I grew up at a time when men were not supposed to cry …… and certainly not to do so in a public setting. It really was somewhat absurd because the expectation was that it was not “manly” to show such emotions and the thing to do was to repress them. Perhaps it was British influence …… what with the “stiff upper lip” and all!
Even as recently as the 70s’ a man displaying such emotion was viewed negatively. The Democratic candidate for president in the 1972 election, Edward Muskie, was leading in the race against the incumbent Richard Nixon whose popularity was impacted by the war in Vietnam and an economy that was in a downswing. But after the Manchester Union Leader, a leading newspaper in New Hampshire attacked Muskie’s wife, he made an emotional speech in her defense. It was widely reported that Muskie had cried although he said that it was actually snow flakes that had melted on his face giving the appearance of tears. But that single event doomed his candidacy because his tears shattered his image as being calm and reasoned!
Well, things have changed a great deal in the US and male politicians as well as other celebrities give vent to their emotions and choke or even break down and it is not held against them. In fact, it is even perceived as a positive because it is seen as someone who is sensitive and empathetic.
Perhaps the politician who is best known for such displays of emotion is the current Speaker of the House, John Boehner, who seems to cry at the drop of a hat. This is him in a 60 minutes interview:
But more recently Obama choked up and had to stop his speech as he commented on the death of 20 school children at Sandy Hook in Connecticut – it was a rare moment of emotion for him:
This has extended to other public figures. Here is a very controlled Walter Cronkite announcing the death of John Kennedy:
In contrast, Dan Rather, a consummate professional who took over the anchor position from Cronkite broke down and cried on the David Letterman show after 9/11.
Of course men crying is not limited to politicians and anchors, one sees it in other fields whether it is the televangelist Jimmy Swaggart, crying before his congregation asking for forgiveness after he was caught with a prostitute.
Incidentally, in 1991 about three years after the confession shown above, Swaggart was caught with another prostitute! On this occasion rather than confessing to his congregation, Swaggart told those at Family Worship Center that “The Lord told me it’s flat none of your business.”!!
The detractors of politicians invariably argue that the displays of emotion are fake and done merely to gain sympathy.
I don’t know how often male politicians cry in the UK. I think it is relatively infrequent compared to the US.
I know that I was in awe at the self-control displayed by the very young William and Harry during the funeral of their mother, Diana.
For my part, I think it is healthy that it is no longer viewed as being a negative for a politician or other men to show emotion like any normal person would under certain circumstances.