If you spend anytime online, specifically on social media sites like Twitter or Tumblr, you must have come across this phenomenon where women share stories of their experiences with sexism or stories of being attacked/abused/harassed by men and some dude comes along and insists “Not all men are like that!”
Writer Erin Gloria Ryan explains the Not All Men types in Jezebel:
Not All Men! has gone from an irritating trope to a funny, giddy skewering of point-missing folks whose knee jerk reaction as part of a privileged group is to defend themselves against implications that they, as members of the complained-about privileged group, might be complicit in the status quo. It’s defensive bullshit that doesn’t really do anything but prove the bearer of Not All Men is more concerned with saving face for themselves than, you know, actually acknowledging the concern that another person is expressing. In the Not All Men mind, it’s worse to be called sexist than to actually be a victim of sexism.
That is hilarious. But it’s a gross phenomenon. These Not All Men men want to stress that they’re special and different and whenever women use “men” to describe what men typically do (like yell at you while you’re walking down the street) that it means them specifically and personally. Get over yourself. It’s not about you!
Did I say it was gross?
But, I do understand the urge to want to point out that not every man is the same. When your identity is being besmirched or portrayed inaccurately or that portrayal doesn’t represent who you are, you want to defend it.
An article was published last week in the Wall Street Journal titled “Do You Cry Easily? You many Be a Highly Sensitive Person” with a photo of a crowd crying in a theater. I cringed and thought “Not me. Not all HSP.”
The article itself is well-written and provides most of the information someone unfamiliar with the trait would need to know.
That title. That photo. Why?
The author used the story of a 44-year-old male engineer who cries easily to represent those with the trait. I know many engineers. They are not the wear-your-heart-on-your-sleeve type. I have never seen a man I know cry. Ever. So why such an extreme example?
It bothers me that those who are learning about the trait for the first time after reading this article will think we’re all crybabies. Even the “crybaby” engineer, Michael Hassard, said “nobody likes a crybaby”.
Not me. Not all HSP.
I’m not saying men or engineers or anyone, highly sensitive or not, shouldn’t cry. I’m saying crying easily is not what being highly sensitive is about. It is a manifestation of something deeper and it seems The Wall Street Journal and other publications don’t want to or are unable to represent what high sensitivity truly is.
I suspect leading with the crying aspect of high sensitivity is deliberate. The easiest way to spot a sensitive person is to notice if they get emotional, tear up or cry openly and often. It’s easy, but not always the most reliable way to spot one. One of the easiest way to get clicks/shares is to use a charged issue like crying in the title, photo and meat of your article. The Wall Street Journal is mostly read by college educated, high earning males so of course they used a former NASA engineer who is easily moved to tears as the human element in the article.
Elke Van Hoof, a professor, researcher, and organizer of the first international congress on HSP put “in-depth processing of information” as central to the HSP trait, and called it “a cause of over-stimulation and heightened emotional response.” It’s a lot harder and a lot less provocative to lead with and describe “in-depth processing of information” in an article or photo, although I’m sure there are writers and artists who would be willing to try if motivated and directed to do so.
But, so what if I don’t cry easily? There are certainly HSP out there who do. As Scott Barry Kaufman wrote recently in Scientific American, there are shades of sensitivity.
For some of us, our sensitivity mainly manifests physiologically. Some of us (me) are unaffected by violent movies and TV shows. Some of us bristle at the “sensitive” in highly sensitive and prefer “responsive”. And some of us cry easily.
Not every story a woman tells about her negative experience with men is about all men and not every article about HSP will reflect every sensitive person’s personal experience.
I’m glad the criers out there are getting the validation and understanding they need. Not everything is about me.
I’d really like to hear from the HSP out there: Do you cry easily or not? Do headlines like the one in The Wall Street Journal bother you?