Left Drops ‘Real Men Cry’ Argument

Kyle Rittenhouse testifies in his trial at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wis., November 10, 2021.
(Sean Krajacic/Pool/Reuters)

As my colleague Michael Brendan Dougherty noted in an excellent piece earlier this week, progressives in the media have been especially detestable in their responses to Kyle Rittenhouse crying on the stand during his testimony.

Among other oddities, they’ve taken to conflating Rittenhouse with Brett Kavanaugh, who likewise became emotional while defending himself from uncorroborated accusations of sexual assault.

A comment from Moira Donegan at the Guardian is a helpful illustration: “The common thread in these rightwing expressions of masculine emotion is that when conservative men express their feelings, they don’t do so as a gesture of humility or need. Instead, they wield their feelings as a threat.”

Michael already made most of the key points about how utterly nonsensical this is, but I’ll add one more: It takes little imagination to see that if Rittenhouse or Kavanaugh happened to confirm the priors of the Left or to have behaved in a way that advanced a progressive narrative, we would be subjected to endless thinkpieces on how “real men cry” and conservatives who fail to understand this are emotionless sociopaths.

Normalizing male emotion has become a special project of a subset of progressives, who argue that one element of so-called toxic masculinity is an unhealthy aversion among men to expressing their true feelings.

Take as just one example this February tweet from the United Nations’ gender-equality arm, which insisted that we must “normalize for men” several things, including crying, showing emotions, and sharing feelings. Lifestyle columns and psychologists alike regularly assure us that men should be encouraged to cry and show emotions as a means of resisting toxic masculinity.

But it turns out that when the wrong type of man is crying, or when his tears don’t happen to confirm the preferred political narrative, his emotions are instead evidence that, once again, progressives are right about everything — privilege, male violence, race, etc. The arguments shift so quickly I just might cry trying to keep up.