VOX contributor Thalia Butts has a question about hypermasculinity that needs answering. Should little boys be allowed to cry?
This story originally ran on May 4, 2017. Here is an excerpt:
After eating a ravishingly delightful meal at the prestigious Olive Garden at Stonecrest Mall, my older sister and I found ourselves quite full and suffering from an onset of the “itis.” As we made our way out to the car, a family of five — a mother, father, an infant and a toddler boy and toddler girl — entered the restaurant. The toddler boy burst into a fit of tears, crying out to the top of his lungs, obviously in complete distress. I noticed the parents, too. The father looked unbothered by the boy’s crying as he held the infant, and the mother seemed beyond frustrated. Suddenly, she stopped and turned to the boy and yelled, louder than his high-pitched screeches, “Shut up all that crying!”
“Boys don’t cry,” the toddler’s father added.
The boy stopped screaming, but tears actively poured from his eyes like a waterfall of emotion. Seemingly satisfied with her brave act of parenthood, the mother turned on her heel and led the family into the restaurant, with the toddler boy at the flank of the group.
Now, I am no parenting expert, but I immediately wanted to cry out: “Please, no! Let him cry, please! Let him feel whatever he is feeling! Let him work through this emotion without scrutiny or punishment.”
I couldn’t see why she could not just sit her son down, ask what was bothering him and talk her distraught son through his fit. I also could not see what good would come out of telling the child that “boys don’t cry.” What we saw was a ruthless cycle being reset onto an impressionable soul. This little boy would probably not remember the visit to Olive Garden, but he will definitely remember his father’s words. He’ll grow up clinging to his fragile masculinity that is threatened every time he experiences something, because just when he almost feels an emotion like all other humans, his father’s words burn in his mind, refusing to allow him fully feel and forcing him to deny his emotions. My heart aches for him because being able to comprehend what you’re experiencing is the most important skill one can have. I witnessed that skill stripped from a little boy before he even got a chance to hone it.
In that moment, I realized that the statistics around mental illness floating along the currents of the internet are highly susceptible to bias. Mental illnesses is underdiagnosed in both genders, according to the World Health Organization, with less than one-half of people who meet “diagnostic criteria” actually being diagnosed.
Click here to read the rest of this piece in it’s entirety.
Thalia, 18, is now a freshman at Claflin University— and she took the photo for this story.