Let’s ditch ‘be a man’

By Brianna Zimmerman

Phrases like “that’s a real man,” “be a man” and “man up” are sexist, antiquated and overused.

Insults directed toward a woman may be something along the lines of telling her that she is dressed too provocatively, that she is not being ladylike or a handful of other sexist phrases designed to shame her into submissiveness. The blame or focus of the insult is targeted at women rather than men.

We perpetuate sexism against women through outwardly sexist remarks and through subtleties like word choice: females in leadership positions are seen as “bossy,” while males in the same positions are seen as “leaders.”

But there is something even more vitriolic about the insults directed toward men. Emasculating remarks often carry undertones of sexism toward both males and females. These remarks also carry stereotypes for what a man is supposed to be, creating standards for boys and men that are as unrealistic as the standards we hold for women.

When we tell males to “man up,” we are implying that the validity of a man’s existence relies on embodying male stereotypes, since it is naturally unfavorable for a man to resemble a woman. Women are stereotyped as inherently weak, whiny and generally incapable of fulfilling the variety of roles that men can. Why would a man want to act like a woman?

Not only are we implying that masculinity is the most valuable asset to a man, but we are also insulting women by claiming that their position is unfavorable.

Occasionally, to dehumanize a man, we may tell him that he is “not a real man.”

Scrolling through my Facebook news feed, I see a picture in support of victims of domestic violence. The picture may be captioned, “Men who hurt women are not real men. Like if you agree.” By doing this, we aim to dehumanize perpetrators of domestic violence. What we are really doing is attempting to give a dignified face to masculinity by denying these perpetrators of their manhood. We also are implying that men have some righteous, dignified purpose that women do not have.

What does it mean to act like a man or to “man up?” There is this assumption that there is a universal standard for how men are supposed to act. There is not a universal standard; there are only social constructs and stereotypes. When we tell a male to “man up,” we are telling him to act tough. According to these stereotypes, men are supposed to be physically and mentally strong, dominating forces.

Men are supposed to be dominating? That sounds like a standard that could fuel violence against women.

When we push these ideas of masculinity on young boys, we are creating the wrong idea of how they should act. A world of damage can come with perpetuating the glorified stereotypes of manhood. These stereotypes may negatively manifest in boys: through steroid use to appear as the physical epitome of masculinity, or being in an abusive relationship to uphold the standard of domination.

It is only logical to avoid telling a male, particularly a young boy, to “man up.” We must consider the damaging impacts of the perpetuation of stereotypes regarding masculinity and femininity, even when it comes to something as subtle as word choice.

Brianna Zimmerman is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected].