Writing this post made me realise that I could put a name to the frustration I feel towards myself whenever I’m crying over men. Namely internalised misogyny, which – as well as sexist, patriarchal societal structures – still plays a role in why I feel especially un-feminist when I get upset about men.
I often feel like a really bad feminist. When I turn off the news because I’m having a bad mental health day, I’m aware of my privilege in being able to do this and feel like a bad feminist. When I skip the books I want to read to make myself a better, more intersectional feminist in favour of reading queer YA fiction, I feel like a bad feminist. When I consider shaving my legs before Eroticon I feel like a bad feminist. I know none of these things actually do make me a bad feminist – I keep trying to educate myself and use my voice in effective ways. When I find myself crying over men, though, it feels like I’ve let myself down.
And I do cry over men. This isn’t unexpected, exactly, because I can cry over pretty much anything. Strong emotions – sadness, anger, exhaustion – have my bursting into tears. My anxiety attacks present themselves with huge, heaving sobs that leave me struggling to gulp in enough air. I love crying over the sad bits in books, and will carefully bookmark sad passages so I can return to them when I need a good, therapeutic cry. Essentially, I cry a lot.
Crying over men is, however, the thing that makes me feel guilty. It makes me feel like a bad feminist – and a bad queer – even though I know neither of those things are true.
Why does it? Because I like to think of myself as a strong, independent woman, and in the narrative that society feeds us, a woman like that shouldn’t cry over men. I shouldn’t care what men think of me and when I cry over them it suggests I do. I shouldn’t need a boyfriend, and when I cry over men it suggests I care about them too much. For me, it comes down to internalised misogyny. Part of me still wants to be ‘not like other girls’ even though I know that’s utter bullshit. I don’t want to be a girl who cries over boys, but I am – so half the time I’m not crying only because I’m hurt, but because I’m embarrassed.
Crying over men makes me makes me hate myself a little bit every time.
I should point out here, that although the men in my life do and have hurt me, it’s rarely in big ways. Though, again, there is undoubtedly internalised misogyny in my inclination to dismiss my own pain as me “being too sensitive” about things that genuinely matter to me. My emotions are valid regardless of how other people would see them, but irrational pain (especially when a small upset or annoyance is exaggerated by exhaustion and period hormones) is for me to deal with.
Often through crying, and then by feeling disgustingly un-feminist.
I am – and am fiercely happy to be, almost all of the time – a single, solo poly, ethical slut. I a found family of people I love, a brilliant support network, and many wonderful friends as well as the extended sex blogging community. I don’t want a primary partner, and I don’t want a boyfriend. In fact, right now I can’t see myself ever being in a relationship where a cis man is my anchor partner. There is something in how I’m wired – especially right now, when my sexual identity and independence are hugely important to me – that means I can’t see that working out.
I’m open to that changing, of course. There are men in my life who I care deeply about – but then in general I tend towards caring an awful lot. This isn’t always a bad thing – I’m getting better at balancing not giving a fucks about things I don’t need to care about, while still being myself in that there isn’t a single thing I wouldn’t do for my friends.
Knowing all of that, doesn’t cancel out the fact that some tiny part of me believes that a powerful, independent, kick-ass woman shouldn’t exhaust excessive emotions on a boy. Understanding that rationally my internalised misogyny bullshit is just that (i.e. bullshit), doesn’t mean I don’t hate myself when I cry over men. My feminist beliefs doesn’t mean I don’t feel deeply ashamed when someone asks me what’s wrong, and I have to confess the – to me, in that moment – humiliating truth: “I’m upset over a guy.”
It hurts to realise that you care about someone, and even more so to realise exactly how much you care because something they’ve done has hurt you. For me, though, even worse realising that I’d given a little of my self-worth to each of the men I have cried over. Maybe that’s why crying over them always feels especially un-feminist. It’s not that they don’t hurt me – they do. It’s just that my own stupidity hurts more.
There’s nothing wrong with crying over men. It doesn’t make me a bad feminist, or a bad queer. It doesn’t make me weak – it makes me human. It somehow feels more feminist to have your heart broken by a woman, though.
Theoretically, I know I don’t need to feel guilty about crying over men. I tell myself again and again that I’m not pathetic, I am not useless, I am just human. One day I’ll believe it, and be able to let go of my own embarrassment for my perceived lack of feminism. I hope you do – or one day will – too. Because honestly, expressing your emotions in a society that labels you as “too emotional”? That’s incredibly feminist.
Crying over men doesn’t make me a bad feminist, even though it can make me feel like one.