Why you should care
Because we all deserve a good cry.
Grab your tissues. Against a backdrop of blue-and-red-clad fans, an injured Cristiano Ronaldo broke into tears as he was carted from the Euro 2016 final just 17 minutes into the game. Rather than poking fun at the $100 million forward for showing vulnerability, French and Portuguese fans rose to their feet in a standing ovation.
Would Americans follow suit in applauding a visibly vulnerable sports hero? Maybe.
According to a recent YouGov poll, 72 percent of Americans believe it’s acceptable for men to cry in public.
Sixteen percent prefer not to see manly men tear up, while 11 percent said they were unsure. “I thought the [unacceptable] numbers would be higher,” says Scott Barry Kaufman, professor of positive psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, noting how the poll results indicate that the acceptability of men crying publicly has increased in the last 50 to 60 years.
A testament to changing attitudes, this poll of 1,000 Americans ages 18 and over also symbolizes a breakdown in traditional definitions of gender. “As women take on more of what used to be a man’s life in the work world, it makes a lot of sense that men would take on a lot of what used to be a woman’s life in the emotional world,” says New York–based relationship and etiquette expert April Masini. Kaufman agrees, saying that men are being given more room to stand up and announce, “We’re more than just these narrow stereotypes … we’re pretty complex.” This, in turn, is giving society a multidimensional representation of masculinity. There’s also a greater appreciation of sensitivity — part of a trend that Kaufman says is seeing society become more tolerant in general. Whether it’s men embracing their emotions, alternative sexualities or even gender fluidity, “tolerance is starting to define our era,” he says.
So, is revealing vulnerability instinctive, or something men must be taught? “Every human being feels emotion,” says Fran Walfish, a family psychologist in Beverly Hills, California. While some boys are told it’s good to verbally express their feelings and cry, many are not. Kaufman says a mixture of nature and nurture is responsible, alongside a big cultural component. “Men and women don’t differ in their experience of these emotions,” he says. But when it comes to crying, there’s a “critical cultural component about the outward expression and acceptability of it.”
Emotions aside, Walfish points to another reason men should feel free to unleash their tear ducts: staying healthy. “Research proves that pent-up anger, sadness and other strongly unpleasant feelings can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, anxiety and depression,” she says. Men and women alike should feel free to wear their hearts on their sleeves.