One of the most important insights shared by Brene Brown in her TED talk on shame and vulnerability is about how shame in our culture is organized by gender.
For women it’s about cultural norms that dictate they should be:
- Modest, and
- Use all available resources for appearance
It’s about unattainable, conflicting expectations of who they are supposed to be.
For men, cultural norms dictate that they:
- Always show emotional control
- View work as their top priority
- Place a high value on the pursuit of status, and
- Applaud violence
It’s all about getting up on a white horse and never showing weakness.
It’s easy to see why women are more likely to break down than men because of the emotional stress they must live with in the face of the above conflicting expectations. But it’s important to understand that just because women are more likely than men to have breakdowns, doesn’t necessarily mean they’re expressing their vulnerability.
Also, the price paid by men trapped on their white horses, never allowed to show weakness, is that they’re almost four times more likely to commit suicide than women.
The most frightening aspect of all this is that men and women become the chief enforcers of the above cultural norms and are the hardest on each other.