Why Do So Many Men Attach a Stigma to Crying When It Could Give Them a Mental Edge?

Crying is stigmatized among men because societal expectations of masculinity dictate that men shouldn’t cry. In sports, “There’s no crying in baseball” is humorous because of its accuracy in highlighting this societal expectation for men, particularly those who play sports and are expected to be “tough guys.” Societal norms of traditional masculinity dictate that men should be tough, stoic, independent, and not ask for help. If a man does not engage in these restrictive behaviors, he is relegated to a “less than manly” status in the eyes of others. Social norms have a powerful influence over behavior, and men are uniquely influenced by expectations to conform to societal standards of traditional masculinity.

Over the past three decades, there has been a robust body of literature in the psychological study of men and masculinity. These studies have repeatedly demonstrated that men who restrict their emotions and affections face numerous negative psychological, relational, and even physical outcomes. Men are socialized to limit their emotional expression to one emotion—anger. This restriction of their emotional range contributes to higher levels of substance abuse and other maladaptive coping mechanisms. This research has also shown that men who have more expansive emotional repertoires have better self-esteem, better life satisfaction, more relational satisfaction, and lower levels of psychopathology (e.g., depression, anxiety).

Our research with male athletes confirms these results within the athletic domain: Men who do not restrict their emotional and affective displays toward other men (in this case, within the football environment) report better psychological outcomes, as exemplified by the term “mental edge” that the article reported.

Jesse Steinfeldt is a professor of counseling and educational psychology at Indiana University Bloomington.

Category: Q&A

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