That got me thinking. For me it is not such a big deal for Kimmel to declare himself publicly as a sensitive soul, but not everybody out there feels the same way.
In a society that still strictly defines masculinity, it can be challenging for a man to be openly sensitive. We men are accustomed to hide our feelings while we pretend to be strong. People may deem men vulnerable for showing emotions other than anger, as if those who expose their feelings are not manly enough.
The gender stereotypes about men being stoic and women being emotional are reinforced by our daily consumption of media and our social interactions. At least that is what neuropsychologist Dr David Lewis, the director of Mindlab and a former lecturer at the University of Sussex, claims. Where there are stereotypes, there are social pressures The social pressures affect both men and women. For women, often this translate to the kind of partners they choose, believing sensitive men are lesser men.
The neurologist from Mindlab conducted a research in 2014 on how men handle their emotion. The study found that men are actually more sensitive than women. Sometimes their emotions are even stronger than women. However, men are less willing to express these emotions freely due to the expectations put on them by society. This makes men bury their feelings as a way of dealing with the situations they struggle to understand and in an attempt to adapt to social pressures. Men hide it really well and bury it in their own personal space.
A columnist in Psychology Today, Deborah Ward, said pushing feelings away doesn’t make them disappear. In fact, feelings tend to grow the longer you avoid them. This might explain why some men appear to be calm and coping well, until they suddenly explode with anger. This is why we need to stop having unrealistic expectation on men and perceiving those who show their emotion to be weak. Stop associating men’s sensitivity as weakness or effeminacy.
As for Kimmel, he has shed tears several times in public, particularly on his own show. The most memorable one was his tearful monologue on his son’s heart surgeries. After the show Kimmel did not only get words of comfort from the public, he was also criticized for allegedly “politicizing” the tragedy. I saw it differently. I saw Kimmel as someone who is aware of his feelings and who allows it to be his power. He turned his sensitivity into courage to talk about important issues.
Kimmel is not the only man who exposes his sensitive side to the public. If you need any more proof that so-called “masculine men” can cry, look no further than basketball legend Michael Jordan, who shed tears right before his speech for the Hall of Fame induction; and Barrack Obama, who was tearful in front of the entire nation during his farewell speech as US president.
Let those men become our inspirations. They are real examples that men also can be sensitive and are brave enough to reveal it
Personally, I see sensitivity as my strength and I am brave enough to say that I am vulnerable. Do other men have the courage to do the same? I dare them to, because in this society, it actually “takes balls” to do it.
Adithya Asprilla is born-and-raised Bandung townsman who recently graduated from University of Padjadjaran. As a proud introvert, he cherishes the love that he gets from his surroundings.