I was going through a bad bout of depression. A friend called and I started literally howling on the phone like a school girl. She said “I never expected this from you. I always thought you were a strong girl and look at the way you are crying.” The day my Dad passed away, a friend while consoling me said “You are such a strong girl. Why are you crying like this?”
I agree and I am proud of the fact that my family and friends consider me as a strong person. However why is crying looked upon as an act of weakness and not strength? The answer is -‘we relate crying to women and women are weak and boys don’t cry because boys are strong’. SIMPLE!!!
Let me confess, the day my mom passed away almost twenty years back, I did not shed a single drop of tear. I was a school girl and I wanted to stay strong in front of my family and especially my Dad. I knew that if my father saw me crying he would be broken. Therefore I controlled my tears and pretended to be ‘strong’ even though every single cell in my body was breaking with pain. I was ashamed to cry because I considered crying an act of weakness . Here lies the biggest myth, biggest misconception. Crying is not an act of weakness but a physiological reaction to pain. It is biological and it has got nothing to do with strength, weakness or gender. In fact it takes immense courage to expose your vulnerability to the whole world.
For centuries we taught our boys not to cry. We taught them not to cry to stay strong. And girls like us who wanted to be strong also believed that strength equals to not crying. Even though I am usually not a woman who starts crying at the drop of a hat yet I had my moments where I cried over silly matters. I later on felt ashamed for crying but now when I think in retrospect I feel it was okay to let my emotions run free.
I remember in my first job I made a grammatical error in one of my Storyboards and my boss called me and started yelling in front of others. I felt humiliated and tears started rolling down. I was feeling embarrassed of my crying yet I was not being able to control it. The same thing happened once in college. I often try to put these incidents under the carpet as I consider them my weak moments. However, those were not my weak moments but my ‘humane’ moments. Those moments showed that I am a woman who has emotions within me and at times they spill over and there is nothing to be ashamed of.
We should teach our boys that crying doesn’t make them weak or strong but crying makes them ‘human’. Crying is a gift we have to let the pain go out of our body. It is natural to feel pain. Crying is the first step to compassion and empathy. To feel compassionate towards someone you have to feel their pain. I often cry while watching movies. My husband laughs at it. However honestly I ‘Love’ to cry during movies because that is the very basis of performing arts. to evoke emotions within you, to lead you to catharsis.
Catharsis is the process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from, strong or repressed emotions. In Poetics Aristotle used the metaphor of catharsis for the first time. He believed that a tragedy should clear our minds of all suppressed pains just like the way bad blood and pus is cleared by a doctor from a wound. While analysing Aristotle’s Poetics F.L.Lucas said that literary tragedy help us in purgation “It is the human soul that is purged of its excessive passions” [ref: Lucas. F.L. Tragedy in relation to Aristotle’s poetics, p.24].
For ages we taught our boys to be strong and girls to be ‘damsel in distress’ waiting to be saved by a man. Women like us who wanted to be ‘equal’ to men therefore misconstrued crying to be a ‘bad’ thing. We thought that being strong meant being ‘un-girly’. How wrong that was. I hate when anyone tells my son ‘don’t cry like a girl’. Never ever one should say this to a boy. That is how we plant the male female binary opposites in them. How can men and women be equal if we keep thinking them in binary opposites.
I was a tom boy and till date I have more guy friends than girl. As I had more guy friends I always had this pressure to behave like a guy or else I would be out of the group. Therefore I developed so-called ‘manly’ habits. Now after completing four decades on this Earth I realize that being vulnerable is not always weakness, feeling pain or expressing it is not weakness, weakness is to pretend to be what you are not. Strength therefore lies in being able to express yourself.
I came across this lovely video by Justin Baldoni and as Baldoni says in the video “Instead of teaching our boys to be brave and girls to be pretty, let’s teach them to be human enough”. I would end my post with Baldoni’s TED Talk video. Please listen to him and leave whatever you feel about this in the comment box.
This post is part of the #FeministMondays series (previously called #IAmAFeminist series) hosted by Nabanita. Inspired by a TEDx talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – We Should All Be Feminists.
Linking this post to #MondayMusings hosted by dear Corinne.