Opinion

Masculine expectations prevent open emotions

Image By: Kaitlyn Veto

I have been taught to not be ashamed of my emotions. However, I have also been taught to use my emotions wisely and that certain emotions are not always appropriate.

As a woman, I have definitely benefited from that cultural identity when it comes to feeling free to express my emotions. Our society’s standard is unfortunately more forgiving and accepting of women being able to express their emotions — especially those of sadness or fear — than it is for men.

American and Western culture frowns upon men showing any form of weakness. While in very recent history, social campaigns and public opinion have moved towards questioning what masculinity means, and men have been more encouraged to not be ashamed of their emotions, there is still a very deeply ingrained stigma for men when it comes to showing weakness emotionally, and they’re instead expected to show a stiff upper lip during times of duress.

This social schema of men being brave and ironhearted is something that has been imparted on the masses for years.

Men are expected to be and act a certain way, and if they deviate from the clearly defined schema that society has given us, then they are pariahs of society. Their masculinity is immediately questioned, their sexuality is mocked, and more.

This is a core example of a social schema sometimes getting it wrong, and putting the wellbeing of those it affects into jeopardy.

This social expectation of masculinity is not just harmful to men, but is harmful to society as a whole.

Men should not feel the social pressure of masculinity and all that it encompasses. They should be instead free to feel and be explicit in how they feel.

If men were to be encouraged to be more emotive and open, then we could potentially open up the national conversation about deeper emotional and mental concerns such as depression and anxiety, which is a topic many shy away from because of it being considered taboo.

However, by internalizing emotions, we are saying as a society that emotions are not something that matter or need to be addressed. This sends the message that health is not mental, but purely physical. This expectation of ironhearted men is not only unhealthy, but unrealistic, and hopefully is a wave of the past that won’t continue into the future.

This fear to share my emotions is something that I have never had to worry about as a woman. The social schema for women doesn’t have any stigma against emotion. My emotions have never been socially silenced. Instead, it is expected of me to be free with my emotions. I don’t fear what my friends and peers will think of me if I cry, or if I am scared.

However, that does not mean that I am free to feel what I want whenever. The double standard in emotion becomes clear for women to succeed professionally. Unfortunately they have to change the way they operate to fit the schema of the way a man operates. This means that women in the workplace can’t really show emotion or complain, or else their competence will be questioned.

I have unconsciously become very self-conscious of imposing my emotions on others. I apologize to others when I am crying, even if they are my very close friends and my emotions and justified by the context. This is not only because I have grown up in a home where emotion is not as welcomed as in others, but also because I find myself to be a very strong people pleaser, and I don’t want to inflict emotional pain on others with my own.

My journey to be successful both personally and professionally drives me to a crossroads of social expectation — do I choose to be free with my emotions, or do I choose to model my behavior after the successful men in my field in order to fit in?

I am trying to accept that my emotions are valid, and that crying or talking about my feelings is not something that needs to be justified. However, deep within me I feel as if my friends will think less of me for crying. I know this is irrational, but my upbringing and schemas I have been taught to abide by get in the way of my progress sometimes.

Masculinity and all that it entails is a dangerous concept for all involved. Men are put to unfair expectations because of rules that society has placed on them — they are expected to preference their social acceptance over their mental and physical health. This is not acceptable, and should be stopped in our social rulebook.

However, as a woman who is entering the professional world, the concept of masculinity and the social rules of it are beginning to apply to me. Now that I am becoming personally aware and affected, I can only more vehemently say that it’s wrong.

Crying does not make you a failure, but instead makes you a human.

Samantha is a junior majoring in journalism and communication arts. What are your thoughts about gender standards towards emotion? How you think the concepts of masculinity and feminity are evolving? Send any comments to us at opinion@dailycardinal.com.

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