After reading this article on the phrases women hear growing up that contribute to sexualising them and eventually inequality (interesting read), just like Carrie Bradshaw, “I got to thinking”…
I’ve never gone for the macho men. I’ve never found ego or arrogance attractive. Maybe it’s an instinctual/self preservation thing, because generally those two character traits don’t usually add up to respect and happiness within a relationship. I’ve always surrounded myself with sensitive, confident, fair men.
Unfortunately though, the definition of a man for too long has been about strength, dominance and control; “manliness”. Not kindness, care or understanding. Too many guys aren’t proud to be defined by softer adjectives.
Somewhere along the line the word “man” evolved from the name of a certain gender, into a word used to assert strength and dominance: “be a man“.
We talk about equality for women. A lot. Quite rightly so, there’s a long way to go and a lot of people with outdated opinions that need dragging from the 80’s into now, so that’s important. But we should talk a little about/to men too. There’s a couple of phrases that slip out in conversation constantly that do nothing but subconsciously tell guys they should be dominating, strong manly men, and if they’re not then they’re weak. Fuck that shit.
1. Definition via Urban Dictionary:
Take control, take control of a (the) situation, be strong.
Tell a guy to “man up” and you’re just using the male equivalent of telling a woman to “be a real woman”, and I doubt people would say that. Apart from Donald Trump. “Man up” says “You’re being too much of a girl about this. Take charge, like a real man would.” A phrase pushing men to be “macho” while subtly insulting women. Ooh.
2. Definition via Urban Dictionary:
“Grow some balls”
Telling someone they don’t have the balls that they SHOULD have to do something. Encouraging them to be manly.
“Grow a pair of testicles and be a man. Not one of those weak ass humans with out a ballsack. Y’know… women.” The holy grail of derogatory comments that one; insulting both sexes at once. Or more delightfully “don’t be a pussy”. But to be fair, as Betty White said “Why do people say “grow some balls”? Balls are weak and sensitive. If you wanna be tough, grow a vagina. Those things can take a pounding.” Boom.
My slight annoyance with these phrases is that while we talk about female stereotyping we ignore that young boys all over the world are being laughed at for not being “manly” enough, for doing something “like a girl“, which only turns a young boy- already insecure about his masculinity- into a man who feels the need to prove he’s macho, and that never ends well.
When the little lad who paints his nails and picks out a ballerina doll from the store is told to man up enough times, he’ll stop thinking it’s okay to be who he is (i’ve seen this happen). When a sensitive, sweet 13 year old kid who doesn’t really want join in teasing some kid is told to man up and stop being a pussy, maybe that sensitive side of him will be lost while he tries to prove he’s tough enough instead.
I’m lucky enough that my father, boyfriend and closest male friends are the kind of men that are quietly confident and comfortable with who they are. They don’t need to assert their manliness, and it’s obvious that they’ve always seen women as equal. From the phrases they use, the way they act, and how, naturally, they don’t stoop to easy, every day sexist comments for comedic value (that so many well meaning guys do without even thinking) see: “the old ball and chain” etc
Habits are hard to break, especially when they’re a whole generations, but in my mind one of the things that would go a long way in removing gender stereotypes (and therefore maybe help us reach equality) would be removing outdated phrases like this from our vocabulary. They don’t feel like a big deal… they’re not really that insulting, but the more off-the-cuff sexist and cliche phrases we all use in conversation the more we perpetuate that kind of culture without even knowing.
Before I go, i’ll leave you with this lovely poem by Nayyirah Waheed:
i want more ‘men”
with flowers falling from their skin.
more water in their eyes.
more tremble in their bodies.
more women in their hearts
on their hands.
more softness in their height.
more honesty in their voice.
more humility in their feet.