A young boy falls out of his bed and starts to cry out loud. The father approaches his son in an attempt to cease the cries. “Men don’t cry”, shouts the father. At first, the boy may not understand why men shouldn’t cry. I mean, to him what’s the difference between men and women anyway? Slowly the boy is conditioned to be the man who does not cry… Sometimes human nature strikes with a moment of vulnerability, and boys helplessly cry; however, when boys cry they may hide their tears from the people surrounding them so that they do not look “weak” or “fragile”. Yet, not all boys are ashamed of their tears, tears may be viewed differently, based on culture, tradition and gender schema. In one place, tears of men may be considered as an expression of emotion; in another place, tears of men may be considered as an expression of weakness. For instance, in a country like Egypt, real men ought not to cry. That raises a question, Why are tears dependent on culture and tradition to a large extent?
From the moment babies are born they are socialized into genders. For example, a baby boy is more likely to receive gifts in the color of blue. While a baby girl is more likely to receive gifts in the color of pink. Does pink or blue have anything to do with enhancing masculinity or femininity? No, but the unspoken consensus among people, is that blue is masculine, pink is feminine. Apart from biological influence, people shape babies into their “gender schema” of how a boy or a girl should look or act. In other words: putting genes aside, people treat boys differently than girls, so babies are treated according to a certain image inside the people’s head. This image is “what a certain gender role should be”; the image shapes the babies to act in a certain way that is consistent with the way they are “treated”. Yet, the schemas of how a boy or a girl should act, slightly differs from one society to another. For example in one culture, it is okay for men to wear earrings, while in another culture it is not accepted for men to wear earrings because they may be considered as “feminine”.
In Egypt, no one goes to a man who is crying and explicitly tells him that it is not accepted to cry. Crying is one of the unspoken norms of the society. Paradoxically, Egyptians may find it more acceptable to cry for the love of a sports team or patriotism for the nation, than to cry because of the man’s emotional side. Many men cry; however, they may find a lot of trouble to share that with someone else. Even when grown up men want to cry, they may move to a different room so that their family do not see them crying.
Men do have an emotional side, but the way of expression remains to be a choice. As an Egyptian I grew up being conditioned not to cry; therefore, I find crying not an easy task. I am not arguing that all Egyptians should hug, let go of their feelings and start crying. I am just looking at tears from a different perspective.