Big Boys Don’t Cry

Apr 182007
Authors: Tyrone Reese

To the families of the victims and the entire community of the Virginia Tech school shooting, I send my deepest condolences and prayers. It is a shame that innocent people had their lives cut short by something so inhumane.

Many sources who knew the shooter described him as “angry, menacing, disturbed and so depressed that he seemed to be in tears.” He was considered a loner and a misfit.

The media has covered this tragedy for days now, but in the limited coverage I have been able to pay attention to, one thing has not really been addressed. Why do so many men commit violent acts?

I know there are women who commit violence, but the numbers tell a stunning story. According to statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice, most perpetrators and victims of violence are males.

The statistics for homicide trends in the United States based on gender are as follows: 65.2 percent of crimes are male offender/male victim and 22.6 percent are male offender/female victim. In comparison, statistics for females are less: 9.7 percent female offender/male victim and 2.4 percent female offender/female victim.

Around 90 percent of violent crimes in the United States involve men. This opens up an interesting question: What makes men this way?

I am not a professional, but the socialization of men in the United States and around the world is a big factor. Men are socialized to be aggressive, tough, unemotional, and have a “give ’em hell” attitude.

The shooter at Virginia Tech seemed to have these qualities, as do many men who do and do not commit violent crimes.

Every man probably had an older man tell him as a little boy to “stop crying,” “toughen up” and “be a man.” The problem is these little boys grow into men and those messages grow with them.

We live in a world where masculinity equals toughness. We are socialized that to be a man you have to have power and respect, and you gain that respect through intimidation, aggression and violence. Yet being afraid to show emotion or seek guidance makes a man a sissy, a punk, or any other word that tries to feminize him, because we are also socialized to think femininity equals weakness.

To look at how socialization affects males takes a lot of work and the media and society in general do not make time for it. We go directly to increasing school security or gun control laws, but we fail to look at things underneath the surface.

Look at the history of America and the world. How are disputes between countries solved? How was land “acquired” from Native Americans? In gang culture, how is respect and power earned? It is earned through intimidation, force and violence. Then we wonder why men are so aggressive.

What message does that send men? It tells them when they have a problem or want someone to listen, instead of talking or trying to come to an understanding, they should instill fear, whether that takes intimidation, force or violence.

There are critics out there who say America is turning “too soft.” We have become an “Oprah-fied, therapy culture.” Honestly, I do not see this as negative, but rather productive.

There are men out there willing to challenge traditional masculinity rules. These men have no problem asking for help or being vulnerable every once in awhile and they experience better relationships mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally. As well, they are able to create better relationships with women and society in general.

Human emotions do not discriminate among gender and every individual needs to manage them. If you as a man feel something is wrong, you do not have to tough it out alone. Yeah, it may hurt your pride to ask for help, but there is a reason why pride is one of the seven deadly sins.

Boys and men do cry, but most of them internalize it. They cry in silence and that is a tragedy all on its own.

Tyrone Reese is a sophomore psychology major. His column appears occasionally in the Collegian. Replies and feedback can be send to

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