As a child, I had the tendency to become very emotional over certain matters. I never fully understood this assembly of feelings, but quickly learned it must be kept under guard. After all, men should be strong and silent. So I started tightening up, refused to showcase what I felt, and started being typecast as “stoic.” Not much was improved, but the word had a distinct comfort to it. Gone were the moments of frustration or embarrassment, in their place the unquestioning image forged by one who could simply absorb what he experienced and let the river pass without becoming too much involved. Peace, I suppose.
If only. What society likes to describe as the male stoic ideal remains far from those actual principles ingrained within classical philosophical texts like Meditations. Our present model is merely a way to force men into distracting themselves, both from any underlying nature, and their own capacity to develop emotionally.
While there is little benefit to mucking about in tears all day, binding up feelings within a sack to save face merely creates issues that flare out in other regards. Some have tried to explain away the predominance of the stoic concept in human cultures by arguing it can be a check on male propensity for violence. Of course suppression hardly helps the situation; guys are more inclined to “snap” rather than channel that drive in combat sports or just warfare. In addition, males who crack down on what they feel in response to the loss of a loved one or experiencing a tragedy are only leaving countless sensations unexplained and worsening their mental state.
Even public expressions of speech by men must be carefully curdled. We like to mock male leaders from the 1930s for shrill orations in front of mesmerized throngs, because they demonstrate a lack of control and balance. The preference is for the liberal professor stereotype of Barack Obama, or perhaps some old clown who isn’t aware of the current year. Consequence of deviation from the norm means the Howard Dean Effect, where becoming emotional and hoarse means the end of a national campaign.
Our regimented defense of this cordon sanitaire against male emotion can hardly be seen as a success. Scholars usually conclude women have a higher emotional intelligence and are better-adapted to the modern service economy precisely due to their ease with human expression. There is comparatively little social insistence on females to hide what they feel, hence the apparent advantage, because they grow up better understanding the sentiments of others. Furthermore, browbeating boys to shelter what they have inside cringes in the shadow of an extremely high suicide rate. Are the two connected? Can they somehow not be?
No other hill should be the start of a movement for social change. If we are to continue embracing modernity and techno-futurism, the archaic treatment of male emotions must cease. Lives do indeed depend upon it.