Here is a fascinating article on an unexpected subject: Men crying in public. Sandra Newman writes about the literary and cultural history of masculine weeping. She makes a good case that our current western practice of restraint is not the norm throughout history. The Greeks, the Bible, Christian history, English literature, and even Japanese literature is full of mass, public, unrestrained, and unapologetic weeping by manly men.
Based on research men today cry far less in public than women do. And the author tries to challenge the idea that this is a result of genetic differences. She does this based on her journey through history and literature. But I am not convinced. Even if men in other cultures and eras cried more than they do now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that public crying is biologically a gender neutral affair. She has made a good case that modern men do not cry as often as the men of other cultures. But that is not the same as saying men and women are identical. In fact, if anything is a cultural anomaly it is our attempt to prove biological equality between the sexes.
She suggests that the change in our view of crying can be tied to 2 things: First, we moved from an agrictultural economy into the industrial revolution. Second, we moved from living in small villages with close relationships to big cities where we lived with strangers. In I opinion, these ideas have merit.
Also interesting is the idea that crying serves an important social purpose. When we cry, especially in public, it is good for us as a release and it is a call for help to those around us. If this is true, then failing to cry would not be good for us.
The Bible does say, “Those who sow in tears will reap in joyful shouting.” Psalm 126:5
“However, human beings weren’t designed to swallow their emotions, and there’s reason to believe that suppressing tears can be hazardous to your wellbeing. Research in the 1980s by Margaret Crepeau, then Professor of Nursing at Marquette University in Milwaukee, found a relationship between a person’s rate of stress-related illnesses and inadequate crying. Weeping is also, somewhat counter-intuitively, correlated with happiness. Vingerhoets, a professor of psychology at Tilburg University in the Netherlands, has found that in countries where people cry the most, they also report the highest levels of satisfaction. Finally, crying is an important tool for understanding one’s own feelings. A 2012 study of patients with Sjögren’s syndrome – whose sufferers are incapable of producing tears – found they had significantly more difficulty identifying their emotions than a control group.
“You might also suffer if you simply hide your tears from others, as men are now expected to do. As we’ve seen, crying can be social behaviour, designed to elicit care from people around you. While this might be inappropriate in the context of a performance review, it could be an essential way of alerting friends and family – and even colleagues – that you need support. Taboos against male expressiveness mean that men are far less likely than women to get help when they’re suffering from depression. This, in turn, is correlated with higher suicide rates; men are three to four times as likely to commit suicide as women. Male depression is also more likely to express itself in alcoholism and drug addiction, which have their own high death toll. Think of stoical Scandinavia, whose nations rank high for productivity – but also lead the world in rates of alcoholism and suicide.”