Salam Wosu was recently published edition eleven of The Mark. When I read his pieces, "How to Prepare for a Funeral" and "And I, a Wilting Rose," I was struck by his ability to describe the emotional suppression men often are forced into by society. If you'd like to read his pieces before you dive into the interview, click here.
Q: Your pieces, "How to Prepare for a Funeral" and "And I, a Wilting Rose" have a lot to do with toxic masculinity. In "And I a Wilting Rose," the speaker notes that men are supposed to hold back tears and emotion. In "How to Prepare for a Funeral" the speaker notes that men are supposed to be strong in times of sorrow. How do you feel about the societal expectation that men are supposed to suppress their emotions?
A: Firstly, the issue of societal strain or load on the psyche of young boys growing to become men to board up feelings is as old as time. The patriarchal conception that men must suppress emotions to maintain a calm visage that we call strength has led to many cases of breakdowns because of the inability to find a safe place and a safe means to vent out the said emotions. A little boy is told "boys don't cry" and in the bid to save face he doesn't. But that is not how the body works, whatever that needs to leave the body will leave it in one way or the other. Instead of chastising a crying boy, teach him how to work through it, console him. There are few fathers consoling sons because their own fathers never did and so they are not familiar with the concept. They grew up with the traditional view of a man: strong, emotionless, hardened. Then later on in life he preys or physically assaults those he sees as weak, those who are not afraid to show emotion, those whose feelings are their strength, women. Yes, a lot of women beaters are just little boys who never got the chance to cry and wipe their tears but had to suppress it instead.
Q: What do you think that society can do to tell men that it is okay to feel emotion?
A: Society as a whole should trash the idea of an ideal man being emotionless and heartless. Emotions are a strength that physicality cannot match. Meet those whose only strength is physical and you'd see how love, loyalty, compassion and care confuses them but at the same time brings out a better version of them. Teach your boys to embrace emotion as much as you teach your girls. Teach them how to love. Grow their consciences. Let them be able to cry without guilt or shame. Love too can detoxify the poison that is the patriarchy in our world today.