When I returned to campus this fall and was confronted with advertisements for the “Man Up” campaign, it provoked me to think about gender stereotypes and how they affect our everyday lives. I have nothing against the Man Up campaign. Discussing issues about men and masculinity is totally appropriate, and a conversation we need to have.
What I find interesting is the phrase “Man Up.” Out of the context of the Loras Man Up campaign, “man up” generally means to toughen up and fight things out. It’s interesting that despite our efforts to build an equal society, our informal diction regarding gender still promotes the inaccurate idea of female inferiority.
If you look at the collection of gender-related phrases and pejorative terms that most people use on a regular basis, you should be frightened on how extremely sexist they are. “Man up,” “stop acting like a girl”, “grow some balls,” and other expressions are a normalized component of our culture. From a sociological perspective, if we are to correct the societal ills that create gender inequality, we should consider reforming our basic perceptions on what it means to be a man compared to a woman. These phrases perpetuate and enforce the misconceived notion that men are inherently superior to women, and also that anything comparable to women is also inherently inferior (one of the primary catalysts for male homophobia). If we are to correct current gender issues such as pay inequities, gender stereotyping and institutional sexism, we first need to go to the most rudimentary level of sexist attitudes.
Language enforces views about people from the beginning of life, long before a person can become indoctrinated by more complex systemic and political forms of discrimination. If we could change the messages we send out about men and women via our diction, we would allow for the next generation to develop without preconceived gender stereotypes flooding their minds. That kind of elementary level change could help systematically transform the more complex elements of our society that are far more challenging to correct. So I suggest we create a “Woman Up” campaign and show our communities that being a woman is just as strong and dignified as being a man, and worthy of just as much respect.