Real men do(n’t) cry

Published: November 16, 2014
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Long before the Madhuri-fame advertisement, as part of a campaign against domestic violence, reminded us, we had all heard, “Larkay naheen rotay.” PHOTO: VIDEO SCREENSHOT

He was sharing some of his deepest secrets about his childhood; his fears, his regrets, his loss – of a loved one, of dreams, of time lost that could have been utilised better, of a life that could have been. I witnessed this man break some barriers in those moments as he dared to bare his soul, something men in our society are not taught to do.

But most importantly, this man dared to cry, that too in front of a woman.

In those moments, I saw bravery. Because he kept saying,

“See? I’m crying. I didn’t even know I could cry so much. Don’t tell anyone I cried, okay?”

This “he” is not any particular man. And the above lines are not any one particular incident. I have witnessed it more than once. And every time I have realised that for a man to cry in our society is a difficult boundary to push. We associate manliness with certain outwardly signs, like physical strength, like a temper bordering on rage, like earning a lot of money and like being not very in touch with one’s emotions.

Emoting and crying is something that is considered an aspect of femininity. We grow up listening to maxims like,

Mard ko dard naheen hota”.

(Men don’t get hurt)

Long before the Madhuri-fame advertisement, as part of a campaign against domestic violence, reminded us, we had all heard,

Larkay naheen rotay.

(Boys don’t cry)

So men eat, laugh, sleep, feel happy and sad, but are not supposed to cry as that is seen as a sign of weakness. Generation after generation of men grow up with this pre-conditioning. When a natural outlet of grief or frustration is not allowed in the form of tears, the next best bet for men is either cruel silence or anger. We keep talking of rights of women, but usurp men of this very basic freedom to express emotions without both men and women not even realising it.

The most courageous of men ever are my role models; the Prophet (pbuh) and ‘Umar (ra) and ‘Ali (ra), and their peers. They changed the world. They won hearts and they won territories. They fought bloody battles like lions, with bravery unrivalled. They buried their loved ones with their own hands, and went back to the work of serving the cause of upholding justice. And through it all, they dared to cry, unabashedly. We have all read accounts of how the Prophet (pbuh) wept profusely, sometimes on the death of a loved one and at other times for the fear of Allah (swt) and for concern for his people. We accept that, and love that, and idealise that.

But today, a man who is moist-eyed is often seen as a weakling.

There is no doubt that women, biologically, are more prone to crying, as testosterone prohibits crying to some extent and that is the hormone that almost defines men; this is perhaps why, on an average, men cry once a month and women about five times a month, especially during the premenstrual phase and after their menstrual period. However, culture and allowances of freedom of expression also have to do with gender disparity when it comes to crying. While excessive crying can be symptomatic of other psychological issues, there can be considerable long term harmful effects of not allowing someone to cry.

Parents, and especially mothers, need to understand this when bringing up boys. Crying is a natural, organic form of human expression and is a right if carried out in moderation. When we stop men from crying at any age, we deprive them of a natural human catharsis. We also rob them of a certain sense of empathy that helps them understand why women or children cry. This is precisely why many men, unable to handle a crying woman, end up getting up angry and ask her to stop crying or ask in frustration why she is crying.

Any human emotion, if stifled unnaturally, will have harmful effects, and will end up being channelised into other negative emotions like anger or emotional disconnect.

Manliness, often translated as strength, is not just about not crying. Some of the things we see as signs of strength, like violence, anger and yelling, are actually signs of inherent weakness. Strength is about a certain amount of emotional intelligence and the ability to communicate with one’s self and with others. It takes strength to show that you are vulnerable. This is what makes us human.

Farahnaz Zahidi

Farahnaz Zahidi

Farahnaz is a writer and editor, and has worked as the Features Editor with The Express Tribune. Her focus is human-centric feature stories. She now writes as a freelancer, and works in the field of marketing and corporate communications. She loves literature and traveling. She tweets on @FarahnazZahidi. Her work can be seen at chaaidaani.wordpress.com/

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • ovais

    you are so logical and balanced , i am shocked you are still working at ET , with their strict liberal and feminist policiesRecommend

  • Parvez

    This is a complex topic and I bet most will have their own opinions. Mine is that women cry because nature has made them more sensitive, more caring, more gentle. While nature has made men a bit cloddish in these departments and such stuff registers a little slowly…….but who says men don’t cry.
    Children crying is whole different ball game….better left untouched.Recommend

  • http://www.sepia-paper.deviantart.com Muhammed Waqar Younis

    Modesty is a Perpetual means of having a good emotion and character…That is what I think that everyone needs to have.Recommend

  • Langahbalms

    Farahnaz Zahidi is the best.Recommend

  • Chulbul Pandey

    After reading this article…. I have tears in my eyes! Kya time pass writing, Zahidi ji.Recommend

  • omer

    Despite all the new age nonsense and the fact that this comment will be trolled..”real mean dont cry..they just dont”Recommend

  • Working Woman

    Men can cry. They are simple human beings. Debate over.Recommend

  • human

    why do u bring religion in every thing

    being Human is a religion its self , doing the right thing , respecting another human , respecting life that’s the origin of being human .

    Men & women should respect each otherRecommend

  • Sane

    Who is crying and who is about to? What is the point………?!!Recommend

  • Thinker

    Aamir Khan had a wonderful take on ‘masculinity’,in his 9th Nov’14,2 hour episode of Satyamev Jayate, that dealt with the childhood conditioning,adult behaviour,devastating drawbacks & side-effects( road-rage,ragging,acid-throwing,domestic violence,patriarchy,egomania,alcoholism,’eve-teasing’ etc.) of ‘masculinity’ on the subcontinent.Recommend

  • Parvez

    So what was his ‘ take ‘ on the subject ?Recommend

  • Parvez

    How did you conclude that the author is not liberal or a feminist ?Recommend

  • Solomon2

    “today, a man who is moist-eyed is often seen as a weakling.”

    First man I ever saw cry was a Pakistani: a diplomat posted to America in 1971. He had taken the difficult decision to break his oath of loyalty to the Pakistani state and work to create international recognition for Bangladesh. No one compelled him to do it. And he sacrificed his family’s financial security by doing so.
    Such a decision took strength not weakness. The crying was due to the terrible realization that the idea of Pakistan, which he had devoted much of his life to, had gone badly awry.Recommend

  • Hameedullah

    Well then I guess “real” men are not “humans”. They may be some other species.Recommend

  • Thinker

    I don’t know if you can see the Masculinity episode online…Aamir Khan’s & his guests ( Amitabh Bachchan,Deepika Padukone,social activists,men who beat their wives/grew up seeing bad male role models,parents of ragging victims,roadrage victims,acid attack victims..etc.etc)take on the topic is too complex to put down here…hope you can watch it yourself-it was the last episode of this season.
    I think the men on the sub-continent could change,with that one single episode, redefining masculinity.Recommend

  • Hina

    The concept of masculinity is frequently disconnected from tears. Showing your vulnerability is not all a sign of weakness, rather it is a sign go strength. It takes courage to show your physical or emotional weaknesses. Only strong and real men can display such courage.Recommend

  • Hina

    The concept of masculinity is frequently disconnected from tears. Showing your vulnerability is not at all a sign of weakness, rather it is a sign of strength. It takes courage to show your physical or emotional weaknesses. Only strong and real men can display such courage.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Thanks for that……I have heard that the program Aamir hosts is really good.Recommend

  • Sane

    You forgot to add East and WestRecommend

  • Faraz Talat

    Bringing religion into it was unnecessary because:

    a) This campaign is not restricted to Muslim groups.

    b) Why get tangled up in a theological discussion, when all it matters is you doing the right thing? Hypothetically speaking, if your religious beliefs did not permit this, would you not have conducted this worthy campaign then?Recommend

  • Alter Ego

    “Do no cry like a woman over what you could not protect like a man”
    Mother of the last Moorish KingRecommend