Big Boys Cry (Even in Prison)

by: Alana Foster-Smith

I haven’t seen my dad cry. I haven’t seen either of my brothers cry. I was brought up to think that this was completely normal. But after watching The Work, I was forced to revisit what had become normal in my life. The stereotype that “big boys don’t cry” had seeped itself so deep into my thought processes that I found myself shocked when one of the participants would start crying. I simply could not process these grown men brought to tears.

Why do we tell our young boys to forgo the feeling of release that comes with demonstrating feelings of sadness? Because we want them to be seen as more masculine or stronger? What about Japanese samurais that cried publicly when tragedy struck? Or Abraham Lincoln who used to cry during his speeches? To read more about this, go to Would these men ever be considered weak? No, of course not. So why do men expect to be seen as weak when they do the same actions?This modern shift to see men as unmanly because of their tears is questioned in The Work by seeing men, who are anything but weak or unmanly, find relief as they are forced to understand and grapple with their emotions. The Work encouraged its participants to push against the phrase “big boys don’t cry.” Multiple times in the documentary participants are asked to “let it out” or “feel it.” There was an obvious look of relief when these individuals finally did let their emotions out and were able to vocally express their emotions, although it was difficult for them. As time went on, more of the participants were willing to be vulnerable, offering an insightful lens into what might occur in society if men being vulnerable became the norm. But men being vulnerable is not the only thing that needs to change. One of the things that made the Inner Circle, the program highlighted in The Work, so effective was the support the men in the program gave each other when participants became emotional. This means that sayings like “don’t be priss” when men show emotion needs to be replaced with compassion. What kind of a world would that be? Maybe one where we see progress like with Eldra and Rick constantly. Maybe one where girls aren’t shocked when their dad, brother or even a random male character starts to cry.

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