The Toxicity of the Phrase “Man Up”

How common is it to hear a coach or a parent, or even a friend, tell a boy to “man up”? It’s harmless, right? Simply a way to encourage strength, teach dominance.

Wrong.

The phrase “man up” is a representation of the flaws in society’s view of gender, a culmination of all the unhealthy gender norms expected of a male. A slam poetry piece by Guante, 10 Responses to the Phrase “Man Up”, is a haunting reminder of hegemonic masculinity and the damaging effects it has on not just women, but men too.

Hegemonic masculinity is a concept created by R. W. Connell that identifies and guarantees the social position of men and women as dominant and subordinate. In order to be what society defines as a “man”, negative expectations are placed. Stereotypes such as lack of expression of weakness and/or emotion, being aggressive and dominant, and strict heterosexuality and hypersexuality are all part of forces that push the phrase “man up” on boys who are still learning what it means to be an individual in a society that places men in a box.

This needs to change. All of these concepts contribute to a society that oppresses and represses. Rape culture becomes a more destructive force towards both men and women under the idea of masculinity. Encouragement of hypersexuality with males allows for empty excuses for sexual harassment and abusive behavior, double standards placed on women, and if a man is raped, his pleas will be ignored, because “man up” means physical strength, means aggressive heterosexual and homophobic behavior.

Furthermore, masculinity is more strictly part of the gender binary. In order for society to become more accepting of the concept of a gender spectrum, where there are more than just two genders, society needs to let go of this overwhelming idea of what a male is supposed to be. Men should not be placed in a box, with a strict set of rules to live by. While feminism has helped break women out of the strict set of rules given in a variety of ways, many of the issues with masculinity are less well addressed and change cannot be expected unless people begin to speak out against hegemonic masculinity the same way feminists have spoken out against lack of women’s rights over the years.

The male gender should not have to face this kind of toxic ideology. Not only is it destructive towards all genders, but it is repression of expression that lasts a lifetime. So like Guante said, in response to the phrase “man up”, the answer should be , “10. No.”

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