Turning on the Tears: Should Men Cry?

When Hillary Clinton got emotional on the campaign trail in 2008, her moist eyes got mixed reviews at best, something some experts say was unavoidable.

Men's 'Distinguished' Tears to Women's 'Overemotional' Crying

In 2007 Penn State published a study that focused on the responses to both men and women crying. Though subjects responded about equally and negatively to both men and women crying outright, they reacted most positively to men with moist eyes.

"Women are not making it up when they say they're damned if they do, damned if they don't," Stephanie Shields, the psychology professor who conducted the study, told the AP. "If you don't express any emotion, you're seen as not human, like Mr. Spock on 'Star Trek.' But too much crying, or the wrong kind, and you're labeled as overemotional, out of control and possibly irrational."

When Ellen DeGeneres wept on national television for a dog she was asking to be returned in 2007, fellow comedian Bill Maher joked that it was hurting the chances of Americans electing a woman to president.

"At this moment, when the entire nation is saying, 'hmm, can we have a woman president? Maybe they're too emotional,' I don't think this is helping," Maher said on his talk show. "If I was a woman, I would be embarrassed right now. I would be embarrassed for all womankind."

The study also reflected a shift in judgment of male crying compared in the last three decades, "especially since Sept. 11, 2001," Shields told a Penn State research magazine.

After those terrorist attacks, few criticized David Letterman or Jon Stewart when they choked up on air.

One reason their emotional moments are so well remembered and why Mesnick's tears may have caused such a stir is because, according to Jonathan Rottenberg, people perk up more when a man cries.

"We pay attention to who is crying. It causes us to search for what's going on," Rottenberg, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of South Florida in Tampa, told ABC News. "We think it's important. This is especially true for men, because men report crying less often than women, so you know there must be something really the matter if a man cries."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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