For people in Canada, the loss of Gord Downie, lead singer of the Tragically Hip, has definitely struck a chord. Gord, who passed away from brain cancer at 53, was a Canadian icon. Not only did Gord’s music touch multiple generations, his story and bravery through illness affected even more.
For Indigenous groups, the loss was even greater, as Gord had been a passionate advocate for reconciliation and Indigenous rights. Despite the pride Gord had at his concerts watching Canadian flags wave in the crowd, he was extremely real about the parts of Canada’s history that needed to be spoken about.
Throughout this he found a friend in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. This relationship was highlighted yesterday as Trudeau made a statement in front of the press. Throughout his tribute, Trudeau, visibly shaken, choked back tears as he spoke about Gord. “We lost one of the very best of us this morning”, a tearful Trudeau said. The images of this world leader being emotional were streamed across international screens.
— Cormac Mac Sweeney (@cmaconthehill) October 18, 2017
These images of Trudeau fighting back tears displayed how every Canadian felt — that they owed something to Mr. Downie. The focus should have been on Gord’s legacy, the family he left behind, and the country he has impacted with his words and music; however, the comment section of multiple media sites decided that was not going to happen.
There were those, of course, who were grieving, who put “RIP Gord” next to hearts and shared songs from the band that started in 1984. For many Canadians, they had grown up listening and relating to this band for a little over three decades.
Of course, there were comments suggesting that Trudeau was “milking it” and that he was using this for political gain. There were comments with expletives and disgusting language dotted throughout the comment sections between sad emojis and lyrics expressing their mourning.
But the startling thing to me throughout these comments was the question of Trudeau’s manhood, and how crying virtually wiped away any leadership traits, manliness and respect. This highlighted a greater issue.
It has become a societal norm that for men to cry in public is indecent, laughable and even pathetic. The “stiff upper lip” mentality has so long been the thought process that many men over the years, afraid of expressing themselves or dealing with their emotions, have gone into depression or even had suicidal thoughts. This is something the annual event Movember hopes to eradicate.
The Movember Foundation hold their annual event to raise awareness of men’s health issues such as testicular cancer, prostate cancer, and men’s suicide every November. The foundation’s website states that, “Globally, the rate of suicide is alarmingly high, particularly in men. Around the world, on average we lose a man to suicide every minute of every day. Three out of four suicides are men. Too many are toughing it out and struggling alone.”
In 2016, the Huffington Post UK released a video titled “#BoysDoCry” where they asked men across the UK to tell them when the last time they cried was in order to raise awareness of male suicide and the pressures they face. The video featured MPs, business leaders, comedians and actors. One person simply commented, “Men?” while another said “Yeah boys cry. Men shouldn’t if possible.”
Boldly, previously known as BuzzFeed Yellow, shared a video of a discussion surrounding “What Makes Men Cry?” This video has had over 6 million views on YouTube.
So why is this still a conversation? Why in 2017, where videos have millions of people seeing them, do men still feel that they can’t cry? Why is it a badge of honor to not remember the last time you cried, or to say ‘I think I’ve cried maybe 3 times in the past twenty years?” This hero worshipping of those who hold in their emotions needs to stop. Everyone is different and some people don’t like to cry — that is completely fine! But for those who have been raised to suck it up, be a man, and not show any weakness, I encourage you to speak up and help those who are struggling with the same issues.
Join the Movember campaign, talk to your male friends, and make it the norm that it is okay to cry and show emotion, even if you are a world leader.
If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.