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What’s up with ‘man up ?’

“Man up.” When you hear the phrase, what comes to mind?

  • Taking responsibility?
  • Acting courageously?
  • Showing toughness?

Apparently some Duke University students consider “man up” akin to profanity, or even worse, as a form of verbal bullying. man up

A series of posters going up around the Duke campus are a joint creative venture of two student groups, each geared toward encouraging students to be sensitive to co-eds who have a different lifestyle than them. Each poster features a different disparaging word or phrase that’s a staple of a typical college student’s vocabulary. Most are sexual in nature and just plain vulgar.

As I looked over all the other posters, I couldn’t figure out how “man up” rose to the offensiveness level of all the other pejorative phrases.

Then it occurred to me: in their way of thinking any phrases that refer to a standard for masculinity (or femininity) are wrong. Therefore, the phrase “man up” is sexist and degrading. Unfortunately, in their attempt to discourage gender-based negative labeling, the Duke students have overlooked the positive connotation of the phrase “man up.”

Guys need to be called up to embrace the way they’re made. The more science comes to understand, the more it confirms that men and women are inherently different. Even as young children, girls tend to play more relationally with each other, while boys play alongside or even in competition with each other. Girls’ activities more likely gravitate toward nurturing and relationship-building, while boys are more active in exploring the world, pushing the limits and themselves.

As they grow to adulthood, men want to be respected more for what they achieve, women more for who they are. When a man doesn’t accept responsibility, doesn’t look out for the best interests of others (especially his family), or buckles under moderate pressure, it’s perfectly appropriate to tell him to “man up.” Because responsibility, courage, and service are what a man does.

Contrary to how the posters characterize it, manhood doesn’t imply superiority to womanhood, or prohibit publicly showing emotion. It’s kind of ironic when you think about it. What would a good man do if he heard someone being demeaned in a way described in many of the Duke posters. He’d “man up” by standing up for the attacked and against the attacker. A good woman might not jump into the middle of a fight, but she’d almost certainly come alongside the victim to comfort and console.

I commend the Duke students for standing up against bullying and inhumane treatment of individuals. But they’d do well to “wise up” to the fact that differences between men and women are a good and natural thing worth standing up for.

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2 Comments

  1. Gary's Gravatar Gary
    June 12, 2014    

    To me “man up” means take your responsibilities seriously. Found a great website called Man Up God’s Way that reinforces this.
    Really like your articles, they are very helpful and encouraging.

    • Scott Williams's Gravatar Scott Williams
      June 12, 2014    

      Thanks, Gary. If you find a particular article encouraging, please share with friends and let them know about Stepping Up.

  1. What’s up with ‘man up ?’ - ChristianLiving.tv on June 12, 2014 at 10:55 pm

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