The fallacy of teaching men to be emotionally honest

This article about ‘teaching men to be emotionally honest‘ was a particular amusing read, although depressing that it was primarily shared by men I know on facebook.

Last semester, a student in the masculinity course I teach showed a video clip she had found online of a toddler getting what appeared to be his first vaccinations. Off camera, we hear his father’s voice. “I’ll hold your hand, O.K.?” Then, as his son becomes increasingly agitated: “Don’t cry!… Aw, big boy! High five, high five! Say you’re a man: ‘I’m a man!’ ” The video ends with the whimpering toddler screwing up his face in anger and pounding his chest. “I’m a man!” he barks through tears and gritted teeth.

The home video was right on point, illustrating the takeaway for the course: how boys are taught, sometimes with the best of intentions, to mutate their emotional suffering into anger. More immediately, it captured, in profound concision, the earliest stirrings of a male identity at war with itself.

This is no small thing. As students discover in this course, an Honors College seminar called “Real Men Smile: The Changing Face of Masculinity,” what boys seem to need is the very thing they fear. Yet when they are immunized against this deeper emotional honesty, the results have far-reaching, often devastating consequences.

Despite the emergence of the metrosexual and an increase in stay-at-home dads, tough-guy stereotypes die hard. As men continue to fall behind women in college, while outpacing them four to one in the suicide rate, some colleges are waking up to the fact that men may need to be taught to think beyond their own stereotypes.

In many ways, the young men who take my seminar — typically, 20 percent of the class — mirror national trends. Based on their grades and writing assignments, it’s clear that they spend less time on homework than female students do; and while every bit as intelligent, they earn lower grades with studied indifference. When I asked one of my male students why he didn’t openly fret about grades the way so many women do, he said: “Nothing’s worse for a guy than looking like a Try Hard.”

In a report based on the 2013 book “The Rise of Women: The Growing Gender Gap in Education and What It Means for American Schools,” the sociologists Thomas A. DiPrete and Claudia Buchmann observe: “Boys’ underperformance in school has more to do with society’s norms about masculinity than with anatomy, hormones or brain structure. In fact, boys involved in extracurricular cultural activities such as music, art, drama and foreign languages report higher levels of school engagement and get better grades than other boys. But these cultural activities are often denigrated as un-masculine by preadolescent and adolescent boys.”

Throughout elementary school and beyond, they write, girls consistently show “higher social and behavioral skills,” which translate into “higher rates of cognitive learning” and “higher levels of academic investment.”

It should come as no surprise that college enrollment rates for women have outstripped men’s. In 1994, according to a Pew Research Center analysis, 63 percent of females and 61 percent of males enrolled in college right after high school; by 2012, the percentage of young women had increased to 71, but the percentage of men remained unchanged.

By the time many young men do reach college, a deep-seated gender stereotype has taken root that feeds into the stories they have heard about themselves as learners. Better to earn your Man Card than to succeed like a girl, all in the name of constantly having to prove an identity to yourself and others.

Generally speaking, this section here reveals the reasoning behind the fallacy that men should be more emotionally expressive. The conclusion is picked first using dubious examples such as this father teaching his son not to cry, and then the conclusion is backed up with poor statistics and anecdotes.

Can anyone really tell me how ‘outwardly emotionally expressive boys and men are’ has a direct correlation with how they do in a ‘feminized school environment’?

The irony is that the opposite is true based on their anecdotes. Men that are more emotionally expressive in general are less successful. In reality, the men that are less emotionally expressive tend to do better with women and in life.

I only pulled out the first half of the article. Go read the whole thing if you want to see the ugly and incorrect ending.

Men express emotions differently than women

Men feel emotions just as women do. However, the way men express emotions is different from women.

  • Men tend to process emotions internally and solitary.
  • Women tend to process emotions outwardly in a social manner, especially with friends and family.

This is why men who are going through difficult experiences will not want to talk about it, especially with other women. The men need time to feel their emotions internally and then process them in a way that is fruitful and productive rather than unfruitful and destructive.

On the other hand, women express emotions externally, generally in a social manner. Women talking about their experiences and feelings is an emotional release for them. They generally don’t want the problem solved because the emotional release is what is important. If there is any problem, it can be solved later after there is emotional release. After all, it’s not about the nail.

Understanding where it goes haywire

I’ve discussed these concepts before in emotional engagement. Women always say they ‘want’ men to be more emotionally expressive, but when men are more emotionally expressive it’s frowned upon. There are, in general, some distinctions that need to be made.

For instance, when asking a woman what is ‘attractive’ to her you may get the typical kind, good with kids, supportive, servant heart, and many other attributes like these. We know that these are traits that women like in a man to which they are already attracted. The traits which make a man [sexually] attractive to a woman are power/personality, status, athleticism, looks, and money.

Likewise, when women say they want a man to be more emotionally expressive, what they actually mean is they want a man to be more positively emotionally expressive.

If you’ve ever been around a woman and reactive with negative emotions all of the time, you will find out quickly that women will reactive to the negative emotional state with a negative emotional state of her own. This leads into a dysfunctional cycle. You get angry with something, then she gets angry because you’re angry. This is compounded because now you’re angry with something, and your girl is now angry too so you react both of those negatively. Then she gets angrier, and the downward spiral continues.

This is why arguing with a woman never gets you anywhere. It’s not about the argument; it’s about the emotions she’s feeling. Most of the time, women simply want an environment to express their emotions without concern for right or wrong and/or solving the problems she is facing.

In this, the tree analogy bears much fruit.

  • Positive emotions are like the shade on a summer day. She can bask in the cool breeze and enjoy her time with you.
  • Negative emotions are like the wind and rain. They are to be blocked out by the tree itself so that they don’t affect her directly. She is sheltered from the storm.

This makes sense, after all.

A feature, not a bug, of leadership

Men are called to be leaders — the head — in their [marriage] relationships (e.g. Ephesians 5). Thus, we understand that processing emotions internally and solitary is a necessary feature of leaders.

When leaders react to situations with negative emotional displays, this does not foster confidence and trust from the followers. Rather, it fosters fear and distrust. For example, threats are a negative emotional display backed by the authority of position.

A ‘threat’ is a ‘lack of control in one’s own situation’ which is expressed outwardly, often in an emotional manner. The reason why threats are ineffective is because the lack of control in one’s own situation gives rise to a lack of direction and fear in followers. Thus, any potential rebellion must first be quelled by the threat of coercion in order to ensure that the direction which the leader chooses will be met with success. In other words, it is the opposite of leading by example.

Generally speaking, this is one of the features of why men tend to be better leaders than women, and why God made the man the head of marriages. The ability to process emotions internally and solitary is a trait that is highly effective for good leadership as it is able to shield those that are led from the storms of life.

Conclusions

Men and women tend to express emotions differently. Surprise surprise. We are different.

  • Men tend to process emotions internally and solitary.
  • Women tend to process emotions outwardly in a social manner, especially with friends and family.
  • When women tell men to be more outwardly emotionally expressive, what they really mean is to be more positively emotionally expressive.
  • A necessary feature of leadership is the ability to process emotions internally and solitary. That is a leader must be able to filter out their negative emotional displays in order to lead by example and build confidence and trust in the relationship. Negative emotional displays often lead to threats, fear, and distrust.
  • Women generally want to share in the joys of your successes, be shielded from the sorrows of your failures, and be her anchor in the storms of life.

Be quick to share positively, patient to share negatively, and a rock when her emotional winds blow hard.

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20 Responses to The fallacy of teaching men to be emotionally honest

  1. Pingback: The fallacy of teaching men to be emotionally honest – Manosphere.org

  2. A Visitor says:

    “Despite the emergence of the metrosexual and an increase in stay-at-home dads, tough-guy stereotypes die hard. As men continue to fall behind women in college, while outpacing them four to one in the suicide rate, some colleges are waking up to the fact that men may need to be taught to think beyond their own stereotypes.”

    Yeah…that’ll increase men’s enrollment in colleges! *spits* Granted, it was from the New York Times so I wasn’t expecting much beyond the usual drivel. I wasn’t disappointed.

    “As Dr. Kimmel masterfully deflected an outpouring of protests, the atmosphere grew palpably tense. A young man wearing fraternity letters stood up. “What you don’t get right is that girls are into hooking up as much as we are; they come on to us, too,” he said. Dr. Kimmel shook his head, which left the student clearly rattled.”

    Sorry, Dr. Kimmel it does take two to tango.

    “As women surpass men on campus, the threat felt by thin-skinned males often reveals itself in the relationships where they feel most exposed.”

    Could it be that men are sick of being lambasted about how they’re rapists, misogynists, and only interested in sex?

    “Some universities offer counseling services for men of color and gay men, and some sponsor clubs through which male members explore the crisis of sexual violence against women.”

    Really? That old 1 in 5 statistic? Point proven.

    Though I doubt it is, Andrew Reiner, given how the article was written, sounds like it could be a byline for a woman.

    “Men feel emotions just as women do. However, the way men express emotions is different from women.
    ▪ Men tend to process emotions internally and solitary.”

    But but but DS, we’re equal regardless of gender. Didn’t you get the memo? /sarc

    “When leaders react to situations with negative emotional displays, this does not foster confidence and trust from the followers. Rather, it fosters fear and distrust. For example, threats are a negative emotional display backed by the authority of position.”

    Ask anyone who has been subordinate and seen their leader lose it…especially in a life and death situation like a military deployment.

    “Be quick to share positively, patient to share negatively, and a rock when her emotional winds blow hard.”

    Well said. For a recent literary comparison (with regards to the negative and being a rock) be like Marco Ramius in The Hunt for Red October. Have a face that shows nothing.

  3. Zhuo says:

    Good read. I find particularly interesting the part on how this relates to leadership. Andy Crouch, in his “Weak and Strong” points out that a leader, if he wants his community to flourish, had to hide his vulnerabilities, which I think goes hand in hand with what you said.

  4. SapphireYagami says:

    This was interesting but also made me realize, that i apparently suck at being a woman.

    I also thought that men rarely showed emotion was because it was considered feminine for example “dont be a sissy, stop crying like a b*tch, dont be a p*ssy etc” – comments like that clearly states that being emotionally is a negative and feminine concept. Its also the negative aspect which is why i keep mostly a stoic expression

  5. CHero says:

    Who we allowed to share bad news with? God?

  6. @ Sapphire

    I also thought that men rarely showed emotion was because it was considered feminine for example “dont be a sissy, stop crying like a b*tch, dont be a p*ssy etc” – comments like that clearly states that being emotionally is a negative and feminine concept.

    That’s somewhat of a different thing.

    For example, men mock insult each other over say being afraid to go up an approach and/or ask out a woman (“don’t be a pussy”) because it typically stimulates the friend to go actually do it. It’s part of male-male camaraderie.

    Now, it can be used as a negative to a man such as if he just had something bad happen to him like a break up (“stop crying like a b*tch”) because they know he needs to get over it. But that’s because men instinctively know that showing weakness is a bad thing… and we all know that women hate when men show weakness.

    Anyway, point being that what is attractive to each sex is men being masculine and women being feminine.

  7. @ CHero

    Who we allowed to share bad news with? God?

    I talked about that in the other post some.

    1. God
    2. Mentors
    3. Male friends

    Generally speaking, this is why men should be a part of a group of brothers. Take the example of Jesus. 70 disciples, but 12 that he did everything with, 3 that he was chose with (Peter, James, John), and 1 who he was super close with and ended up entrusting his family prior to his death (John).

  8. Ryder says:

    That processing emotions privately serves man’s role as leader goes a long way toward explaining why progressives, who deeply resent male leadership, are so consistently blind to this basic truth.

  9. Looking Glass says:

    Showing too much emotion as a Man also makes you an easy mark for someone that is manipulative. It’s a massive tell to a lack of control.

    As for the article, blind fools really are just that: blind. Nothing much else to say about the article.

  10. Tarl says:

    “a student in the masculinity course I teach”

    Ugh, how revolting!

    The first rule of masculinity – we do not TAKE “masculinity courses”. (GAY)

    The second rule of masculinity – we do not TEACH “masculinity courses” (GAY)

  11. Pingback: What drives the delay in the marriage | Christianity and the manosphere

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  14. Olivia J Blankenship says:

    Wow, this response to a brilliant article on such a prevalent issue is disgusting and extremely uninformed and biased. Deeply saddened to have read this and the comments supporting this ridiculous viewpoint.

  15. thedeti says:

    “Wow, this response to a brilliant article on such a prevalent issue is disgusting and extremely uninformed and biased. Deeply saddened to have read this and the comments supporting this ridiculous viewpoint.”

    Says a woman who doesn’t understand how men process and deal with emotions.

    Says a woman who doesn’t understand that men acting out in emotional ways, wearing their hearts on their sleeves, and being overly dramatic and overly emotional, is positively repulsive to women.

  16. Olivia J Blankenship says:

    @thedeti: I’m sorry, but you don’t know me at all. I understand a great deal than what you assume. I appreciate men that are real and honest. My husband is very in tune with his emotions and feels comfortable being vulnerable with me and “wearing his heart on his sleeve” as you say. He shares all of his emotions with me and it makes me love and appreciate him all the more. We both know that we can be vulnerable with each other, because that’s what a marriage is. He is a therapist and sees firsthand, everyday, how detrimental this kind of thinking is to not only men, but women as well.

    What I find repulsive is this article and the image of men that it condones.

    I’m sorry that you disagree but please don’t comment things like that when you have no idea who I am, what I think and believe, and my experiences.

  17. thedeti says:

    The reason you love and appreciate your husband is because you were sexually attracted to him before you married him or are sexually attracted to him now if you weren’t before. Your love and appreciation for him has much more to do with the health of your sex life and your respect for him, than it does with his crying on your shoulder, weeping about his stress, or overemoting about fear, despair, depression, elation, anger or joy.

    I’ve tried doing it your way. I tried sharing all my emotions with my wife. I tried being vulnerable with her and wearing my heart on my sleeve with her. It made her seethe with anger and fury. It made her insecure, hell to live with, and bitchy. It certainly didn’t help our sex life.

    So i’ll believe my lying eyes on this one. And I’ll comment on whatever I wish, subject to the bloghost’s rules. You don’t get to tell me what I can and can’t say here.

  18. Olivia J Blankenship says:

    I’m sorry you’re so angry

  19. thedeti says:

    This has nothing to do with my feelings; and everything to do with your reading blog entries written by men, for men. You’re just not part of this blog’s intended audience. This isn’t for you, or about you.

  20. Lost Patrol says:

    A woman reports the OP is:
    – disgusting
    – extremely uninformed
    – biased
    – ridiculous viewpoint

    In other words, OP Validated. Nice work.

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