Tears don’t just express sadness
Those same gender expectations that cast men as tearless stoics often suggest that women are powerless, which may trigger the tears, says Dr. Vingerhoets. “There is some evidence that... negative situations like a burglary, computer crash, etc., make women react more with helplessness. It’s not sadness, which is what’s primarily associated with crying. Women tend to react more with helplessness to that kind of situation, where as to emotionally stronger situations, like a breakup or [death], there’s hardly differences between the sexes.”
In other words, the day-to-day experience of helplessness may lead women to cry more frequently, which reinforces the stereotype that they’re somehow more emotional, which in turn implies that they’re weaker, thus giving more power to masculine ideals... and the cycle continues. On the other hand, if you were to look only at breakups and deaths, you might find a more equitable distribution of tears, because those things pretty much universally suck.