Man Up!

man up
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As a one who grew up in a household of stunningly talented, self-confident women, I was always impressed with the blunt idiocy of the boy-to-boy exhortations “Be a man!” and “Don’t be a girl!” These never corresponded with the way I selected my role models.

Don’t get me wrong: I like glib, razzing smack like “Grow a pair!” and “Show some sack!” as much as the next guy. The misplaced misogyny implied in the slight only adds to the silliness. The problem is that these insults are usually slung with only half the requisite irony. And it’s rarely edifying to inform people who have just cracked an almost funny joke that they have failed to understand the root of the humor, essentially revealing their own metaphorical impotence, not that of their quarry.

The crude, anatomical, synecdochic insults “Don’t be a pussy!” and “Don’t be a dick!” are, of course, the highest forms of the art. They are also the most telling. The former says to men: don’t behave in ways we find virtuous in women. The latter says: don’t behave like the man you are. Small wonder that the former never sounds smart and the latter always stings.

Do you have something to add on this topic? Don’t be a pussy; leave a comment. Just don’t be a dick about it.


12 Responses to “Man Up!”

  1. 1 mbjesq 3 January 2010 at 11:16 pm

    Here’s a related thought:

    The idea that male toughness involves an ability to endure more pain than women is one of the all-time stupid notions, as any woman who has experienced childbirth or had a boyfriend will attest. Rather than repeat myself on this subject, I’ll simply reference an old essay called, “Getting in Touch with My Feminine Side”.


  2. 2 smita 4 January 2010 at 12:25 am


    Has traffic to your site been slow lately? I’m looking forward to seeing the people these tags bring over.

    But your piece begs an interesting question. The examples you use are all American, I think. But there are corresponding insults in India too – for example telling a man to put on bangles if he seems to lack courage. Does every culture have something of that nature? In that case, perhaps it’s just a cultural manifestation of the human genome.


  3. 3 mbjesq 4 January 2010 at 12:35 am


    The chauvinism at the heart of this male interplay is a pretty universal thing. So perhaps men say the same stupid shit to each other the world over.



  4. 4 smita 4 January 2010 at 12:39 am


    If women say it to men, is it still chauvinism? Because they do. And you know, in India at least, the women are at least as responsible as men for the way Indian men turn out….


  5. 5 mbjesq 4 January 2010 at 12:58 am


    Sure it’s still chauvinism. Do you really think that — in a world where men are still born of, raised by, and incurably attracted to women — these attitudes could persist without the complicity of the victims?


  6. 6 Sandy 5 January 2010 at 9:54 am

    Slick and to the point! Awesome piece!

    I agree and do think it is a universal syndrome. Women are smart but try telling a man that. And the man who knows women are smart are the ones who are actually smarter than women. Get the’s a cycle :) albeit one that keeps men complaining about their women in the company of their men friends (in case he gets labelled as hen-pcked) and the women complaining that nobody appreciates them…I think men and women are equally responsible for this.

    Bottomline – Men are not from Mars and neither are women from Venus…someday they should get used to the fact that they are from the third rock from the sun and deal with it.

  7. 7 JRF 5 January 2010 at 8:24 pm

    Uh, just wanted to say you look great in that photo. Been
    working out lately?

  8. 8 mbjesq 5 January 2010 at 9:07 pm


    True, this guy looks a lot like me. The giveaways are the missing abdominal scar and the fact that, with the exception of the “jeans” episode, I don’t wear skimpy little ball-huggers. Plus, I could kick this guy’s ass.


  9. 9 Liz 1 June 2010 at 5:32 am

    This is one well-written piece. Love it to bits :)

  10. 10 muby 6 September 2011 at 10:01 pm

    We need to find the ” black holes” in the different planet ” approach to the gender paradigm.. I think it’s time we challenged the sterotypes and feel ” man ” enough to cry and open up and show our real true emotions and be brave enough to embrace how we really feel than put up an act to show what we are supposed to be.

  11. 11 mbjesq 11 November 2013 at 10:07 am

    Amanda Marcotte writes smartly about the regressive spiral of manning-up in the wake of the Miami Dolphins NFL bullying episode. Check it out.

  12. 12 mbjesq 14 June 2016 at 2:01 pm

    Lexicon Valley has a full podcast on “pussy”, titled:
    “A Cat, a Coward, and Female Genitalia”, if you’re interested.

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