Why this makes him more manly than you
We interrupt your regular weekly-scheduled articles to bring you this special Super Bowl Monday Edition, in which I bitch about Tom Brady. But unlike most people who bitch about Tom Brady, I am actually defending him.
I grew up as a Giants fan, and right now I am still trying to make up my mind about how I feel about football due to its adverse effects on its players. I am not a Patriots fan — like many people, I bash them a lot. But none of that affects my opinion of Tom Brady, who, with only a few exceptions (such as his unscientific diet), is an admirable fellow. I truly believe that.
So when I read about this, I had a huge attack of WTF??? And not for the same reason as everybody else.
Tom Brady's long kiss with his son ignites controversy
It was the father-son smooch seen round the world. During an episode of his new Facebook Watch docuseries, Tom vs Time…
Further investigation revealed that Brady also kisses his father and other male relatives on the mouth, and a lot of people are freaking out over this. Controversy has erupted as people try to figure out if the kiss was too long or inappropriate.
As a Rational Feminist, I’ve got an opinion on this. It really bothers me that Tom Brady’s motives have been questioned by some, and that he is receiving so much backlash about how long he is allowed to kiss his son on the lips. The social sanctioning here hints at pedophilia and molestation. It hints that no father could want to kiss his male child unless something sinister is afoot. It also hints at some homophobia, especially when Brady’s father or other male relatives are brought into the discussion. Why is it so disgusting to people that men would kiss other men that are related to them? Finally, it comes just short of accusing Brady of incest, because a long kiss must be sexual in nature because it’s coming from a man.
The main reason a lot of people are even questioning this is because the Patriarchal Society, that evil set of rules that always oppresses women, dictates that a man showing affection is either “womanly” or “creepy.” Both men and women who adhere to this set of norms socially sanction men who display affection, especially men who display affection to their children. In fact, showing too much affection is also sanctioned, even where the affection is innocent or desired by the receiver of it. These sanctions often include being accused of being a woman himself, being accused of being gay, being accused of being a child molester or stalker (depending on the age of the “victim”) or, like Tom Brady, being accused of “inappropriate” behavior.
What the hell is so inappropriate about showing affection to someone you love who welcomes the affection??? Oh yeah, and why is that effeminate?
The combination of gender rules called the Patriarchal Society delineate strict patterns of behavior, deviation from which can draw social sanctioning in the form of criticism, outcry, shunning, and shaming, to name a few. Both genders engage in it, not just on each other but on one another. Social sanctioning lets us know if we “fit in” or not, so it’s not like it has no useful reason to be done. Social sanctioning is a very important part of a functioning society, because it discourages deviance.
However, determining deviance is a delicate dance, because deviance is not an objective concept. Even the most vicious of behaviors might be justified in certain situations, no matter how improbable the occurrence. There is also the fact that humans are not always the best judges of deviance, and in this case, all of us — both men and women — were taught that expression of emotions had to follow certain norms, which largely include men not being allowed to express very much at all. Even expression of emotions from women is treated as “drama,” written off, and sanctioning engaged in the attempt to prevent its return.
The only place this has gotten humanity is nowhere. Over the past 20 years, research has discovered that developing emotional intelligence is more beneficial than suppression of emotions. For one thing, it doesn’t stress you out as much to just discuss your emotions with a partner, loved one, or close friend as it does to bottle it up inside, and not as much stress on your emotions translates to not as much stress on your body. Secondly, expressing emotions helps us identify them in ourselves, which helps us understand them better and cope with them more efficiently. Finally, it helps us be more empathetic to others because we can recognize body language associated with emotions, and can understand their feelings.
Emotional intelligence can be a minefield for certain types of people though. Humans have some really icky feelings that we don’t like to confront. We justify these feelings in ourselves, but when others express them, we allow it to affect our perception of them (and yes, they do that to us as well). Part of developing emotional intelligence is about confronting these icky feelings, accepting them in ourselves without judgment, and extending the same courtesy to others.
Men are not encouraged to have emotional intelligence, and as a result many men do not. This is not because of some genetic or biological deficiency that makes men insensitive, however. This is purely a social obstacle that has been obstructed and reinforced by people of both genders who adhere to the stereotypes that men are stoic and emotionless and women are hysterical and irrational. In thousands of years of philosophy, we’ve been taught to reason, and as a collective we’ve ignored our hearts for so long that now we think it’s a bad thing to examine them.
Do not take this to mean women are encouraged to have emotional intelligence either. Women are given more leeway with emotions but they are relegated to certain ones, just like men. We are repeatedly told what our emotions are, by men, by other women, and by societal stereotypes, so we’re not exactly “high EQ” ourselves. Remember, the emotional leeway women are given is viewed as a flaw. As bad as that is, at least women get some outlet.
Men do not, because they are viewed as weak if those emotions are not aggressive or “manly.” This social attitude is insidious on many layers. It reinforces a view of most emotions as bad, it promotes the misogynistic view that only women experience them, it emasculates anyone who experiences them “too” strongly, and it normalizes all the behavior we criticize in men. Thus, men suffer in silence because they cannot express themselves adequately, which causes stress, or amplifies existing stress, such as depression or anxiety over life circumstances. They suffer because we’ve taught everyone that emotions are these terrible, irrational things that we shouldn’t express, so when it comes time to express them, there is a lot of cognitive dissonance going on. This is especially hard on men who are emotionally sensitive, because there is a guilt associated with even feeling them that is piled on in the form of social sanctions from adherents to the Patriarchal Society.
It takes a strong man to face all of that down. Delving within one’s emotional closet and finding those skeletons is not for the faint of heart. It means confronting the deepest and dankest parts of your experience, looking at yourself when you were at your most villainous, your most spoiled, your most petulant or whiny. It means staring down the mustachioed Evil You that exists in your body beside the hero you (and all of us) are convinced you are — and embracing him or her as a beloved part of yourself.
However, the reward at the end is so much self-knowledge that the resulting self-confidence makes you not give a crap about other people’s judgment of you. It means that you know as much about the happy emotions, the aggressive emotions, and the sad emotions as you know about the serene ones, the frustrated ones, the eureka ones, and all of the others. It means you are so confident in who you are that you can express those emotions without fear of judgment by the Patriarchal Society because you know full well that you are right and they are wrong.
Tom Brady has that self-knowledge. He’s confronted that demon, and knows himself. It is the reason I respect him, even though I hate his team. I’ve seen it in videos he has posted of himself with his kids, and I saw it in the controversial kiss with his son. No matter what you think of him as a football player, his behavior says a lot about him as a man.
The courage it takes to truly embrace oneself is greater than what is needed to confront any other battle that has ever been fought, in real life or in fiction. It is greater than what is needed to face the most eldritch horrors or the biggest mobs. In fact, it is on the monumental scale of what we stereotypically consider “manly.”
We are all taught to be scared of ourselves, but men are taught to deeply reject all the things that make them human, and the end result is that we have a lot of men who have forbidden themselves the type of self-knowledge that allows a man to express his affection to his male family members by giving them prolonged kisses on the lips. No one should be sanctioning Tom Brady for what is really deficient in themselves. We should be encouraging more men to express their affection — to their children, to their spouses, to their parents and siblings. Even if he lost last night, we should follow Tom Brady’s example.
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