About two weeks ago, the President of the United States of America, Barack Obama, cried openly on live television as he delivered a speech about his government’s measures to tighten gun control in the wake of the continued mass shootings in the country.
As Obama ran through a list of the shootings that have happened during his term in office, he recalled the school children gunned down in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012 and broke down and wept. This, of course, is a very sensitive issue. People have died but among them are children whose lives were just starting. Surprisingly, the speech was overshadowed by Obama’s tears.
But the President is not the only man to shed tears publicly. In fact, his predecessor; President George W. Bush once told journalists that he had “shed more tears than you can count, as President.”
In 2003, former NBA player Kobe Bryant broke into tears at a press conference as he admitted that he had cheated on his wife.
In 2013, Comedian Steve Harvey broke down when he finally managed to reconnect with a couple that helped him get on his feet before he became famous. Admitting that he was looking for them for years, he was more than touched when he finally saw their faces via video.
Then there is John Boehner’s crying too. Boehner, who is the former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, is as famous for his position as he is for his tears. He cried in 2011 upon receiving the gavel from outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He shed some tears when Rep. Gabby Giffords announced her resignation. He cried when talking about schools and his wife on “60 Minutes” and recently, he cried when Pope Francis addressed a joint session of Congress last year. Boehner has cried so much that a magazine called Politico even has a photo gallery entitled “15 Times John Boehner Cried.”
The list is endless and the opinion about whether it is ok for a man to cry in public is divided.
Though crying among men seems more tolerated today, there are still strong biases against men crying in public.
In a 2001 study of undergraduate males in the United States, only 23 percent of males reported crying when feeling helpless as opposed to 58 percent of females.
Crying due to sadness seems more acceptable for males but crying due to anger is not. Another 2008 study found that only two percent of American males were likely to cry due to anger as opposed to 51 percent of women.
Women share their views
For Zainab Ingabire, a real man should never cry in public, and even if he is mourning the loss of a loved one, he should be strong and control his emotions.
“A real man never shows his tears in public. Men are meant to be strong and should not be seen in public crying.
I don’t understand what people mean when they say that there are exceptions like crying over the death of someone. I actually strongly believe that that is the best moment to show his strength,” she says.
Alinda Munanura agrees but has some exceptions. Besides men, Munanura generally believes that it’s wrong for anyone to cry in public.
“Whether you are a man or woman, I think that crying in public is wrong but of course there are some exceptions; like funerals. Crying at a funeral is allowed because there are too many emotions involved. I however cannot excuse a man who is crying in public because of love. That is weak,” she says.
Aisha Birungi says that men are human too, but she doesn’t expect to see them crying in public over small things.
“If you are a man and you start crying over being insulted or embarrassed in public, then I will start questioning if you are not a woman. I sometimes see men cry over stuff like losing a laptop, or because of love. Go and do that in your bedroom because even women don’t cry over petty stuff anymore,” Birungi says.
Rachel Kansime says that there is always a strong reason why a man breaks down.
“Men don’t usually cry. It is not something that you see often, so when it happens, I am sure it is for a genuinely sad reason,” she says.
Shakillah Kaitesi thinks that it all depends on why the man is crying.
“It depends. There are instances where some people cry and others find it puzzling. If for example someone has been struggling and they finally get a breakthrough, they are bound to break down, especially when they look at their journey,” Kaitesi says.
Annette Mbabazi doesn’t understand what the fuss about men crying in public is about, but she also acknowledges that society views things differently.
“I personally do not see what the issue is but I know that society sees things differently. We’ve been conditioned to see crying as a weakness. Since men are assumed and expected to be strong, the two cannot go together, especially when it happens in public,” she says.
A man’s opinion
Janvier Nshimyumukiza believes that crying in public should be left to women and children.
“Women and children are the ones who cry any time. Men don’t cry. Should it happen in special cases like losing a loved one, I expect you not to wail or make a scene,” he says.
“It’s unusual from the cultural perspective, and cultural norms but I wouldn’t call it odd,” says Lee Ndayisaba.
Moses Gahigi says that it is not odd at all to see a man cry. “Those who have misgivings about it, base that on a flawed notion that a man cannot show weakness or breakdown. If anything, I think that a man who openly cries is real and human. If someone started crying, I probably would join them, depending on what has caused them to do so,” he says.
In an interview with The New Times, Joyce Kirabo, a counselor at Mount Kenya University, says that the issue of men crying in public is driven more by cultural expectations than anything else.
“Normally in African culture, men do not cry in public. Even if you go as far back as centuries ago, or you consult the Bible or Quran, you find that men found it easier to control their emotions because culture associated tears to weakness and being timid,” she says.
Whether it is in difficult times or not, Kirabo says that most people find it ‘off’ for a man to cry at all because he has always been viewed as a crisis manager.
“We expect a man to be in control, whether tragedy has struck or not. He is a conqueror and tears signify defeat,” the counselor says.
Tears are a complex subject but when it comes to what people find comfortable or not, it becomes even more complex. Is it odd for men to cry in public? It depends. If for example someone has received news that their child has passed away, it really doesn’t matter if you stand on the hill and start screaming. But for some, if issues like being dumped begin making a grown man bawl, then a raised eyebrow is normal. After everything has been said and done, freely showing emotion shouldn’t be a yardstick that one uses to gauge a man’s strength. Lack of emotion should instead be the one to make us wonder if we are dealing with human beings or robots.
YOUR VOICE: Is it appropriate for a man to cry in public?
Praise Mutesi, marketing and sales person
Being the head of a family makes one the cornerstone of that unit. So a man is expected to be strong, and provide support when others are crumbling emotionally. I find it inappropriate for a man to cry when those around him are looking to him for strength. Most times, the people around him need him to be the pillar.
Bonface Budandi, operational manager-Comedy Knights
People shouldn’t look at men crying as a taboo or a strange thing. We live in a world where men have learnt to swallow their pride and express how they feel, unlike back in the day. Men’s tears are genuine because they don’t do it often. It is a sign of sensitivity and humble nature. When they feel sorrow or frustration, they should let out.
Niceson Karungi, IT business analyst-Judiciary
Men are looked at as the less emotional sex,but that doesn’t make them superhuman. They are human beings with feelings, and they get hurt, challenged and emotional. In my opinion, people should look at men crying as a normal thing and embrace it, because it’s healthy to let what is inside out.
Arthur Nkusi, comedian
The more men keep emotions to themselves, the more it destroys them inside. We are all aware how relieving it is to let out sorrow and frustration by crying.I do not find it wrong for men to get emotional - if it is real. It’s unhealthy to keep one’s feelings bottled up. I hope people can learn to look at men crying in public as a normal thing and offer some sort of support actually.
Compiled by Dennis Agaba