The XX Factor

Boehner’s Emotional Incontinence

Libby, thanks for the fascinating post on the social meaning of John Boehner’s tears. But I have to disagree with the conclusions of the Yale social psychologist, Marianne LaFrance, you quote. She makes what I think is a predictable and not very convincing case that men cry for socially allowable reasons, such as being moved by the strength of their convictions or sentimentality. She asserts this is acceptable, but girly tears that betray one’s emotional state are not. LaFrance then concludes – surprise! – society allows men to indulge in behaviors that would be ruinous for women. I think Boehner’s tears are not a social construct but a neurological glitch. I’m sure he experiences them as a humiliating defect. You say that men are allowed to use tears in a way women can’t. But (unlike that repellent phony, Glenn Beck) Boehner’s tears are not deliberate theatrics. They’re awful to watch. When his lower lip started to quiver uncontrollably during his mid-term election victory speech, I thought he was having a stroke. This can hardly be the reaction he’s hoping to provoke in an audience.

Last month, NPR ran a story on a new drug that effectively treats people with neurological disorders who suffer from “emotional incontinence” and find themselves crying for no good reason. I have the suspicion that if Boehner went on this medication, his “social construct” would dry up and he’d almost want to cry with relief that he’s no longer crying all the time.