Bad Feminist

Emotions shouldn’t be a gendered experience


Photo by Carolyn Mennecke

I’ve discovered something rather shocking about myself in the past few months that I really don’t like.

Whether it’s infatuation, depression, anxiety, stress or sadness, I genuinely do not know how to handle male emotions.

When it comes to women, it’s so easy. I can pull from my ice cream reservoirs, give big bear hugs, talk things out over a steamy mug of peppermint hot chocolate, whip out the honey and tea tree face masks or hit the mall for something new and sparkly to help relieve negative feelings.

But, men?

What the heck do you do with men?

Do you give them tight hugs and bury them in a bundle of blankets? Do you gossip while eating dark chocolate? Do you watch sad romcoms and cry with men? Or go stress shopping for new jewelry? I’m guessing the answer is probably no. Right?

When a few of my male friends approached me, struggling with breakups or depression or suicidal thoughts, I didn’t know how to handle it. In fact, I never expected that a guy would talk to me about stuff like that.

It’s easy when boys are younger. I used to tutor an elementary school-aged boy who loved hugs.  It wasn’t weird when he expressed feelings. Or little boys who cry — that’s not weird. That’s normal. In fact, science tells us that boys are more emotional than girls until puberty when they’re told to “man up.” Boys are socialized to be tough and hide their emotions. Once they “man up,” no one knows what to do. Including me.

What I should know, and I think everyone should know, is that we don’t need to treat men any differently than women when it comes to emotions.

We should be able to give men bear hugs just like the ones we give our female friends. We should be able to talk feelings and eat chocolate, no matter what our gender is. Face masks, anyone? We should be able to embrace all bodies and empower everyone. When men approach me about the things they are feeling, I put aside the fact that they identify as male, and I focus on the things we have in common: we are human. And humans feel things. That’s what we do.

Society has taught men that they are supposed to feel threatened by being vulnerable. They’re taught to abandon their feelings in favor of poor, artificial expression. And the truth is, we’re not setting men up for success when we ignore their feelings. If we want men to help us reach our goals, we need to help them too. This is a two-way street, people. We shouldn’t just pretend like men don’t have feelings and move on with our day.

They need therapy. They need to feel comfortable in their bodies. They need to be loved and affirmed. They need to talk about their feelings. We all do.

I know I’ve been a bad feminist because I’ve been clueless about male emotions when there’s nothing to be clueless about. But once I recognized them as simply human emotions, rather this sick genderization of feelings, then I realized that we can all share this pint of ice cream together.

And, honestly, that sounds pretty awesome. Come join the party.

Mennecke can be reached at [email protected].