Talking about taboos: the expression of men’s pain.

This is in response to Victor Zen’s video.

Here’s a taboo: men talking about their pain. We say nothing because we’d prefer not to be called wimps and whiners. We remain quiet and stoic about emotional pain as well as physical pain. Why? Social status. If we speak about our pain, we are seen as potentially being cowards when the battle to save a woman’s life is at stake.

Doesn’t matter that we’re in peace-time, our instincts are stupid. Think of Maslow’s hierarchy of values. Talking about internal pain and turmoil is to address issues that go beyond survival, but our whole socialization as men revolves around men being tough enough to kill another man, or at the very least put up a brave fight long enough for her to escape.

If we can’t be killers, then we should be killer providers. Again, it revolves around women. A man who expresses pain, or full out cries, without shame–not a single tear drop on a marble-chiselled face, but a man fully crying as fully as a woman does is viewed as weak.

A man’s humanity is interpreted as weakness.

If a man expresses emotion, he’s showing vulnerability that other culturally trained men and women can and all to often will abuse, and so the man is viewed as ineffectual–without effect. And what is a man if he has no effect? He’s nothing. He is little more than a broken machine. What do we do with broken machines? We throw them away. Women cry, and we feel compassion. Children cry and we love them. When a man cries, we hate him.

Men hide their pain and vulnerability because women loath weakness. Men hate weak men because they fear that their potential team-mate will not be there to save him while he’s trying to save the woman.

How to recognize that a taboo has been violated: people become silent and uncomfortable.

How are you feeling, right now, dear reader?

The traits of vulnerability, sincerity and emotional openness are the ones that should lead men and women to friendship, intimacy, and trust, are exactly the ones that if expressed by men, will culturally and institutionally, cause people to withhold these responses from men.

The only way to assuage that discomfort of a taboo is to speak the subtext openly and without shame, to look at the assumptions and to have the courage to gaze a truth’s face without flinching, until we can make it our friend.

Really, this is the hardest battle of all. It is not a battle against hatred, or misandry per-se, but the fight to teach people to develop our character and to deal with our personal discomforts and fears in a matter-of-fact manner. People need to fight their prejudices–to face the fears that generate the prejudices.

One cannot force another to demonstrate strength and depth of character. We can only go first, and then behaviourally expect the other to step up and treat us on the higher level that we are demonstrating.

Life is messy, and if we’re to make a better world, we have to first clean up our own house to set the standard.

What of you, dear reader? How will you step up to the plate?

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One thought on “Talking about taboos: the expression of men’s pain.

  1. Tarnished says:

    Hear, hear.

    As I’ve said before, all my friends are men and I identify more as one myself. Thus, I’ve picked up numerous “male” habits, such as not allowing myself to cry unless I’m alone or with someone I really, truly trust (and some funny habits, like sitting with your ankle on your knee rather than crossing your legs, or be able to hail a taxi rather than asking for one).

    Honestly, I see this as a two edged sword…Men are not supposed to show any weakness, and women are conditioned to show more of it. I’ve comforted guys who cried in public, sometimes complete strangers. Each time it’s been a worthy reason to cry: They lost the engagement ring they bought only an hour ago, they just got news that their father/mother died, or they lost their job and the wife threatened divorce. You know the first thing these men said as I hugged their shoulders or squeezed their hand?

    “I’m so sorry.”

    What kind of world do we live in, that it’s acceptable for a woman to bawl in public for not getting a restaurant reservation or the shoes she likes in her size…but a man who feels his cultural role of provider/strongman slipping away feels the need to fucking *apologize* for being upset?

    What we, as a society, need to do is twofold. Women need to be taught to show more endurance during situations when they’re at a loss, and men need to be taught that showing emotions *before* they get to the boil over point is fine.

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