January 21, 2010
On being a woman who cries
I am a crier. I cry when I’m sad; I cry when I’m happy. I cry when I’m angry, or frustrated, or feeling shame, or just plain overwhelmed. Movies make me cry. Books make me cry. I cry at things that are touching; I have to leave the room when those freaking ASPCA commercials come on TV. I cry when someone I care about cries. Catch me on the right day and I might cry if I’m good and startled, the way an infant will. It’s what I do.
I have also been accused on numerous occasions, primarily by men, that my tears are manipulative, like I’m crying in front of them just to get my way, or to make them feel bad, to get attention, or… I don’t even know, really. At any rate, I’ve been accused of being manipulative for crying. Which, honestly, is almost funny to me—or would be if it weren’t so bloody irritating, if it didn’t reflect such an apparent profound misunderstanding of who I am and what I do—because believe you me, if I could make it so that I only cried in private, by myself, I would make that change in a heartbeat. In addition to the accusations of manipulation, there’s the social narrative that tears = weakness, so apparently these folks are willing to believe that I (and other criers) are thinking, “Hey, so I get to appear manipulative and weak and puffy-faced? Awesome! Sign me up!”
All that said, then, I really, really appreciated Amanda’s take-down of this article by Spencer Morgan in the New York Observer. A sampling:
Of course, one thing that makes the whole “crying is nothing but manipulation” nonsense have even more traction is that women undeniably cry a lot more than men. That makes it easier for ungenerous men, and some women, to chalk crying up to female inferiority—either women are manipulative bitches who are only pretending to be that sad, or they’re hormonal messes who can’t be trusted to handle the grown-up world. That a lot more men are likely to blow up in rage and scream and yell to the point where everyone’s uncomfortable isn’t taken as evidence that men are inferior or overly emotional, I’ll note. But I have special hate for the notion that crying is something that women can and should have more control over. When people take nasty swipes like Morgan’s, I want to ask them if they can drop and start crying right now, to prove to me how much it’s a matter of will and not reflex.
The whole thing is very much worth the read. And furthermore, I think the comments thread is well worth reading, as well, especially if your reaction to what I am or Amanda is saying here is something along the lines of, “But, but—bitchez be crazy!” (Though you can maybe stop after the first hundred or so; somewhere around 125 a dude—apparently a relatively regular commenter, from what I gathered—comes in to try to mansplain things in earnest with the argument that crying is basically just not something Grown Ups do unless they have a properly Grown Up reason for doing so, and it’s pretty painful to watch.)