No. Boys will be like any other human being on this planet. Their aggressive behavior should not be excused so lamely by such a phrase because the patriarchy has fooled you into believing that this is the way boys and men should be.
If you don’t want our boys growing up to be mass murderers or lonely antisocial individuals, stop allowing the only emotions they can express to be of detriment to society. Whether you’re a father, a mother, a sister, or a brother, let our boys and our men cry. Let them nurture. Let them be human. And then pretty soon you will find that this world is a much better place to be.