Crying has always been associated with women and children: sissy, crybaby, you pick the insult. Being emotionally vulnerable has rarely been something society has valued in men. I expect when word gets out about what I’m trying to do over here, one of the criticisms I will hear is: quit trying to turn boys into girls. I see variations of that theme in the reviews of all the articles and books that have a similar theme to this blog. Changing the definition of masculinity is not something people are anxious to do.
So I’m just going to go ahead and set the record straight preemptively. I am not trying to make anyone into anything. Personally, I enjoy being a feminine woman and I resent when feminists imply there’s something wrong with my personal brand of womanhood. I believe my husband enjoys being masculine and would resent if anyone told him there was something wrong with his personal brand of manhood. I don’t want to tell anyone who they are nor who I think they should be. That would be a futile endeavor.
What I do want to do is shine a light on the fact that our society has been trying to sell the message that “real” men have no emotional vulnerabilities and this message is hurting the boys who try to live up it. I want us to look for and become aware of our erroneous expectations and better prepare ourselves to support the men and boys we love.
The real question my future critics should be asking is this: is it possible for someone to be both strong and emotionally vulnerable at the same time? And what does that look like?
Personally, I think it looks something like this:
Vin Diesel usually plays the most masculine of the masculine. He is the alpha. He’s also been very open about how difficult it’s been and how sad he’s felt since Paul Walker’s death. I appreciated his openness in this story where he talked about returning to the set of Furious 7:
I’m supposed to be in killer mode. I went through three boxes of tissues, and I felt so embarrassed…I had always been the kind of actor that other actors respect. I was just failing so hard. My nose was running and my eyes were tearing. I had to walk off set and try to get all the fluids out. I couldn’t contain my emotion… It became the toughest film I ever had to shoot (Heatworld).
I’m not sure if Vin Diesel felt strong during these moments, it sounds like he probably didn’t, but he was. He showed tremendous emotional strength. The definition of emotional resilience isn’t the lack of feeling, it’s the ability to adapt and continue moving while feeling. These moments didn’t make Vin Diesel seem any less masculine. In fact, they made him seem more whole, more complete, and less like a beefy caricature.
How about you? What does masculine vulnerability look like to you?
PS: Dear Vin Diesel, if you ever stumble upon this blog, I would love to interview you. Many of the characters you play on screen epitomize masculinity for our society; it would be interesting to hear you talk about what being a “real man” means to you in your every day life. My contact information is at the top of the blog if you’re willing. Sincerely, Christine