Saturday, October 16, 2010

Why Telling A Guy To "Man Up" Is Not Ok.

Women telling men to "man up" is quite popular these days. It seems to be an effective and catchy phrase among females. Female politicians like it. It is also popular among single women, who now yearn for an alpha male. Its now stirring up quite a conversation in the media and blogs. The general response is that people are giving a thumbs down on the acceptability of using that phrase towards men.
And for good reason.
In essence, telling a man to "man up" is an attempt to shove a man into a stereotypical box of how men ought to be rather than how men really are. People cannot be boxed into stereotypes. That is true for ethnicity, gender, religion and economic status. Human beings were not created as black and white entities in which you either are or aren't. We aren't limited to a specific set characteristics. Instead, human beings have a variety of characteristics that exist infinitely within a continuum. Despite the fact that humans have an innate desire to put people in a nice little box, the reality is truth is that human being are too complex and multifaceted to be squeezed into a nice, simple classification.
Moreover, the popular phrase "Man Up" is extremely unrealistic and superficial. A conservative columnist  named Cameron Parker, discussing how single women want men to "man up" in  the dating  world, eloquently drives this point home:
Focusing on actions and labeling them inherently masculine or feminine begs for defeat. Those really are socially constructed. Half a millennia ago, competition that didn’t often result in death was for children. Today, the NFL is as macho an institution as they come. To that end, Miller even mentions a Super Bowl XLIV ad for the Dodge Charger with the slogan “Man’s last stand,” and yet ironically misses the point that the things she has hermetically sealed into the spheres of the masculine and the feminine are all heavily influenced by the prevailing norms today, enshrined in ads like Dodge’s and, with the advent of the World Wide Web, ubiquitous.
His point that the definition of what a makes a real man is equally applicable to women. The ideal changes over time due to changes in politics, economics, culture and technology. Sometimes the changes occur over long periods of time in on the scale of generations. Often times, the ideal is about as permanent as fashionable clothing. It becomes a fad and then fades away. Being a metrosexual used to be sexy, now its not.
Regardless if you believe that what makes a "real" man or woman is an arbitrary social construct, society and culture have a big impact on setting the perimeters of acceptable (ideal) male and female behavior. Which is why women are justified in how they are unfairly portrayed in the media in terms of how they ought to behave and how their bodies should look. The same is true for men
But this problem isn't limited to the media. Our lips also contribute this problem. What people say to one another also feeds into unfair portrayal of how men and women ought to behave and look. It doesn't matter if its magazines, movies, music or our words, we cannot isolate the extreme aspects of masculinity or femininity and tell people to conform to it. Men and women have every right to resist being forced into an ideal that consist of extreme characteristics that a few people possess. Telling a guy to "man up" is nothing more than an attempt to herd men into a superficial ideal. If women don't like being told to fit into men's ideal vision of what a woman ought to be, men don't like to be boxed into an ideal either. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. 
Which brings me to my next point. Would you find it odd if an African American told a Hispanic how he ought to act? Or if an American told a Russian of how he ought to be? Or how how a hearing person ought to tell a Deaf person how he should behave. It takes a lot of balls (or ovaries) to instruct the opposite gender on how they ought to behave. Even if you're a member of that group, telling someone who is also that they're not living up to the ideal is rude. Not all African Americans or Deaf people are alike. There is diversity even within a group.
Which is why Politics Daily's Editor in Chief Melinda Henneberger thought it was rude for Sharron Angle to tell Harry Reid to man up. And I agree. Its just simply rude and offenseive to tell somone how to behave, especially when they are not a member of that group. 
Another reason why telling a guy to man up is not acceptable is because its a comment that dehumanizing and emasculates men. As a said earlier in this article, there are a wide variety of men as there are women. Therefore, it is simply a refusal to recognize man's humanity because he doesn't possess certain characteristics that make up the "ideal" man. Its emasculating because it also questions a male's masculinity. Matt Lewis, a columnist for Politics Daily explains the double standard:
For those of you who see nothing wrong with this, or think that I should, perhaps, "man up" in regards to this issue, consider the double standard.
What if Reid were to have questioned Sharron Angle's femininity? Would that have been fair game? 
Which is a fair question. What do you think?

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