An album cover with a pink backdrop and a fridge, lamp and vacuum

“Boys Don’t Cry”: A Challenging of Gender Norms

By Paola Bakker
Web Content Contributor

For International Men’s Day, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at a song that was ahead of its time in the breakdown of gender roles. “Boys Don’t Cry” by The Cure released in 1979 as their American debut.

Although the song is not completely consistent with The Cure’s typical sound, it was an excellent song to act as their debut. The song has a pop-y and upbeat tune with a catchy guitar hook, which juxtaposes the melancholy in the lyrics.

Lead singer Robert Smith delves into the idea that, like the title suggests, “Boys Don’t Cry.” In the song, he tells a story of dating someone and he overestimates his importance to them causing him to act recklessly and take them for granted.

He realizes he has made a mistake when he loses them but he can’t own up to these mistakes and be vulnerable with them, even if it means getting them back. He hides his sadness because he doesn’t feel like he can open up about his emotions as a man. 

“I tried to laugh about it

Cover it all up with lies

I tried to laugh about it

Hiding the tears in my eyes

‘Cause boys don’t cry

Boys don’t cry”

The song itself appears as very self aware from Smith. He knows that he has messed up this relationship that he values but he also knows that men openly displaying their emotions is not widely accepted, especially when this song was released. 

The song brings up an interesting idea that, while men don’t cry, women do. He can’t cry because it is seen as something inherently feminine. An open display of emotions, which reaches the point of a physical expression of tears, is considered by society as weak. 

This weakness is also often considered synonymous with femininity. Women are supposedly not strong enough to hold themselves together emotionally, so they cry. Meanwhile men are supposed to have the strength to keep their emotions internalized.

This act that people consider weak, in reality, is a healthy expression of feelings, whether positive or negative. Sometimes, a good cry is necessary to overcoming these emotions. It’s an external release to an internal battle.

Crying isn’t weak but it actually shows that someone is comfortable with being vulnerable and showing others their feelings, rather than containing all of them, often done out of insecurity.

In an interview with Rolling Stone, Smith stated that he was always discouraged to show his emotions as a young boy growing up in England, but he couldn’t help it, they just came naturally. 

He said, “I never found it awkward showing my emotions. I couldn’t really continue without showing my emotions; you’d have to be a pretty boring singer to do that.”

Smith recognizes the impact the song has had on breaking down gender norms, something he never has tried to abide by as an artist. Even just by his appearance, which usually includes smudged eyeliner, heavy eyeshadow and blood-red lipstick, he is making a statement on these ideals and their insignificance to his physical expression.

The Cure’s vulnerability and openness with their listeners is something that is so special. There is no mask of hardness or faux masculinity. Their style, musically and physically, is true to themselves, ignoring what they’ve been told makes a man growing up. They define it for themselves, teaching their fans that they can do the same.

Featured image via The Cure album cover.

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