Dear Men, Claim Your Emotions, You Are Not A Robot!

Feelings are what make you human. It is high time men owned their feelings and expressed them too!

It had been a couple of days since Virat Kohli announced his intention to step down from the post of captain of the Indian Test team. While the news was quite disappointing, I couldn’t help but observe the silver lining to the cloud.

So many men took to penning down their sadness about his exit on social media. There was something heartening about this trend, of men expressing themselves in carefully chosen words.

We are so used to seeing a predominantly-male audience breaking theatres and vandalising cricket grounds, disappointed by the very stars they came to worship. This was a welcome change – people not being bitter, stoic or violent in the face of disappointment.

Emotions, particularly those of men, are still associated with the ‘hunter/gatherer’ mindset. As a society, we have failed to let them evolve. Families face years of normalised violence and abuse, just because the man flies off the handle over petty disappointments. Or take the case of the passive-aggressive patriarchal man.  He expects his wife and family to understand his silences AND REACT, often being sarcastic, manipulative and imposing to achieve his means.

More often than not, a woman not only ends up doing emotional labour for the men in her life, she is also the victim of their inability to express themselves in an appropriate manner.

The cultural problem of boys’ vs. girls’ emotions

As Lily Myers points out in her poem Shrinking Women, in most households women shrink the space around themselves so it appears vast. You can read the full poem here  –  Lily Myers – Shrinking Women | Genius. In many families, the boy child’s emotions have been constantly watched, fed and fattened, while a girl’s emotions are built around ‘adjustment and compromise’. It is a cultural problem. You need to know your emotional needs, just like knowing when you are hungry. Emotional awareness is a sign of good mental health.

Coming back to Virat Kohli, here was an entire group of sports-loving men expressing heartbreak and empathising with each other over the unfair exit of their much-loved hero. This is a pertinent incident in a country where mental health is a budding topic – A man saying he is disappointed in so many words.

Feelings are what make you human. To pause, to weep, to feel, to experience love and affection, these are still feminine traits that no man wants to be seen having. Too sissy, you see! So he projects his emotions on the women around him, more often than not, the more uncomfortable ones, and lets her handle them.There are more women who function as emotional dump yards than you can actually imagine. It is not romantic or motherly, but plain unhealthy and unpleasant.

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It is also a claim on a women’s time, emotions and her mental well-being

Literature and art that portray sadness and love are considered a forte of women, mostly. Men are assumed to make tantalising and valorous art, with the glamour intact. It is the same in movies too. Paradoxically, emotionally unavailable men are romantic heroes, cool and much sought after.

The reigning superstars for decades found their claim to fame by being ‘Angry young men’. A man’s display of love vacillates between flamboyant serenading and silent suffering. His failure is still equated to addiction and machismo to violence. Depression is outright madness. Raw anger and lust are the most intense emotions that a man is shown to feel on screen. The role of emotional vulnerability is relegated to the woman. She is carefully dressed to match the mood of a situation and presented in a glamourous platter, lest emotions offend the audience.  

Clearly, the spectrum of allowed emotions for men and women, as defined and derived from cinema, is unreal and lopsided. In every situation, the woman has to give in. He shows no emotions, and she is allowed no space for hers. The situation is changing in urban cinema, but it is still largely cliched and unhealthy.

Dear Men,

You can’t forever be the perennial joker or the man on whose shoulders responsibility always sits. It is unfair if you as a human can laugh or shout, but are not allowed to be vulnerable enough to be sad or to fail because it is considered unmanly. Allow yourself to recognise and feel softer emotions, so the world is allowed to see you for who you are.

Being sensitive is beautiful. Owning your feelings takes you closer to being a human in its true sense. Empathising with the other without inflicting your views and opinions on a situation is an attractive trait. It shows that you care.

While there are trolls and toxic individuals aplenty in the online world, the collective ability of a few good men to get more men to listen, feel, empathise and think trumps the ugly parts. To the men in my life who have chosen to be empathetic, undaunted by the vulnerability of their own selves and others, a big thank you! You are breaking an invisible gender barrier and making the world a better place for all.

It is extremely appealing when a man listens with an intent to understand. A man who is capable of feeling his entire range of emotions, dealing with them and expressing what he feels allows the women in his life to think and feel for themselves. You make better choices when you are aware of your emotions. That is a freedom of a different kind for everyone and better mental health for all.

Emotions are a spectrum, not two ends of a see-saw.

Emotions are for all. Claim them and own them.

Image credits Marjan Apostolovic/Getty Images pro, via Canva pro

First published here.

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About the Author

Nithya Rajagopal

I write short stories and blogs when I am not living my cubicle life. I have written four collections of short stories and these are available on Amazon. read more...

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