Big Boys Should [be allowed to] Cry!

Time to write!

It has been an extremely busy few months, and despite my intention to blog more often, it just hasn’t come to fruition – my bad!

To be honest, I just wasn’t sure if I had anything to write that would be of interest. However, three things happened that have stuck in my mind over the last couple of weeks, and I realised that I want to talk about them, and perhaps you might be interested by these too.

The first thing….

I presented some provisional findings at a couple of conferences and had some really interesting discussions with other researchers about these. As a result, I got to practice justifying the methods I have adopted without just stamping my foot and declaring “because I wanted to!” – which was never going to win me any any ‘competent researcher’ points!


I came across a newspaper article discussing the issues with promoting ‘extreme male body transformations’ as healthy and sustainable. This was a really interesting article, which if you are interested, can be found here at:


England got knocked out of the World Cup in the semi finals against Croatia.

Given that point three happened just yesterday, and that I don’t have time to write about all three right now, for today I will focus on this topic as I am currently extremely worked up about it.

What has the football got to do with body image research?

Well, a lot actually – kind of!

So England got knocked out of the World Cup.
Sad? Possibly!
Expected? Well, I am sure that you have your own opinions about this.

But this isn’t the point! I want to talk about why it is okay to be emotional about football not coming home this year (or anything else for that matter), and why it is not okay for anyone to question your emotional expression!

Can you see where I am going yet?

You may or may not have noticed that my bio has changed slightly, and that is because (as often happens throughout a PhD) my research has been adapted as a result of the reflexive process (e.g. gaining new insights and identifying important areas for further exploration).

One of the findings from my first study indicated that whilst we may often hear the phrase ‘boys don’t talk’, it may actually be a case that men feel that they can’t talk about certain topics (like body image); due to their inherent emotional association.

This has led me to further explore masculine ideals and the social discussions which draw upon these. In particular, I am looking at the social messages that are in circulation, which may work to restrict open discussion of men’s body image and appearance related issues.

What I have found is that whilst there seems to be an active (and necessary) critical discussion in circulation, which aims to challenge ideals which may restrict open discussion for men (not just for body image, but also talking about emotions and issues in general – see here and here for some examples), these are being contradicted in many ways, and it is upsetting!

Crying at the football!

People cried last night both on the pitch, and in bars and homes around the UK. People cried over a game that they were not even playing in themselves. Men cried, and women cried too – social media is up in arms!

How dare people (read men) cry over something as silly as football when there are so many terrible things happening in the world; these men should ‘grow a pair’!

Really???!!! Are we really still at a point where it is considered acceptable to ridicule men for actually expressing their emotions?

Granted, not all expressions are a good thing, and the World Cup may not be the best example to use considering the increase in destructive expressions reported, such as domestic violence discussed here.

Even so, I am talking about crying, and men should be able to cry about whatever they want, without being questioned or mocked – we all should.

So what about the question of the actual emotional labour that should be attached to a game of kick-about? Well, there are two simple answers to this:

  1. It is none of anyone else’s business. And so long as emotion is not expressed in a destructive way that could cause harm – why do you even care?
  2. How do you know that the expressed emotion is not actually displaced (where feelings about one object or situation are unconsciously attributed to something else) onto the football situation?

With regards to point 2, we do it all the time. I have certainly been frustrated at something and taken it out on someone else. I have also sat and cried uncontrollably at a film that really wasn’t very sad, but I had had a bad day and it just came out.

I would like to add that this was in a full cinema, yet no one questioned me as to why I had mascara streaming down my face on the way out!

Don’t cry shame men!

I can’t really say whether no one said anything to me was because I am a woman or not, but the fact of the matter is that I have never been made fun of for crying, and I would have a few choice words to give if I was – I can cry if I want to! So why is the same privilege apparently not afforded to men by some people; and how is this impacting upon the ability for men to openly discuss sensitive issues?

Well, it seems clear to me that this type of discourse is reproducing damaging masculine ideals; the very ideals that are reported here by Jonathan Wells to be destructive and skew our understanding of what it is to be a man in contemporary culture.

What a confusing state of affairs – on the one hand we are telling men that it’s okay to talk about their feelings, and in the next scroll on their phone, they see someone being made fun of for crying! This is surely confusing at the very least, and ultimately undermining any positive messages being disseminated.

This is not okay, and I am not okay with this! However, right now the only answer that I have is to try as hard as I can to make sure I help support the positive movements in any way I can, because I don’t want men to think it is not okay to cry (or have open discussions about anything that is affecting them) – it totally is okay to cry!!!!!





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