When did it become ugly to cry? Since when do we have to hide and ask for forgiveness for crying in an ugly way? When did we become this superficial?
Emotions aren’t supposed to be pretty. The unburdening of tears is supposed to release pain’s leaden pressure, to cleanse our wounds. Crying can actually improve our mood and relieve stress. How can that be considered ugly? Why is crying an act that must be furtively concealed and the evidence quickly erased?
Apparently, the term “ugly cry” came from 1977 and referred to the smudgy visage of one who is crying hard.
Or have we simply moved from hysteria to ugly crying to control women?
The term ugly cry is usually used when referring to women.
In the 19th century, physicians used the term “hysteria” as a means of medicalizing women’s behaviours and desires that were deemed to exceed the precise definition of male-sanctioned decorum. I fear that this term has simply just replaced by a new one.
It was picked up by Glamour magazine in 1991 speaking about actresses who cried in movies. Apparently, manifesting distress too violently and without reservation can render a woman stupefying and grotesque and we all know that ugliness is the worst crime a woman commit.
Though the term only rocketed to fame when used by Oprah Winfrey in 2001 and kept using it throughout the years. According to Oprah, the show of true emotions are not welcomed, it’s the result of a failed attempts to show your emotions gracefully, to preserve both elegance and mascara.
“During that whole tape session, I could see you doing what I’ve often tried to do on TV. You’re fighting the ugly cry, when your lips start to go.” – Oprah Winfrey
The pressures to conform to pedestaled notions of female beauty makes crying more perilous than refreshing. Crying goes against the cultural expectation that beauty is placed and symmetrical, fundamentally unthreatening.
We have become so superficial that we now have to control at all costs our arsenal of accepted facial expressions to articulate our competence and our desirability. Women are physically scrutinised at their most vulnerable.
Over the last few years, society has integrated the term “ugly cry” into common parlance. It’s often used in good humour, but always with the awareness that we’ve fallen short of a standard, we didn’t set.
Though the Urban Dictionary refers to ugly crying to both genders, they still have a sexist turn on it.
“The ugly cry feels great, though you may fight against it. For a woman, it usually occurs in the company of friends. For a man, it can happen while alone on the highway, during meditation or while waxing nostalgic about a recent or long past tragedy.” – Urban Dictionary
Of course, men’s emotions are so much deeper and logical than women (heavy on the sarcasm).