Dudes Have Feelings Too. And That’s OK.

This is a response to an opinion piece by Matt Aiken, publisher of the Dahlonega Nugget in the August 5th, 2015 issue:

I don’t envy Matt Aiken’s job. Publishing a newspaper is, I imagine, no simple task. But as a publisher, he has an obligation to present us with information responsibly and sincerely. More than once, now, Matt has demonstrated a disturbing blind spot toward matters of race and gender.

A couple months ago, after the backlash against the now notorious UNG catalog, Matt failed to seek input from any people of color — in response to an issue that clearly affected them. He did graciously publish my critical letter, so I must credit him that.

In the Nugget’s most recent issue, Aiken recounts a trip to see Inside Out with his family. What a beautiful thing, especially considering how many parents neglect to spend quality time with their children anymore.

The problem comes from the absolute fear Aiken displays (so terrible he likens it to being at a horror film!) over being caught crying in public; something a “real” man would presumably never do.

That in itself is problematic enough, but after the incident, Aiken imagines hastening back home to wash away the stink of “emotional tenderness” by performing such “manly” tasks as mowing his lawn with his shirt off.

Gender roles aren't what they once were. In 2015, gender equity doesn't just mean women should make as much as men, but that feminine attributes shouldn't be viewed as weak and - yes, God forbid - a little boy can wear a pink dress and still be tough as nails!

Gender roles aren’t what they once were. In 2015, gender equity doesn’t just mean women should make as much as men, but that feminine attributes shouldn’t be viewed as weak and – yes, God forbid – a little boy can wear a pink dress and still be tough as nails!

While I’m sure this was all meant in jest, this episode reflects a persistent theme of hyper-masculinity that pervades our culture.

At a time when gender norms are being reconsidered, all of us — men especially — have an obligation to be more thoughtful.

Why are we so afraid for our neighbors to see us cry over a film that genuinely touches our hearts? Why must we tightly bottle our emotions, to the point they sometimes explode in a violent burst of anger?

After years of giving thought to these issues myself, I still fight back tears when I speak about close personal issues. If crying over painful memories or touching moments is worthy of shame, what are we doing wrong in this world?

In some quarters, feminism is considered a dirty word. But it’s feminism that poses the tough, sobering questions. Feminism means not only ensuring equal rights for women and demanding autonomy over our bodies, it means liberating all of us from those antiquated gender roles that tie us down.

If a boy wants to play with dolls and wear a pink dress, who are we to tell him that’s wrong? If a little girl wants to roll in the mud and drive a tractor, how is it our place to label her behavior “unladlylike.”

We’re all different, but there’s one thing we all share: feelings. Men have them. Women have them. Even people who don’t identify as either men or women have them. And that means sometimes we cry. Who cares?

Let’s ask ourselves: Who really demonstrates greater strength, the man who hides his tears behind faux-manly yard tools and bare-chested displays of machismo, or the man who cries along with his children and teaches them their feelings are nothing to be ashamed of?