As an avid crier myself, I think its time for me to take on the Boehner crying thing. I’ve been trying to ignore this issue for awhile, because it honestly just strikes a bit too close to home, but after a recent episode of the Daily Show managed to stretch the Speaker of the House’s tears into about ten minutes of jokes… I felt as if I had to speak up. This whole situation reminds me of the time that someone told me they were against Palin running for Vice President because she should be home caring for her children. There are so many GOOD reasons to be against her running, and you choose that one? Was my response. Allow me to troth that argument out again: There are so many GOOD reasons to question Boehner, why are focusing on the fact that he tends to cry?
If a female politician cries she gets mocked and her credibility gets questioned because her tears are seen as a sign of feminine weakness, indicating an inability to handle the tough world of politics (then again, sometimes if she DOESN’T cry, its seen as a sign that she is a “bitch.”) If a male politician cries he (sometimes) gets a pass if the situation holds enough gravity, and his tears are stoic enough… but not if he cries as often as Boehner has. Basically, crying in politics is really complicated and not often something a politician can do without criticism. But, why?
In a recently published study at Penn State, researchers sought to explore differing perceptions of crying in men and women, presenting their 284 subjects with a series of hypothetical vignettes.
Reactions depended on the type of crying, and who was doing it. A moist eye was viewed much more positively than open crying, and males got the most positive responses.
“Women are not making it up when they say they’re damned if they do, damned if they don’t,” said Stephanie Shields, the psychology professor who conducted the study. “If you don’t express any emotion, you’re seen as not human, like Mr. Spock on ‘Star Trek,’ ” she said. “But too much crying, or the wrong kind, and you’re labeled as overemotional, out of control and possibly irrational.” […]
For a little historical perspective, says Lutz, author of “Crying: The Natural and Cultural History of Tears,” it’s helpful to look back to the 19th century, when skillful politicians like Abraham Lincoln used tears as a natural part of their oratory.
The tide later shifted against male crying, but in the past 30 to 40 years male crying has gained in acceptability. “Every president since Ronald Reagan has used tears at some point,” says Shields, the Penn State psychologist. [Source]
I don’t love Boehner for many reasons. Off the top of my head: I feel he is hypocritical, he is against legislation that would prohibit job-discrimination based on sexual orientation , he is anti-choice when it comes to reproductive rights, and I find the need for a GIANT gavel just silly. (That last one was a joke!) However, the fact that he sometimes engages in a perfectly natural bodily function just doesn’t strike me as a valid reason to dislike him.
When I’m trying to give an important presentation, or trying to talk in front of a group, or whatever and I start crying it happens because I can’t help it. I could be wrong, but I am fairly certain Boehner would rather get through his interviews without invoking the mockery that comes along with crying, so he’s probably like me. The best thing that I, personally, have started to do in these situations is to simply assure the people around me that I am fine, my body just doesn’t seem to realize that and request that they simply ignore my tears. I am lucky that I am typically surrounded by people open-minded enough to see past my body’s involuntary reaction and listen to what I am saying. The more directly I address the tears, the less crying I actually do because suddenly I have gone from thinking don’t cry, don’t cry (does that ever work?) to not thinking about the tears at all.
Now, Boehner’s tears could be a total strategy (though I’m pretty sure he is capable of coming up with something more effective than that as a political strategy) but its just as likely that they are something he has serious trouble controlling, like I do.
Do his tears alter the quality of his ideas and words? Nope.
Do they change his political viewpoints? Nope.
Do they effect his ability to do his job? Only as much as we let them, by blowing his tears out of proportion and making mean jokes.
Right now the media is doing the equivalent of what many (usually well meaning) people have tried to do to me. Through mean spirited jokes we send the message: “Stop crying, stop crying, just STOP CRYING” over and over again, oblivious to the fact that this only makes it worse. You know what happens when someone tells me to stop crying? I become HYPER focused on my tears and, often, can’t help but cry harder. Similarly, mocking Boehner over his tears just make them more of a distraction at the very least, and at the very most the mocking could increase the pressure on him not to cry thus making controlling it harder while also distracting him from the rest of his job. Either way, not the best outcome.
In other crying-related news, the results of a study on tears and arousal caught my eye recently:
Scientists at the Weizmann Institute in Israel found that women’s tears contain a “chemical signal”, which reduces arousal in men.
Prof Noam Sobel told BBC World Service radio that the signal reduced levels of testosterone and brain activity associated with sexual arousal. [Source]
A few questions: Is anyone SURPRISED by these results? I mean, seriously, when most people cry they’re not really concerned with how turned on their boyfriend is… in fact, I feel like I’d be really uncomfortable if my tears (and the distress that they signal) caused my partner to be aroused… wouldn’t you? Why was this study even necessary? I just really don’t understand the point in proving that tears are a turn-off.
Overall I simply feel as if all of this is just mounting evidence for the idea that “feminine” features are devalued in our society. In Western culture tears indicate emotion and sensitivity, traits that we associate with women. Thus, anyone who is seeking a position of power, or even just trying to be appealing to other people should not cry because crying is seen as feminine, and thus weak and bad. Is that just the way it is, or is that just an opinion? I believe that its just an opinion, crying can easily be considered a strong action if you conceptualize it as a person secure and brave enough to show their feelings to the world. Not to mention how much power crying can have in certain situations… not that it’s totally ethical, but crying can be used in some situations to gain sympathy and get help from people who would not necessarily be inclined to help you otherwise.
Whatever you think about crying I implore everyone to please, just try and look past the tears to focus on the other components of any given situation, because at the end of the day tears are just another totally natural human function… they really don’t deserve the attention that we give them.