Like many, I am genuinely conflicted about being politically correct. I don’t like hate speech and I don’t want to offend anyone, but at what point does political correctness become overbearing and excessive? Duke University has a student led campaign called “You don’t say?” that works to inform people about phrases that are offensive to certain minorities and therefore should not be used. I agree with them that many phrases such as “that’s so gay” and “fag” are horribly offensive and should not be used. But I disagree with them on other phrases. For instance they claim that saying “man up” to someone is offensive because it implies that women are inherently weak and it perpetuates the idea that masculinity is all about toughness.
Full disclaimer: I do think that an important part of being a man is to be tough and (at least try) to be a protector. On the whole men are stronger than women and that means that when there is a thump in the middle of the night, it is the man who gets out of bed to investigate. This, however, is not an ironclad rule. Trust me when I say that there are a lot of “men” who I wouldn’t want next to me in a foxhole and there are a lot of women I wouldn’t mess with. But overall I think it is a man’s duty to protect because men are generally more adept to fighting than women. Even if you aren’t the strongest man you still have a duty to do what you can to protect, and to abandon this duty is to abandon your manhood. This is not to say that women are helpless creatures with no duties of their own. The reason why men have the duty to protect is because they tend to be stronger than women, not because women have no ability to fight. It is about combining each sexes’ natural talents in order to create a stronger whole (a couple). Anyone who thinks women have no ability to protect have never heard the story about the mamma bear and her cubs…
If we do, however, decide that “man up” is offensive, should we eliminate other words from our vocabulary such as “motherly”? This word connotes the idea that women are more nurturing than men. I consider myself a nurturing person. Should I take offense to this word because biology dictates I cannot be a mother? The point is that it is ok for us to use words and phrases that imply certain gender roles. Just because you say “man up” or “motherly” doesn’t mean you think that gender stereotypes are rigid and unbreakable. They are just words that have certain meanings based on historical, biological and cultural contexts. Also, it is ok for men and women to be different. Sometimes I read “feminist” (I put it in quotes because while I respect feminism, there are a few radicals that I think ruin the movement) bloggers who seem to be implying that there should be no difference between men and women at all in society other than physical biological features. But if men and women are different physically, why is it so hard to believe that they may also have minds that operate in different, yet equal capacities. No one is better than the other, they are just different.
Because of my views on masculinity are slightly more traditional, I don’t think people should be offended by the phrase “man up”. If someone is being a wimp, they should man up. Including women. To me the phrase is just a logically justified choice of words that means you should stop being a wimp, which is a bad thing for a man or a woman to be. If you take offense to the saying, well, you should probably man up. It’s a tough world out there.
It should go without saying, but the quickest way to lose your manhood is to disrespect women because your “being a man” makes you automatically superior to them. As a great movie once said: “The man is the head, but the woman is the neck. And she can turn the head any way she wants.”