Why I really hate the phrase ‘man up’


“Just man up already”

The phrase ‘man up’ has swept across the world at an alarming rate. In my opinion this phrase sends completely the wrong message to those in hearing: that masculinity is the only symbol of strength. That maleness is the epitome of success and that which all humanity attains to.

Even if you think I am reading too much into it or being overly sensitive, it doesn’t alter the fact that I strongly dislike the phrase. I hate hearing it being used by anyone, regardless of gender. My mind interprets the phrase in certain ways, none of them complimentary. None of this is meant as an insult to men; rather, I believe in freedom for all whether that translates to equality in some aspects or the right to express ourselves how we wish in others.

‘Man up’ assumes that anything relating to femininity is automatically weaker. It is telling someone to become better, become stronger, to become more like a man. It uses masculinity as a measure of strength, not only physically, but in any and every area of life. It assumes that the only way a person will be successful in any particular regard or reach their goals is by adopting stereotypical male attitudes and qualities.

Even the beginnings of the Feminist movement ironically perpetuated the myth that to be considered of worth or value a woman needed to model themselves on the stereotypical man. We see this in the widely circulated propaganda of the movement.  Sadly, it was at the time the only way in which repressed women cold hope to be taken seriously in a male dominated world.



This modern adoption of ‘man up’ is juxtaposed with how old fashioned, narrow minded and sexist it is. Worryingly, this doesn’t seem to bother the scores of people, male, female or otherwise who use the phrase, almost absent minded to the connotations of such a gender divisive exclamation. I’ve been guilty of using the phrase ‘grow some balls’ in the past, but the term ‘man up’ and my reaction to it has put a firm stop to that. That phrase also assumes that strength lies with the masculine of this world, whether physical or otherwise. Think about it. A man’s genitalia being the globally recognised measure of human strength, tolerance and success? No.

I refuse to counter patriarchal ignorance as purported by those of any gender with similar in a feministic vein, either. It would be hypocritical. There’s an admittedly amusing quote:

“Balls are weak and sensitive. If you wanna be tough, grow a vagina. Those things can take a pounding.”

…but this is gender divisive too. Are we still really not considering our merits and value beyond a primitive worth measure based on the shape of our genitals?

Don’t tell me to use the phrase ‘woman up’, that’s just being silly. I’m not some toddler who is getting upset that all my toys are the wrong colour, nor am I seeking to belittle the penis and hail the vulva as the Goddess of all that is good and right and natural. I am not a warrior in some men vs women war, I’m a person, the same as all other people on this planet. Ok perhaps not the same, but you get my point. Freedom of expression, rights, thoughts, opinions, equal opportunities.

In my opinion, ‘man up’ and ‘grow some balls’ as phrases are completely unnecessary. There are other, less gender divisive and yet still globally understandable ways to make the same point. How about ‘grow a backbone’, ‘get assertive’, ‘find some confidence’? These are gender free assertions that we can all aspire to.

To be strong, confident and assertive I do not feel the need to model myself on a man, or ‘man up’ myself, whether with regards to my looks, my personality or my mind set. I attempt to work on my confidence as a human being, not identifying my perceived strengths and weaknesses by what gender the world says they relate to. I can feel like a strong person whether in high heels or Caterpillar boots. I can be assertive in a pinstriped power suit or in a pretty pastel floral dress. I can enjoy the Dominant aspect of my nature in a D/s regard without needing to ‘strap on a cock’ – although I may choose to wear a strap on at times depending on my mood.


Basically I do not believe that the measure of a person’s strength and their chance for success in life, however you interpret that, comes from their external or internal gender. I also believe that it’s short sighted to underestimate a person simply because their lifestyle, wardrobe, employment, sexual or other preferences do not fit with your particular perception of what strength is.

Strength. What does it come down to? Let’s face it – I would probably be unable to lift a heavy piece of furniture and I may even make the casual comment that it would be easier if a man were around to do this. I’d be unlikely to, as I try to avoid making gender based comments unless it’s by mutual consent in the setting of roleplay and D/s. Obviously I make jokes, I have a sense of humour, I’m not a ‘sex positive warrior’ (although I strive to be sex positive) and I’m an imperfect being, making comments that can seem offensive to others without that being my intent.

In the case of lifting heavy furniture, I’d be more likely to say something along the lines of ‘oh if only I were a bodybuilder this would be so easy’ or ‘well I definitely need more spinach in my diet’. Even then I’d still be unlikely to say these statements, favouring instead to hire someone to do such jobs for me as I know that physical strength isn’t one of my, erm, strengths. And that’s fine, too.

I don’t feel any less of a woman – or any less of a man – because I’m not physically strong, I just feel confident enough in my overall value as a human being to be able to state when I’m not able to do a certain thing. Not because I’m a woman or because I’m not a man; because it’s not part of my personal skill set. I don’t feel like a weak person, on a character level. For me, physical strength is a skill I don’t have, just like I am not a carpenter, a computer programmer or an opera singer. It doesn’t mean that with training I couldn’t be or do any of those things; I have other strengths which are particular to me and my experiences and training in life.

I still don’t label myself a Feminist (although others seem determined to label me so), nor am I an anti-Feminist; one of a recent and peculiar (to me) breed of cake baking, basket weaving, bootee knitting, husband-seeking-missiles out to reinstate the gender divide of previous centuries that the world at large (regardless of gender and not by one particular gender or movement) has struggled to overcome.


Now we are on the verge of yet another 50 Shades based global explosion: the movie happening in 2015. It seems a shame that to find such a widescale popularity, D/s has so far needed to be presented to the world through a typical Dominant male submissive female filter. I ponder over whether the storyline would have been so popular (and likewise, that of earlier film Secretary) if it surrounded the activities of a Dominant, successful businesswoman and a submissive, shy and questioning male. Sadly, I don’t find myself wondering for long. As long as Dominance follows the majority’s version of normal, the primitive protective strong man controlling/taking care of (depending on your view) the weaker, submissive female, it seems palatable for most of the world.  I plan to write more about this issue in the near future.

Next time you feel the need to tell someone to ‘man up’, won’t you please think about the assumptions that phrase makes and perhaps choose another? I’m not here to tell you what to do, but I genuinely don’t understand why anyone would choose to use such a gender divisive phrase in what I would hope is a more enlightened, equal and freedom positive world.





  1. Not only that, but even when “Man Up” is used between men further enforces the mind set of the only good male is a strong male.

    As a man who is not the most typically masculine (dahlink), I know the phrase crops up a lot in teen bullying to deride people who don’t fit the stereotype.

    In my head its transposed to “step up”, and the shame is that in some usage it’s a good concept – encouraging taking of responsibility, or just doing the right thing, just as you say other phrases fit in seamlessly without the implied male superiority.

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