Historians say the time 'when men were men' never really existed.

Who decided "big boys don't cry"?

It's not rare to see powerful and high profile men overcome with emotion at times, but when they do, it's usually met with some form of criticism or seen as a display of weakness. Simply put, in today's world boys and men are simply not expected to display vulnerable emotions like sadness and grief. (But anger is usually A-OK!)

When we think of the founding pillars of "manliness," we think of strength, bravery, and stoicism, and we often assume that it's just always been that way. After all, ancient Greek warriors didn't cry! Medieval knights didn't cry! Men just don't cry! It's, like, biology or something! Right? Right?


Well, actually...

A couple of historians recently took to Reddit to debunk this myth once and for all.

A user named Sassenacho prompted the thread on the r/AskHistorians subreddit with a simple question: "Today, there are voices that call for (much needed) acceptance of men's emotionality, but it is still kind of taboo. I was wondering when and why this changed in western society."

The explanations that ensued were fascinating.

Cassidy Percoco, a curator and historian at the St. Lawrence County Historical Association and author of "Regency Women's Dress" kicked things off, explaining that "masculinity and tears have not always been at odds."

Those rough and tumble medieval knights with their shiny armor and big swords? Percoco says they were actually expected to weep on occasion.

"In the Middle Ages there was a trope of masculine weeping being a mark of religious devotion and knightly chivalry; by the sixteenth century it was well-established that a masculine man was supposed to have deep emotions and to show them — in some cases, through tears."

It was a part of the whole chivalry thing and a sign of religious devotion.

As far back as Biblical times and in the age of Greek and Roman heroes, crying out of grief or sadness was just something men were expected to do.

Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images

From there, Percoco jumped forward to 17th and 18th century England. Hundreds and hundreds of years later, men crying and sharing their feelings — a gentlemanly trait known as "sensibility" — still hadn't gone out of style.

"A gentleman was to be courteous to women and other men, to talk problems out, to keep from bursting into loud displays of anger or drunkenness. You might think that that would also put the kibosh on weeping — giving way to feelings of all sorts — but this was not the case. Another gentlemanly trait of the eighteenth century was sensibility, which today sounds like it ought to mean "rationality" but is actually being aware of and susceptible to one's finer emotions."

Alex Wetmore, assistant professor in the English department at University of the Fraser Valley, chimed in as well to explain that in the mid-to-late 1700s, popular fiction often celebrated male leads who cried "a lot"!

"People are often interested to hear that there was a period of time of a few decades (1740s to 1770s) where fiction devoted to men who cry (a lot!) was not only acceptable, but, in fact, tremendously popular and widely celebrated."

Wetmore identified an archetype, which he calls "The Man of Feeling," who appears in a ton of novels from that era. (Wetmore even wrote a book on the subject.)

"When I try to explain this recurring character type to students, I usually describe him as like a comic book superhero ... BUT with the notable exception that the 'superpower' of men of feeling is an ability to spontaneously shed copious amounts of tears."

It's quite the contrast to the unflinching action heroes we see today.

It wasn't until the early 1800s that things began to change, and men started feeling the pressure to hold those tears in.

Percoco and Wetmore were both hesitant to prescribe a definite cause and effect relationship, but they do suspect the Industrial Revolution played a big part in turning the tide. (Reportedly, some factory managers actually trained workers, usually men, to suppress their emotions in order to keep productivity high.)

The age of the stoic and emotionless cowboy (a la John Wayne, who most people agree never cried in a movie) wasn't far behind, followed by the gun-wielding "Die Hard"-ian action heroes of modern cinema.

But ... while fictional macho men may have been suppressing their tears, the real men of the real world were doing the same thing they'd always done: wearing their hearts on their sleeves.

Photo by EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images

For instance: General Ulysses S. Grant cried when the Civil War finally ended. President Eisenhower cried on the eve of D-Day. And baseball legend Lou Gehrig cried when the Yankees retired his number.

And, yet, since it took hold about 200 years ago, the expectation that "boys don't cry" persists.

Today's world is certainly not one that celebrates open displays of emotion from men, often to their detriment.

Research shows that these repressed feelings can often come out in unhealthy and harmful ways, and it's all so we can meet a standard of masculinity that, likely, never truly existed.

Next time you catch someone bemoaning the "wussification of American boys" and yearning for a time "when men were men," it might be worth asking them when, exactly, they think that was.

Courtesy of Capital One
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We and other personal finance experts have long talked about the financial challenges of the LGBTQ+ community. That includes access to equal housing, services protections and wage inequality because of one's sexual orientation or gender identity.

While those protections would be included in the Equality Act, legislation remains pending in Congress.

To be fair, the LGBTQ+ community has made significant progress over the last several years. The two most notable being the Supreme Court's 2015 ruling to ensure marriage equality and 2020 decision to ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. That progress has continued with the current administration, as President Joe Biden recently signed executive orders protecting LGBTQ people from housing and services discrimination.

The LGBTQ+ community faces a unique set of financial challenges that are preventing equal opportunity for all.

Let's break down some of the obstacles confronting members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Queer people are often expected to pay more

One LGBTQ+ financial challenge is the expectations — and misconception — that LGBTQ people can or should pay more because we don't have kids. While 15% of LGBTQ people have kids — compared to 38% of opposite-sex couples — it's not a cause for LGBTQ people having more money.

In fact, because of wage inequality for people in the LGBTQ community, having fewer opportunities for career advancement and in many cases needing the physical and emotional safety that comes with living in an LGBTQ-friendly city (many of which often have high costs of living), it's likely that your LGBTQ+ sibling or friend doesn't have as much financial security as their straight counterparts.

This is why we didn't travel for the holidays for three years while paying off credit card debt. Adding $800 to $1,000 in plane tickets to the credit cards we were working hard to pay off didn't make sense. Yet, our families never offered to come to where we lived for a holiday and foot the travel expenses.

A similar situation arises when caring for aging parents. LGBTQ folks are more likely to be asked to care for aging parents, which is backed by a 2010 MetLife study. This increases the financial burdens and restricts the savings opportunities for LGBTQ folks.

Keep Reading Show less
Courtesy of Capital One
True

We and other personal finance experts have long talked about the financial challenges of the LGBTQ+ community. That includes access to equal housing, services protections and wage inequality because of one's sexual orientation or gender identity.

While those protections would be included in the Equality Act, legislation remains pending in Congress.

To be fair, the LGBTQ+ community has made significant progress over the last several years. The two most notable being the Supreme Court's 2015 ruling to ensure marriage equality and 2020 decision to ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. That progress has continued with the current administration, as President Joe Biden recently signed executive orders protecting LGBTQ people from housing and services discrimination.

The LGBTQ+ community faces a unique set of financial challenges that are preventing equal opportunity for all.

Let's break down some of the obstacles confronting members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Queer people are often expected to pay more

One LGBTQ+ financial challenge is the expectations — and misconception — that LGBTQ people can or should pay more because we don't have kids. While 15% of LGBTQ people have kids — compared to 38% of opposite-sex couples — it's not a cause for LGBTQ people having more money.

In fact, because of wage inequality for people in the LGBTQ community, having fewer opportunities for career advancement and in many cases needing the physical and emotional safety that comes with living in an LGBTQ-friendly city (many of which often have high costs of living), it's likely that your LGBTQ+ sibling or friend doesn't have as much financial security as their straight counterparts.

This is why we didn't travel for the holidays for three years while paying off credit card debt. Adding $800 to $1,000 in plane tickets to the credit cards we were working hard to pay off didn't make sense. Yet, our families never offered to come to where we lived for a holiday and foot the travel expenses.

A similar situation arises when caring for aging parents. LGBTQ folks are more likely to be asked to care for aging parents, which is backed by a 2010 MetLife study. This increases the financial burdens and restricts the savings opportunities for LGBTQ folks.

Keep Reading Show less
True

Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."