Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

The Ferbering of America

Rachel Wayne


The Ferber Method of childrearing encourages parents to let their kids cry it out. The idea is to build resilience and prevent children from relying on external validation.

Ideally, this controversial method ends in childhood. But in America, we seem obsessed with resilience, to the point that we consider accepting help to be weakness. We have fetishized a harsh, unforgiving reality in which crying is good and comfort is socialism.

And it’s driving us into a perpetual state of burnout and despair.

Big Girls Don’t Cry

In the Ferber Method, kids should sob for hours until they learn to self-soothe. After a few years, though, they’re supposed to be so good at self-soothing that they don’t cry at all. With maturity comes an absence of tears, apparently.

I was always a crier. I still am. I cry at every Pixar movie, animal rescue video, and rainbow. I’ve always been a “sensitive” person, which earned me much mockery during my school years.

Yet “sensitive” doesn’t mean “weak.” By most accounts, I’m a coldhearted bitch who doesn’t take BS and will ferociously defend her loved ones. I don’t cry at insults or even bad news. I enter mama bear mode.

As such, I’ve reflected a lot on crying. Do I not cry because I “self-soothe”? Doubtful. I’m an anxious mess who’s perpetually ready for battle. Yet I cry at movies, perhaps because I have cultural permission to do so.

Crying is not weakness, and a lack of tears doesn’t mean you’re “big.” Rather, our tears have been socially conditioned. I learned quickly that people (especially femmes) are taken less seriously when they cry. I internalized the idea that tears equal vulnerability.

And I see that many people in our culture agree. It’s okay to cry at movies, but heaven forbid you shed a tear anywhere else.

The Good, the Bad, and the Tough

Especially in recent conversations about sociopolitical issues, we’ve seen complete disdain for tears.

Upset because you can’t find a job? Well, “everyone is hiring, so get a job, lazy freeloader.”

Depressed about the economy/environment/administration/general state of the world…



Rachel Wayne

Artist/anthropologist/activist writing about art, media, culture, health, science, enterprise, and where they all meet. Join my list: