Emotions aren’t gender exclusive.
Manners and machismo: Traditional Western gender etiquette is clear. Ladies, don’t be loud and unruly. Men, be tough. Dutch university student Maud Fernhout challenged these stereotypes in her photo series “What Real Men Cry Like” and “What Real Women Laugh Like,” in which she asked fellow students from different cultures to do exactly that. When the women saw their own faces crinkled with elation and mouths agape, they were repulsed. “They said, ‘I look so ugly,’” Fernhout recalled. “But when they looked at the other girls, they said, ‘Oh, she’s so pretty!’ and they realized it was okay.” Seeing others break the mold of what a woman’s face should look like changed how they felt about themselves.
Fernhout found that attitudes toward crying men varied by culture: Eastern European students were most resistant, while Italians and Spaniards cried easily. Women’s reactions to how they looked laughing didn’t vary, Fernhout said, perhaps because most of Europe shares the same standards of beauty but not the same standards of masculinity. She hopes that these images will force people to look at their own preconceptions of gendered behaviors.
I love to laugh the way I used to when I was a child. That belly-tickling, head-tilting, wide-mouthed laughter. That laughter that leaves you gasping for air and brushing warm tears off your cheek. I think if any force can break the claustrophobic box of civility, it is the force of child-like laughter.
Whenever I cry, I can’t help but smile soon afterward because it brings to awareness the level of genuine emotion and compassion that is constantly available to us. It’s a catharsis, a purge, a spontaneous recognition of something deeply connected to whatever constitutes our self-concept. It’s nothing short of beautiful.
In my opinion, laughing makes my face one big wrinkle, but at least my inside feels all warm and lovely, and that’s what matters.
For me, crying is not showing your weakness. When I cry, I can accept my feelings and I’m able to continue. It makes me stronger.
This article originally appeared in yesmagazine.org
About the author
Maud Fernhout and Jennifer Luxton wrote this article for Gender Justice, the Summer 2016 issue of YES! Magazine. Maud studies Liberal Arts & Sciences at University College Utrecht. For her, photography is a way to express her view of the world, and to help others do the same. Maud’s work can be found on her website.