Daily women complain of minor stresses and are encompassed by multiple stressors, such as hormonal stress, parental stress, marital stress, post and prenatal stress as well as occupational stress.
Have you ever cried alone, so hard you would wish someone was there to comfort you, yet if someone were to ask you the reason for your crying your answer would be its nothing? Have you ever cried so hard in church, and people thought you were the most spiritual, yet the church was the only safe place to cry freely without the need to explain why? Have you ever gone before the Lord in prayer and all you could do was cry? Have you cried alone in your car driving, by the time you got to your destination you were all made up and no one would ever guess that you were crying? When do you cry?
In this article, we will explore that well-spring of emotion that just seems to overwhelm women, sometimes without notice. Without understanding the root causes, it is difficult to even understand what is happening on the surface.
We will look at scenarios below, real but names changed for anonymity’s sake. The first thing we will acknowledge is that there are no simple answers. None of the scenarios has a pre-packaged microwave solution.
Scenario 1: Women Just love to cry
I was standing in a queue at a local supermarket preparing to pay for my weekly groceries. “Women just love to cry,” said one gentleman remarking to his peers. Naturally, I turned around to see who had said the statement, Ndiri kunyeba here ambuya? (Am I lying, ma’am?) added the gentleman addressing his question to me. I just smiled gracefully as I pondered on what he had said. Do I just love to cry, am I given space to cry? My crying is always viewed as a sign of weakness, it’s considered being a woman after all. Nobody ever interrogates the source of my tears hence whenever I cry it should be as justifiable as possible. I don’t cry when I must, neither do I cry when I want to, but it seems I only cry when I CAN.
When Runyararo called, I dreaded picking up her call. Was I ready for another of her common rantings of late? She seemed to be always angry of late. Only that one could never really tell the target of her anger. She would start seemingly well, courteously asking if you were able to help her with the day’s school run. The rantings would start when one probed as to why she seemed too preoccupied. Without really pointing at one issue she would explain how her life had become a total mess with the coming of her third child in the past two months. She would, however, hasten to reassure you not to worry, as she had done this (giving birth) two times before, she was going to deal with it. Back to the events of the day, I picked up the phone and to my amazement Runyararo answered with a bitter groan, she was crying. All she said was “can you please come over”.
As I was preparing to leave for her place, I remembered having some good girl talk with a colleague recently and she summarized it well. She said “women in our African culture cry for the many losses they have but the unfortunate part is most of these losses have no name” Most of the emotions we go through have no name in the local language or at best three emotions share one word. This has left most of our women aware of their emotional turmoil yet without a precise language to express them.
As I was driving, the questions that rang in my head were
· Should I just offer a shoulder to cry on only? She is just looking for an outlet.
· Should I dig a little deeper? Should I peel the onion? Will I be able to put her back together again?
· Should I pray for a spirit of discernment to help address the deep spiritual battle that Runyararo may not even be aware of?
It would be good to extrapolate on how women’s tears are generally viewed. While women are viewed as cry-babies, the fundamental questions remain, are we in the real sense “allowed” to cry. Do our loved ones stop to listen when we cry? When a teenage daughter cries after refusing to eat a well-cooked meal, do we care to find out why she is crying, or we attribute that to being a millennial spoilt brat? Does it cross our minds that she could be anorexic stemming from deeper issues that none of us is prepared to find out? Pastor, when the ladies from your church cry after a sermon on being good wives, do you try to find out why they wail the way they do? Did it ever occur to you that maybe they were not repenting but crying out of desperation of having tried it all but still being rewarded with violence from the man who stand besides them piously without a single tear from the same seemingly heart wrenching sermon? Does anyone stop to consider why the village widow is always crying, could it be there is more to her crying than the passing on of her husband? Why do women cry more at funerals, could it be that funerals legitimize their crying? Above all why is it when you ask a woman why she is crying she says “nothing”? Do women cry for “nothing”?
Do women cry for ‘nothing’?
While we ask why one is crying, we have phrases like “mukadzi haafukure hapwa” a woman should not go about telling what is happening in her life. That leaves a woman being able to cry in certain spaces but never telling the real reason for her tears, hence her best answer is ‘nothing’.
On the other hand, the way society asks why a woman is crying teaches women how to answer. Rarely do people ask to know and understand, they instead ask out of amazement, anger or frustration, they are not asking to know, they are asking to ridicule. Naturally that silences all the real reasons and leaves her with “nothing” as her best answer.
Another reason for answering nothing might be the mere fact that society does not agree with some of the reasons why women cry. When a girl child cries because the home environment favours the boy child and disadvantages her, she will be viewed as an emerging feminist who needs alignment, therefore when she is asked “why are you crying?”, her best answer would be “nothing”. She learns early on in life that society has no space for her real reasons for crying. When a woman cries because her husband has an affair, society thinks she is being silly because she should be mature enough to know and acknowledge that boys will always be boys. When she cries because her husband beats her, she should spend the time seeking to find out what annoys him instead of crying. Worse still when she cries because she is lonely and misses his company, she is a spoilt woman who should know that man need to work. There is always a reason why things are the way they are, and it is in very few times when her tears are acknowledged for what they are. A cry for of real lived pain.
So why do women cry?
Notwithstanding that women when compared to men can cry, and may be judged less harshly if they do, society does not hide its approval of “strong women”. The society’s definition of a strong woman is a woman who stands strong in the face of adversity, one who fights for her marriage, children and anything that she believes in regardless of what surrounds her. We have coined terms like “musha mukadzi” (A functional home is made one by a woman). Although we mean well by such advice and phrases, we have left a woman carrying a heavy load from which she needs to occasionally take a sigh and cry if need be otherwise the mental load crushes her jewel spirit. The multiple roles women play are equally demanding hence pressures from everywhere.
Women cry because they are often hurt and in pain yet society seems to belittle this pain and gets to decide whether they are really hurt or not. Depression and other common mental disorders such as anxiety, stand at high disproportionate rates as compared to man. Could it be that the emotional turmoil women go through succumbs them to this silent killer disease? I encourage us to debate the issue further by daring to look at specific cases of crying women. Meanwhile let’s prioritize self-care and remember to refuel before we serve so that we do not short-change ourselves.
Fatima is a Community Psychologist and a Consultant at Psycmates.
Excerpts from this article were also published with permission by Monique Today: https://moniquetoday.com/when-women-cry-part-1-2/