Manning Up.

This post originally appeared on The Good Men Project.

“Man up, mate.” “Don’t be a pussy.” “Grow some balls.”

How many times have we heard these phrases—hell, sometimes we’ve been the ones dishing them out—aimed at the men we know and love?

I’ve been guilty of it myself, when a male friend cries to me on the phone about a failed relationship or bemoans a difficult co-worker/friend/family member and won’t just confront them about the problem. I don’t always say, “Just man up and do something about it!” Sometimes I just think it, which still isn’t ideal.

A recent spate of shows in the U.S. are cottoning on to this “masculinity” crisis, where men use “pomegranate body wash” and are at the mercy of the women in their lives:

“Among them are How to be a Gentleman, in which a metrosexual writer hires a trainer to dewussify him; Last Man Standing, with Tim Allen as a sporting-goods-company executive beset by girly men; Man Up, in which a group of male friends worry they’ve lost touch with their inner warriors; and Work It, in which two guys dress in drag to land jobs as pharmaceutical reps.”

This is nothing new, though. Scholars have long been lamenting “The War Against Boys”, which is also the title of Christina Hoff Sommers’ book on the topic.

But when we/society tell men to “stop being such sissies,” we’re sending the message that anything associated with “femaleness… [is] so insulting that men should react with full outrage,” Jill Filipovic writes on Feministe.

So how are these messages affecting actual men, not just those on fictional American TV shows?

When I asked a couple of my guy friends how they feel when told to “man up,” they replied as follows.

Eddie, 25, says because he “still does kiddy stuff like collect comics, people tend to think one of my faults is being a pushover. I also tend to be pretty open with my emotions. I can’t tell you the true meaning of ‘man up’, because everyone carries different reasons as to what makes someone a ‘man’. I, myself, will not ‘man up’ because I don’t think I need to and haven’t for a long time.”

Andrew, also 25, says, “I think there are men and women who, no doubt, find ‘man up’ offensive, because there are plenty of women who embody courage, fortitude and strength more than plenty of men. By the same token I think there are plenty of men who would find being told to ‘man up’ harrowing, because they lack confidence in their masculinity or cannot even define what the term means to them.”

As I wrote on this here blog last year, I have a real problem with the term “as it implies that simply being a man is equivalent to being courageous.” I, like Andrew, know a lot of women with more “balls” than their sack-packing counterparts. But talking about the role-reversal of women who possess “courage, fortitude and strength” as if they are purely masculine traits is damaging, too. We need to get over this gender stereotyping business and accept individuals for who they are, regardless of gender. (This way of thinking applies to the understanding of transgender people, too.)

We also need to get rid of this “disconcerting… focus on dominance and submission” in gender relations. On the other side of the coin, “stop being such a girl” comes to mind.

Hugo Schwyzer recently bemoaned the “real women” trope and how that has now been transferred onto men:

“Men are not immune from the pressure to be ‘real’. It’s been nearly 30 years since the tongue-in-cheek bestseller Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche spoofed an earlier generation’s Guy Code. But today, the ‘real men’ trope is everywhere. ‘Real Men Don’t Buy Girls’ is Ashton and Demi’s campaign to shame pedophiles, replete with the unspoken implication that ‘real men’ never have to pay for sex with women of any age …

“When I ask my students at the beginning of my Men & Masculinity course about ‘real men’, I get responses like, ‘real men aren’t afraid to show affection,’ or ‘real men like to dance,’ or ‘real men can cry in public and not care what anyone else thinks.’ My students want to subvert the traditional ‘sturdy oak’ model of masculinity. They mean well. But all they’re doing is swapping one unattainable ideal for another. Just as ‘real women have curves’ delegitimises countless slim women, ‘real men aren’t afraid to cry’ shames those men who for any number of reasons are awkward about public displays of emotion. The contemporary ‘real man’ ideal presents itself as inclusive, but it’s just another cultural straightjacket.”

So what is a “real man” according to… erm… real men?

Eddie thinks there’s a difference between being a “good man” and a “real man”:

“‘Man up’, for me, means being the best man you can be. Being selfless, being kind, being adult enough to handle responsibility while never taking yourself too seriously.”

While those traits may be what Eddie views as “good man qualities”, for the next guy they could be polar opposites. Being a good man is in the eye of the beholder, it would seem.

For me, respecting people and, especially, your significant other is paramount to “manning up” (or “human[ning] up”, as Irin Carmon puts it): being able to exert your opinion and standing up for what you believe in without the use of violence.

As Filipovic continues: “There is something very, very wrong with a masculinity premised on violence.” Where are men getting these messages that violence and aggression = machismo? (Um, years of socialisation and the media come to mind…)

For the founders of The Man Up Campaign, a “global initiative that engages youth to stop gender-based violence”, this ideal seems to be the consensus. “‘Our call to action challenges each of us to “man up” and declare that violence against women and girls must end,’ its mission statement reads.”

As recent as 50, 20, even ten years ago, being a “man” involved a large portion of physical aggression. And, despite feminism’s and gender equality’s best efforts, a look at many mainstream representations of men in the media, that stereotype still rings true today.

But if we can, through initiatives such as The Man Up Campaign, make it so that being called a “pussy”, like being called “gay,” is nothing to be ashamed of, even just for one person, then I think it’s a job well done.

After all, pussies push small humans out of them so they can’t be all that weak!

Related: Newspaper Clipping of the Week: Man Up.

Elsewhere: [The Good Men Project] Manning Up.

[Jezebel] Why Are Men Feeling So “Manxious” About The Rise of Women?

[Time] High Manxiety.

[Feministe] Masculinity Crisis.

[Jezebel] Stop Telling Men to “Man Up”.

[Jezebel] Real Women Have… Bodies.

[The Man Up Campaign] Homepage.

[New York Times] On Language: The Meaning of “Man Up”.

Movies: I Don’t Know Why They Keep Making Chick Flicks Like This*.

Even though I’m still young and don’t have a potential baby daddy on the horizon, I’ve been contemplating children lately. How many I want, whether they’ll be biological or adopted, and how I’m going to handle (a) tiny human(s) demanding my attention 24/7. I just don’t know how parents do it!

In this day and age, with the rise of the stay-at-home dad, it’s not always the mothers’ responsibility to look after the home, the family and her workplace.

I Don’t Know How She Does It would have you think otherwise, though. Sarah Jessica Parker’s Kate Reddy is a high-flying investment banker who has a nanny during the day, but tries to spend as much time as she can with “the cutest guy she knows”, her husband, played by Greg Kinnear, and her two kids. I got the feeling that she never slept (the constant list making in bed at all hours of the night probably lent itself to this), was a walking zombie, spent minimal time with her husband and kids, spent her weekends hosting kids’ birthday parties and never had a spare moment for herself. If this is what motherhood and family life is like, I’m withdrawing my application.

But it’s not just the “out of touch”-ness of IDKHSDI, as Dana Stevens called it in her Slate review (my friend, Tess, who I went to see the movie with, drew ire with Kate’s “chronic over-apologising” and “persecution complex”, and I have to say I agree), nor the unrealistic and polar opposite portrayal of stay-at-home mums (Busy Phillips’ character, Wendy, attends the gym from 8am to 2pm every school day. My mum was a stay-at-home one and I can tell you THAT JUST DOES NOT HAPPEN! I’m insulted on behalf of housewives everywhere.) that infuriated me. It was the blatant pro-life message the film pushed.

Kate’s junior co-worker, Momo, played brilliantly by Olivia Munn, was all about work, with some occasional no-strings-attached sex to balance it out. Momo is socially awkward, hates children, and thinks Kate’s family compromises her ability to do her job.

So when Momo finds out she’s pregnant and tells Kate she’s going to “take care of it”, Kate launches into a “creepy pro-life proselytisation”. In the next scene, Momo is keeping the baby. If that’s not a unabashed punishment for a young, attractive woman enjoying sex without commitment, I don’t know what is.

As Irin Carmon puts it, “… Why, if having a choice was so awesome, the young woman in the movie couldn’t have made another one. You know, the one she convincingly would have wanted to make.”

*Blanket spoiler alert.

Elsewhere: [Slate] I Don’t Know How She Does It Reviewed: Sarah Jessica Parker Rides the Rapids of Upper-Middle-Class Parenthood.

[Jezebel] My Group Therapy Session with Sarah Jessica Parker.

Image via BoxOffice.com.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

 

“The Fashion Industry’s Anorexia Problem.”

Gala Darling offers an interesting take on pageantry. It seems not all beauty queens are vapid glorified prom queens with “miles of hair extensions, industrial-sized cans of hairspray and gallons of butt glue”.

Do you have to be a mother to be empathetic?:

“The reason Queensland Premier Anna Bligh was able to handle the flood crisis with such competence [is because she is a mother], according to a fellow mum. How true, how true, clucked a host of TV talk show mums the next day, as the commentators all agree that Anna won the ‘image’ war over Julia in the aftermath. Then of course she would—only a mother can cry with conviction for lives lost.”

90210: “The Sexist Postcode”?:

“So 90210 was an important early building block of enlightened sexism because it insisted that the true, gratifying pleasures for girls, and their real source of power, came from consumerism, girliness, and the approval of guys…”

My friend Anthony and I were discussing the benefits of cheap Coles milk when we paused and though, what exactly does cheap milk mean for farmers and why all the fuss? Rick Morton of MamaMia is here to answer our questions.

Also at MamaMia, the defence force sex scandal.

Speaking of, MamaMia’s 3.0 launch is the only blog redesign I’ve liked in recent months (Jezebel, I’m looking at you).

“Wait? What? This is where it gets interesting for me as a sex positive parent. My son just went from wishing he was sexy to shaming a girl for being just that? I rolled up my sleeves and got ready to do some unpacking.” The unpacking the primary school backpack on “Slut-Shaming on the Playground”.

This is just plain wrong: “The 15 Most Inappropriate Baby Outfits”.

The cigarette packaging reform.

Michael Cole, WWE announcer, tweets a gay slur. GLAAD faux pas or staying in character?

Are disability jokes really that bad? Or are we all just going PC crazy? (Just ask Laura Money and Kieran Eaton at their Unfinished Business stand-up show for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.)

The meaning of Sucker Punch according to io9:

“1. Insane people and sex workers are interchangeable.

“2. Women can only triumph over adversity in their dreams.

“3. Action movies spring from the imaginations of enslaved, mentally unstable prostitutes.”

“Do You Know What a Normal Female Body Looks Like Anymore?”

Francine Pascal as feminist literature pioneer?:

“In the beginning, that wasn’t enough for many booksellers, who deemed Sweet Valley too ‘commercial’ for their readers. The Times snubbed the series; librarians fought to keep their stacks free of the ‘skimpy-looking paperbacks,’ as one library journal put it. It was Pascal’s fans who defended her: buying a dizzying 250 million copies before the series published its 152nd and final title, in 2003. The series even became a case study in how to get young girls to read. ‘Sweet Valley changed the dynamics of the industry,’ says Barbara Marcus, who, as former president of Scholastic’s children’s business, published The Babysitter’s Club, Goosebumps, and Harry Potter. Sweet Valley spawned seven spinoff series, a TV show, a board game, and dolls. Not until Twilight came along have girl fans been so loyal.”

In this vintage post from the time of Jersey Shore’s debut, Irin Carmon discusses the cast’s views “On Beauty & Not Even Looking Italian”. Quite interesting, actually.

It’s time to go, Betty Draper.

Forget menopause; say hello to “manopause”.

First the video music world, now the movie world: Rebecca Black’s film debut in “Sunday Comes Afterwards”.

Porn WikiLeaks: damaging the reputation and safety of porn performers by publishing addresses, personal documents and hateful HIV diatribes (SFW).

The ugly step sister?

Images via Jezebel.

The Allure of the Co-Star.

 

From “Rashida Jones on the Lure of the Co-Star” by Irin Carmon on Jezebel:

“You kind of fall in love with yourself in the eyes of this other person… You’re in a cold place and you want to connect with somebody, you’re not near your husband or wife, and you’ll want to connect with somebody else.

“It’s hard for actors to distinguish between those feelings, and it’s hard to tell your body to communicate these things physiologically and yet it’s just acting and nothing else. With emotional stuff like that, it’s like a weird, short, unaccounted-for affair.”

Just ask Elizabeth Taylor!

Elsewhere: [Jezebel] Rashida Jones on the Lure of the Co-Star.

Image via Station Hollywood.