On Wednesday, George W. Bush delivered a eulogy at his father George H.W. Bush’s funeral. While at the podium, standing in front of all of America’s living presidents, royalty from around the world, and his entire family, he recalled the elder Bush as not just a former president, but his dad. Staying true to form, Bush made some light-hearted jokes about his father throughout his eulogy until, in his closing remarks, he choked up a bit and said, “Through our tears, let us know the blessings of knowing and loving you — a great and noble man, the best father a son or daughter could have.”

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 05: (AFP- OUT)Former President George W. Bush provides a eulogy at the state funeral service of his father, former President George H.W. Bush at the National Cathedral, on December 5, 2018 in Washington, DC. President Bush will be buried at his final resting place at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library at Texas A

Shortly after Bush’s speech, headlines like “George W. Bush Breaks Down in Tears While Delivering Eulogy for Father” and “George W. Bush chokes back tears in eulogy for father” rolled in. One article from The Washington Post reads, “His voice shook and, finally, he broke down and sobbed.”

Of course, it’s striking to see an ex-president in a vulnerable state. But it is also disappointing that, at the end of a year which focused so much on amending the toxically masculine behaviors of men, we are opting to dwell on the fact that a man cried at his father’s funeral — no matter the man in question.

Choosing to sensationalize a man’s public expression of emotions reinforces the ethos that it’s something momentous, something novel and newsworthy. Even if that may be partly true in practice, shouldn’t we, as a culture, be working to normalize men’s emotional vulnerability?

Just months ago, a fetishization of male emotions played a pivotal role in a different kind of story: Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation.

WASHINGTON D.C - SEPTEMBER 27: Judge Brett Kavanaugh testifies to the Senate Judiciary Committee during his Supreme Court confirmation hearing in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill September 27, 2018 in Washington, DC. Kavanaugh was called back to testify about claims by Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused him of sexually assaulting her during a party in 1982 when they were high school students in suburban Maryland. (Photo by Jim Bourg-Pool/Getty Images)

In Kavanaugh’s testimony denying Christine Blasey Ford’s accusations of sexual assault, he famously shed tears while defending himself in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. (A New Yorker piece describes him as “blubbering like a child.”) In that instance, male tears poured into a different sort of public reaction. Some believed the display to be a calculated performance aimed to garner sympathy after the disturbing claims made by Ford.

Whether Kavanaugh’s tears resulted from a sense of being wronged, or were a manipulative display, we will likely never know. But perhaps the situation would have played out differently if his woundedness hadn’t become the crux of the story.

A culture that embraces men’s public displays of emotion would unquestionably lead to a more communicative and empathetic climate for all of us. But creating news from those moments is not the way to create that change. Male tears happen and, hopefully, they’ll begin to happen more often. But hardly — if ever — are they the most important part of the narrative.

(Photos via Getty)