Suppressed: The Stigma Around Male Emotion

By Christina Spires

CatlinSpeak (Portland, Oregon)

“John Boehner can’t help it – he’s an emotional guy,” reads an article on, highlighting 15 key moments the House Speaker cried at major political events, including Pope Francis’ visit on Sept. 22, 2015, and during an interview on the Golf Channel earlier this year.

Although this may seem like a thoughtless joke, these comments have arisen from multiple articles across the internet. USA Today also wrote, “John Boehner is known for making bold statements, but he’s also known for needing a handkerchief in almost any situation.” The Huffington Post has published articles about him with titles such as, “He’s weeping again,” in a mocking tone.

Males worldwide are the victim of stigma surrounding male emotions in modern society. (Photo: Men and Mental Health Stigma)

In light of this, many have begun to question why this matters. Boehner, along with the other 3.5 billion males in the world, is the victim to the stigma surrounding male emotions in modern society.

Society tells males to “be manly,” which Jackson Katz in “Gender, Race, and Class in Media,” describes as a, “role that has been shaped and is constantly reiterated through advertising and media to stand for strength, aggression, and dominance.” He continues by saying that “A “real man” has a strong, athletic build; oversized muscles; a rugged demeanor; and the appearance of both inner and outer “toughness.”

With that in mind, the purpose behind the criticism against John Boehner becomes more evident, as many see him unfit for his job, such as Erick Erickson, a writer for, calling him “expendable.”

All humans experience the four basic emotions, sadness, fear, happiness, and anger. According to, the only two emotions out of these four that are acceptable for men to outwardly express are happiness and anger.

According to the British Columbia Medical Journal, the stigma surrounding the expression of “weak” emotions has a direct correlation with the high rates of suicide amongst males ages 15-45. The British Columbia Medical Journal refers to suicide as the “silent epidemic,” because of a lack of awareness and a “general reluctance to seek help for suicide-related concerns,” blaming stigma for the reason why this problem seems almost invisible.

Catlin survey results to the question, "Is there a stigma regarding male emotion?" (Graphic: Christina Spires '16)

Catlin survey responses indicating that approximately 63 percent of male student feel a stigma personally regarding their own emotions. (Graphic: Christina Spires '16)

Survey results provided similar answers. In two community-wide surveys, when asked “Do you believe there is a stigma around males showing more sensitive emotions in society?”, nearly 55% of Catlin Gabel community members replied “yes,” while roughly 79% of the public responded “yes” as well, a 24% difference between the two surveys.

Survey results indicating that approximately 60 percent of male public respondents feel a stigma regarding their emotions. (Graphic: Christina Spires '16)

Another question specifically asked those who identified as male if they concealed their more sensitive/intimate emotions in public or around friends. Between the two surveys, a higher percentage of people from Catlin responded “yes.”

Public survey results to the question, "Is there a stigma regarding male emotion?" (Graphic: Christina Spires '16)

In both surveys, this question also had a comment section, where people left their thoughts anonymously. The responses were all over the spectrum, but the majority of the comments highlighted that it depended on who they were with, but also stated that expressing emotions alone was preferred.

According to this data, the public believes more strongly that there is a stigma around male emotion, while Catlin has a smaller percent of “yes” responses, but it also more optimistic, with almost 5% of votes saying “no” versus the public sphere’s 0%.

Despite the optimism in these answers, it is important to promote awareness of this stigma to move forward, and create a conversation where this matter can be discussed.

About Grace Masback

Grace Masback, 17, aspires to give voice to the voiceless and holds the modest ambition of becoming the voice of Gen Z. Frustrated by the dearth of impactful platforms for teen journalists, she founded WANT, a news, sports, and entertainment website that aggregates the best in high school journalism from school newspapers and teen bloggers around the world (

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