Buddy System

Understanding men and their friendships.

Man Up! You can't be serious

Man up is a bit down of women and men

On Saturday, the New York Times reported that Robin Carnahan, a Democratic senate candidate in Missouri, and Sharron Angle, a Republican senate candidate in Nevada told their male opponents, Roy Blunt and Harry Reid during their respective debates, that they should "man up."  For Carnahan she was quoted as saying to Blunt, "And man up. And do what you're asking other people to do." Angle said to Reid, "Man up, Harry Reid. You need to understand that we have a problem with Social Security" (p. A10).  Each is from a different party so this blog is not about attacking one party or the other. 

Both statements are off the charts ridiculous.  Is the implication behind them that Reid and Blunt are not acting like men? I understand the history of the outdated notion that someone needs to "be a man" and act tough, take responsibility, and be a leader.  But is that expression really still around today on the lips of women candidates? Is it okay to impugn their masculinity like this? "Take responsibility" could easily have been substituted for "man up" but in using "man up," it calls into play the obvious retort.  What if a candidate, male or female, told an opponent to "woman up?"

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In a bygone era, telling someone to "woman up" would have meant she should act the way a traditional woman was expected to act.  She should stay home and take care of children, perhaps while a man took care of family financially.  In today's world, woman up could mean the same as man up - take responsibility and act like a leader (think Hillary Clinton, Angela Merkle, and Margaret Thatcher - all women who take/took responsibility and act(ed) like leaders.

 So I can't quite figure out what these women were saying about their opponents' masculinity or what they were saying about women in general.  But it feels like a putdown of both and, ultimately, of themselves as women candidates.

Geoffrey Greif, Ph.D., is a Professor at the University of Maryland School of Social Work and author of Buddy System: Understanding Male Friendships.

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