Sunny is a second grader. Although he is good in English and Arts, he is weak in maths and science. A few days ago, his teachers called his parents and reported his falling grades.
Enraged by his poor marks, Sunny's father rebuked him sharply. When he started to cry, the father screamed at him "stop crying like a girl, behave like a boy."
Sunny covered his face with his hands and wept.
There are many boys like Sunny, who grow up with the pressure of not being expressive enough of their emotional agony. They are told that boys are not allowed to cry – hence forced to supress their hurt, and hide their vulnerability.
While women are allowed to lament, vent and howl to express their emotions, it seems men are forbidden from doing any of these.
Data shows that on average, women cry 30 to 64 times a year, while men cry between five to seventeen times in the same period.
The society usually uses phrases like "be a man", "man up" and "don't be a wuss", which indicates that being emotionally vulnerable is feminine and forbidden for men.
Stifling tears, holding back emotions and not letting go of grief is unhealthy, both physically and psychologically.
"There are three development components associated to human beings – cognitive, moral and socio-emotional growth. The last one is about being able to love, to laugh at something funny and feel bewildered, jealous etc. In other words, emotions which we cannot deny," said Helal Uddin Ahmed, associate professor of Child Adolescent and Family Psychiatry at National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and Bangladesh Programme Manager at the World Health Organisation (WHO).
"The learning process in children gets augmented when their emotional intelligence increases. However, the development is hindered when we integrate error learnings such as forbidding boys from crying," he said.
The doctor pointed out that when emotions are not ventilated, they turn into a suppressive habit, which can lead to damages to emotions, behaviours and thought process, gradually leading to a personality disorder.
It has been scientifically proven that crying is healthy because it can relieve pain, anger and frustration, and also lower blood pressure. Bottling up negative emotions has been linked to higher risk of cardiovascular diseases.
In his book titled "Crying: The mystery of tears" American neuroscientist Dr William H Frey II revealed that crying relieves stress and tears remove toxins from the body.
"Emotions are not gender biased. In real life, every individual has their own way of expressing emotions. Some cry, some do not," said Dr Ashique Selim, consultant psychiatrist and managing director of Psychological Health and Wellness Clinic (PHWC).
"Unfortunately, in some societies expressing grief or crying has been attributed to being feminine. Boys are told that crying is girly which result in suppressing their emotions," he added.
The doctor also pointed out that children are usually restricted from showing anger, as it is "culturally inappropriate".
"When we do not express our grief, these supressed emotions become internalised, and can turn into anger or mental illness, such as depression or anxiety," he said.
"Such actions are toxic," he said adding that on many occasions, these stereotypes are being perpetuated by mothers.
"How men and women should behave is set by the society they live in. There is no biological basis to it. We teach boys not to cry and they grow up believing that they cannot share their feelings and emotions. This way, we make them more vulnerable to abuse," said Farzana Sultana Nila, clinical psychologist at Centre for Mental Health and Care, Bangladesh.
"In many cases where young boys are abused, they tend to hide them, since they are told to not cry or express emotions. As a result, negative emotions pile up and aggression builds up inside. At the same, young girls also grow up thinking that they are weaker and more emotional, which erodes their confidence. Ultimately what happens is that men and women both grow up without channelling accurate feelings."
Sticking gender labels on emotions is wrong – if men want to cry, they should cry, without anyone refraining them from doing so.