Sunday, December 25, 2011

Manning Up

It's time for us to retire the term "man up."  It's become a very popular phrase (along with the many versions of "grow a pair") and the more I hear it, the more the implications of it irritate me.

Perhaps I'm being too picky.  Perhaps the implications are so hidden that it doesn't matter.  The thing is, they're there.

What are the implications?  People usually use the term when they want a man to be brave and responsible.  "Grow a pair" is very much about gaining courage.  And yes, to act responsibly very often takes a great deal of bravery.  Which gender, however, has the pair to grow?  What this implies is that anyone who can't "man up" or "grow a pair" is unable to be brave and responsible.  Which means that such traits are the pervue of males alone.

Again, perhaps I'm being too picky.  But the implications are there and let's not forget it wasn't that long ago that women weren't allowed to vote because they "couldn't be trusted" to make wise decisions (or so men thought).  The head of the households were men and a man's house was his castle (and the woman should be thankful that he was allowing her to live there so she should be quiet and get his slippers).

This was the pervailing attitude in various degrees for centuries and in some cultures around the world, it still is.  We have women forced to walk around in burkas and women forced to marry their rapist (and if they don't, they're imprisoned for crimes against morality) because some countries still believe in the superiority of men.

Even in America, if a woman in charge makes a powerful decision she's said to have "grown a pair" over night (or very often stolen her husband's).

I'll admit, I grew up in a household where my father could not be counted on to act responsibly.  I learned how strong a woman could be by watching my mother be stronger than she gave herself credit for.  She was the one who worried about the bills being paid.  She was the one who worried about getting the kids to school.  She was the one who went to pack staples at night so she could supplement the meager allowance her husband gave her (you're not assured of child support when you're married) so that we weren't sitting on furniture that was torn and falling apart (my dad once told me that he had refused to buy new furniture because he was "teaching my mom a lesson."  I guess she decided to just go and get it for herself).  My parents were far too complicated to paint my father as completely worthless, but he was not the sort of father a father should be, nor was he the sort of husband a husband should be.  So I grew up believing that a woman should not necessarily expect to be taken care of because one day, she might not be. 

Bravery and responsibility wasn't and shouldn't be the sole commodity of the male gender alone.  It's something that all people should aspire to so referring to the acquisition of these traits as "manning up" is disrespectful to that other gender that is just as capable of those traits and has fought for centuries to be recognized for such.

My mom didn't need testosterone raging through her to fill in the gaps left by my father's disinterest in his family.  She did what needed to be do.  And there are a lot of women, married, single, mom's or not, doing the same thing.  Finding that inner core of bravery and responsibility that we all should possess to help make this world a better place. 

So let's retire the silly little phrase.  I know it sounds cool and tough, but it also sounds stupid when we bear in mind the implications, unconcious or not, surrounding it.

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