Friday, 23 October 2015

Emotionally Fragile - The Myth About Men & Emotions

I actually like the above photo. It improves my chances of getting a sandwich. It does, however, reinforce a notion that men are not emotional creatures and this is incorrect. Phrases like "Man up" or "Don't be such a girl" promote the idea that men are steel like in their emotional make up and that women are emotional dynamite, just waiting to go off. It demeans both genders but also allows people to play up to those stereotypes, so to exploit situations. If a woman wants to fly off the handle, she might hide behind "It comes with being a woman", where as men will not talk about something that is bothering them because "Men deal with it." Both dismiss the complex nature of what it is to be human and both have to go.

The implication is that men are weak if they speak about their problems. That leads to problems not being addressed. While the statistics suggest that 1 in 4 women will suffer from depression, the numbers for men that say 1 in 10 men will suffer from depression is now largely considered being down to men not speaking about it. Men are more likely to suffer from addictions, especially alcohol and other drugs. Suicide is now the biggest killer of men aged between 20 and 49 in Britain. Those statistics are startling and yet they are not spoken about nearly enough.

Women may say that they have pressures on them that evoke emotional responses. Those pressures exist on men too and they appear to be having similarly destructive effects. Body image expectations are still on the rise. In the past three decades, men stating that they are dissatisfied with their bodies has gone from 15% to 43%. In teenage boys, as high as 68% believe that they are underweight and need more muscle mass, when every test indicates they are in a healthy state. Men are sexually objectified just as much as women are and yet it is shrugged off as a bit of fun. Nothing is said of the man who sees this perceived perception and experiences crippling loneliness and inadequacy because of a Photoshopped reality, probably achieved with some pharmaceutical based help along the way.

More than anything though, I'm completely uncomfortable with the idea that a woman can lose control of her emotions and brush it off as part of her gender. I don't accept that. Such a standing is the soil used to bury other problems. It is known that only a tiny percentage of men who are abused by their partners report it. Worst of all, he blames himself because society all too often will say that he "let her do that to you." Abuse has no "let" in it at all. There is no consent. This is the extreme example but it can come to many men in more subtle manners. Men are considered stupid for not understanding the complex emotional needs of a woman. Maybe we don't but that isn't necessarily down to us being stupid. It may not have been explained very well. It may be completely irrational and beyond comprehension. It may just be wrong. What is wrong is making someone feel inadequate in the realms of emotions when they are something that no one truly understands completely. 

When men are demonised for not comprehending emotions or belittled for expressing their feelings, it perpetuates the myth that men are made of stone with no heart. Then we expect them to be romantic and caring, despite society cementing over them for years. It is not right. Men can be emotionally fragile too. That's okay. Sometimes they do need to be told that they are being ridiculous and that they need to pull themselves together. Sometimes they are being a cry baby for no good reason. Sometimes, however, they need someone to listen to them.

They also need women to stop using the veil of emotionality to hide behind. We get that you've got emotions and, yes, we should be more considerate of them. We'd just like some help in the other direction too. Not sarcasm or snide remarks. Just someone who listens, who cares and allows us to feel safe in expressing our emotions. Because men can be emotionally fragile too. More than you think. A lot more.

1 comment:

  1. It's interesting because, as a women, I often feel like things I feel or do are dismissed as me just being an emotional women. I've never tried to "hide behind a veil of emotionality", but have had men brush me off anyway, citing it as the reason. It's a bit of a downward spiral, because as men (and women) view women as purely emotional creatures, that's what's being taught, and thus how they act, and on and on. It needs to stop.

    And yes, I agree that men need to stop being taught that being stoic and emotionless is "masculine" and desirable. It's a dichotomy that hurts both genders. Just today, one of my cousins was making his brother whine and cry and he told him "You're acting like a girl!". Two things wrong with this: 1) A boy expressing his emotions is discouraged by being insulted and mocked, 2) That insult is to be called a girl. I called him out on it but it is so pervasive in our culture and definitely needs to change.