Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Real men used to cry

Is there anything wrong with men who cry? – Sandra Newman – Aeon

A fun article here looking at the way it seems there used to be no shame in men crying, in most societies at least (Scandinavia excepted, it seems.)   But then something changed, and the reasons proposed are curious:
The most obvious possibility is that this shift is the result of changes
that took place as we moved from a feudal, agrarian society to one that
was urban and industrial. In the Middle Ages, most people spent their
lives among those they had known since birth. A typical village had only
50-300 inhabitants, most of them related by blood or marriage; a
situation like an extended family stuck in an eternal reunion in the
middle of nowhere. Medieval courts were also environments of extreme
intimacy, where courtiers spent entire days in each other’s company,
year after year. Kings routinely conducted business from their beds, at
the foot of which their favourite servants slept at night. We can see
this familiarity also in odd details of royal life, such as the nobleman
in the courts of many European kings whose coveted privilege it was to
assist the king in defecation.

But from the 18th through the 20th centuries, the population became
increasingly urbanised; soon, people were living in the midst of
thousands of strangers. Furthermore, changes in the economy required men
to work together in factories and offices where emotional expression
and even private conversation were discouraged as time-wasting. As Tom
Lutz writes in Crying: The Natural and Cultural History of Tears
(1999), factory managers deliberately trained their workers to suppress
emotion with the aim of boosting productivity: ‘You don’t want emotions
interfering with the smooth running of things.’

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