I know I usually speak about girls and women but the truth is I speak about gender as whole. Often times it is specific to marketing and how to understand gender better in an effort to provide products and services that meet their needs. Other times however it is about the way in which we tear down people based on stereotypes and expectations tied to gender.
One of the most common ways this occurs in our every day life is in how we genderize emotion. Since who knows when we have taught children that boys don't cry, only girls do. We tell boys they need to be tough and girls they need to be sweet. This seemingly harmless act has pretty big repercussions.
I recently came across this fantastic video from a martial arts school in Detroit. At this school, the instructors focus on teaching and celebrating boys and their fathers by allowing them to be strong and vulnerable. There is a focus on allowing these families to express their emotions as boys and men and teaching the strength that resides there.
What a wonderful way to allow boys and their fathers to express emotion other than anger. This permission seems small but he reality is that expressing all types of emotion keeps people healthy. Typically we tell boys not to cry but allow them to express anger and then wonder why they grow up unable to express other emotions. We teach them that being sad is weak, all while allowing girls to express sadness and wonder why women are seen as weak.
The idea that we place a gender on an emotion makes no sense really. Emotions don't differ by gender. We all get sad, happy, mad, embarrassed etc. It is how we are taught to deal with and express these emotions that becomes genderized by our culture.
As I researched the topic I found a great article from The Washington Post called "Why it's good to let boys cry". One especially interesting part was a direct quote from a book, here is what the article said...
The moral to this story is that allowing our boys to cry and teaching them that it is a sign of strength not weakness helps to build men who can express emotion, share intimacy and express themselves in healthy ways. Don't we owe our men that opportunity?
It's time we start building strong healthy people.