“The new manliness,” Tom Lutz writes in his Crying: The Natural and Cultural History of Tears, “encouraged men to curb their emotional expression.” Unblushing, heterosexual masculinity was useful for both corporate profit and the decades of combat that would follow the Industrial Revolution. The poet of sensibility gave way to some of the most enduring stereotypes of masculinity: the rugged hyper-individualist, the alienated writer, and the emotionally repressed marketplace man.
The great irony, of course, is that Don Draper is his own capitalistic invention. The crying man never truly disappeared; he just became subject to market forces and scripts of gender that regulated his excess. Sure, a man could cry over death or a football game, but the tears were subject to a Protestant ethic of gentlemanly restraint. Those who showed too much vulnerable emotion—over the wrong things—were subject to censure, a means of hemming in the ever-shifting, ever-important boundaries of gender. In the twenty-first century, we explore male vulnerability in twenty-first-century ways. Thinkpieces and videos ask no one in particular, “What Makes Men Cry?”
These pieces are haunted by a phantom—the “real man” who never cries. These paragons of masculinity, the narrative goes, are in need of some emotional release; buying into stereotypes frays at their psyche and hurts their health. But this script can’t be rewritten with dispassionate medical advice; such a massive edit requires a familiar point of departure. Thus, in the language of the Internet, simple actions like manly tears became heroic, and sexualized. Crying men were recast from “wuss” to “badass,” and shedding a few tears could help a bro get laid. Gender, tears, and vulnerability thus found its necessary semantic bridge in sexual heroism.
Crying is inevitably framed as an iconoclastic, damn the man, tear down the establishment kind of act. Yet the crying men ask to retain their establishment potency; they ask for their emotional expression to be seen not as mundane, but heroic. And so traditional masculinity remains both a straw man and an unchallenged, ahistorical script.
Where does this leave women? Women are allowed to cry, the narrative goes—and men should be granted the same cultural permission. But this isn’t exactly true. Women are not allowed to cry as much as they are expected to cry; to be ruled by an excess of emotion and governed by irrational expression rather than rational ideas. The stereotypes are familiar: crazy ex-girlfriends, trainwrecks, the hot mess. Women’s crying is still tethered to its stigmas and stereotypes; men’s tears get to remake themselves, combining vulnerability and potency in ways that are continually validated, continually new. Male tears have been constructed to survive their own critique.
As male tears abound, it seems worth asking, for whom exactly is the renegotiation of the publicly vulnerable man for? If, as historians of emotions have argued, that the stereotype of the stoic, tearless man was an invention of capitalism, created for the purpose of lining the pockets of industrial tycoons and underpinned by nationalism, then who does the new vulnerability serve? Perhaps some idea of authentic individuality, which is, not coincidentally, what brands want right now too. Vanity Fair jokingly labeled male tears the “hottest trend in movies.” The New Yorker celebrated the vulnerable masculinity depicted on Outlander and The Americans. The script of manhood is being rewritten. Male tears are no longer the mockable stuff of ironic misandry: for the first time ever, masculine vulnerability has the power to sell on a large capitalist scale. Source: jezebel.com
Miles Teller "Modern Don Juan" video.