Son, You’re crying like a little girl. Wipe those tears off your face.
– my father, to me
This type of masculinity also denies men natural outlets for emotional turmoil like loss, anger, pain, envy and hatred…. this is one of the reasons why the impulsive response to these types of emotions are physical violence. Men hit when they get angry, hurt, confused, frustrated, they lash out. Society has taught men that lashing out is a perfectly acceptable response to emotion. In fact for a man to cry would men he is prey for other men or has lost his RIGHT to manhood. Any expression of emotion that is not sexual or violent (emotionally or physically) is seen as unmanly. This steals the humanity from men and boys.
– Nicci, on the patriarchy and its effect on men and boys
I’m going to use the occasion of my father’s birthday to talk about patriarchy and emotions. (He would have turned 78.) There’s some irony in the fact that he could and would sing in his big loud voice the Christian hymn based on Isaiah 53:3 – “Man of sorrows,” What a name, for the Son of God who came!
This whole notion of a feeling man, an expressive and emotional male, runs counter to my father’s experience and his instruction, his discipline, of me and his other sons.
We see this as far back as Homer’s Iliad. In one of my very favorite passages (Book 16, lines 1-11, 20) –
ὣς οἳ μὲν περὶ νηὸς ἐϋσσέλμοιο μάχοντο:
Πάτροκλος δ᾽ Ἀχιλῆϊ παρίστατο ποιμένι λαῶν
δάκρυα θερμὰ χέων ὥς τε κρήνη μελάνυδρος,
ἥ τε κατ᾽ αἰγίλιπος πέτρης δνοφερὸν χέει ὕδωρ.
5τὸν δὲ ἰδὼν ᾤκτιρε ποδάρκης δῖος Ἀχιλλεύς,
καί μιν φωνήσας ἔπεα πτερόεντα προσηύδα:
‘τίπτε δεδάκρυσαι Πατρόκλεες, ἠΰτε κούρη
νηπίη, ἥ θ᾽ ἅμα μητρὶ θέουσ᾽ ἀνελέσθαι ἀνώγει
εἱανοῦ ἁπτομένη, καί τ᾽ ἐσσυμένην κατερύκει,
10δακρυόεσσα δέ μιν ποτιδέρκεται, ὄφρ᾽ ἀνέληται:
τῇ ἴκελος Πάτροκλε τέρεν κατὰ δάκρυον εἴβεις.
τὸν δὲ βαρὺ στενάχων προσέφης Πατρόκλεες ἱππεῦ:
Richmond Lattimore’s translation gets that like this –
So they fought on both sides for the sake of the strong-benched vessel.
Meanwhile Patroklos came to the shepherd of the people, Achilleus,
and stood by him and wept warm tears, like a spring dark-running
that down the face of a rock impassable drips its dim water;
and swift-footed brilliant Achilleus looked on him in pity,
and spoke to him aloud and addressed him in winged words: ‘Why then
are you crying like some poor little girl, Patroklos,
who runs after her mother and begs to be picked up and carried,
and clings to her dress, and holds her back when she tries to hurry,
and gazes tearfully into her face, until she is picked up?
You are like such a one, Patroklos, dropping these soft tears.’
Then groaning heavily, Patroklos the rider, you answered:
Scholars who study this text today debate whether Achilles is really showing Patroclos “pity” as in sympathy or is scoffing at and shunning his pathetic behavior. The narrator, regardless, goes on to portray the latter, the mortal man, as full of profound feeling.
The gospel of John has what I call “odd gospel greek” in light of the cliche about real men not showing emotions. (John uses a verb found nowhere else in the gospel and only once also in the gospel of Mark. It’s the verb Homer uses for this man’s tears flowing riverlike, flowing as if from a helpless little run-to-mommy girl.) Very succinctly, as the odd gospel greek has Jesus groaning heavily, the sentence goes like this –
ἐδάκρυσεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς.
Lattimore translates that as follows –
Some lessons never get believed, or lived, or taught. Too much is at stake for many men, I’m quite sure. In my father’s last days, especially his two years of battling incurable cancer, he learned and believed for himself the power of tears, laughter, and the sharing of emotions. His last two birthdays on this earth were pretty joyous and emotional happy birthdays. I’m learning to spend my days more fully sharing emotions, whether that’s like a little girl or like a man of sorrows or like a tearful Jesus. I’m grateful that learning does not have to stop. Learning about the Patriarchy and its effects and how to reverse these and to recover from them is so very very very important to me and to mine. I’m happy on this birthday of my father, and I do miss much about him.