Our society can dictate how we should behave. Often, these social expectations are so deeply rooted that we stop thinking about them and they just become the norm. They become what we feel things should be like.
The distinction in society’s norms can be seen very clearly in gender roles. For hundreds of years, the roles for women and men have been clearly drawn. A woman is assigned to taking care of the household and raising children whereas a man has to work and provide shelter and food. Society has been going through changes as the years have passed and these roles are getting a bit more blurry in today’s society. However, the changes are not fast enough. Most of the limiting factors are imposed on women but there are also some on men. One of these is society’s idea of “men don’t cry”.
As humans, we are emotional creatures. There are various emotions we feel every day and we show them differently. Sorrow is one of these feelings that can affect us dramatically and when it is more than we can handle, we let it out with tears in our eyes. Crying is a natural reaction we have. Sometimes we can hold it back. However, it can be difficult to hold it. I would like to talk about something I have been living with for years.
Coming from a society which requires men to be the strongest of their household, I had “responsibilities”. My family was a modern one, thank God. However, even in a modern family some commonly accepted norms are not easy to change.
I lost my father when I was 16. It was the most difficult time of my life as one can imagine. I cannot forget the day it happened. I remember every moment of that day like a movie that I have watched dozens of times. Traumatic experiences in one’s life are hard to overcome. The day my family and I went to the morgue to identify him, something happened. Something I still cannot forget. Something that has affected my life ever since…
I went there with my mother and my uncle. I was shaking. When the coroner opened the door to the place they put him, my shaking stopped for an infinitesimally small amount of time. Then it came back with an excess of emotion I couldn’t control anymore. The tears in my eyes didn’t have the strength to hide behind my eyes. They started jumping from my eyes to infinity carrying my sorrow. After a few seconds, my uncle came and said “You are a man, son. You shouldn’t cry. You should be strong for your mother. You are the man of the house now.” I didn’t realize up until then that my mother also couldn’t hold herself. She wasn’t holding herself at all. She was devastated since the moment she learnt my father passed away. I stopped crying a few seconds after my uncle said those words to me. I thought to myself, “He is probably right. I don’t have any brothers and sisters. I am the only one my mother has and I should be strong for her on this dark day.” It went on this way from that day on.
Whenever I felt something that I felt I could get rid of by crying, I stopped myself. It wasn’t about thinking the same words I said to myself before which stopped me; it was because it had become automatic. It was like I was programmed to stop myself the instant I started crying. I know that this thought is stupid now but I couldn’t “deprogram” myself. It has been going this way ever since that day. Whenever I feel the urge of my tears coming out, I automatically stop myself in a few seconds with barely any tears in my eyes. Believe me, it is not easy to hold my tears there; it exhausts me. I want to be able to do it someday. Hopefully, I will one day.
I should have been “strong”; I should be “strong”. That is what men should be according to society. Even having strength is seen as something dependent on gender. Women cry because they are weak and men don’t because they are strong. That is how we are taught by society. Crying is seen as a weakness. However, it should be the strength of a person to be able to let her or his emotions out because it is not easy to do. If a man cries, that shows his strength, not his weakness. If a woman cries, that also shows her strength, not weakness.
The difficulties that inequality creates in our lives are not limited to women; we all live through it. Of course, what women live through cannot be compared to what men go through but both sides are affected by this. Achieving equality between women and men can, and will, relieve all of us from the burdens of life we have had to live through all these years. With the hope of living in society where inequality is something we only show our children in history books, let’s cry for equality!