Another phrase I am so very sick of

“Man up”. Yep, if I never heard that again I would be one very happy lady.

It’s like people write articles like this just to keep me in the blogging business. ‘WOmen told they must man up’. To be fair, it is only the author who uses the phrase man up. But the article itself is full of that attitude, just without the nasty phrasing. It gets off to a really good start

Behaving more like men could help women boost their sex lives, eat healthier and stress less.

But that would mean bitching less, not focusing as much on perfection and worrying less about being on a diet.

Becoming more comfortable with being sexually aroused would also help improve a woman’s sex life, according to experts.

Oh, we complain about things? And have worries. Sorry for being total Debbie Downers.

registered psychologist and director at Auckland’s MindWorks clinic, Sara Chatwin, said many women aired their problems with too many people and gossiped mercilessly among friends.

Men, on the other hand, tended to keep their problems to themselves or asked advice from one trusted person – something women could learn from.

“Women are more likely to canvas a raft of friends about an issue, whereas men are more self-contained,” said Chatwin.

“It is often really problematic, the way women gossip, and really anxiety-inducing.”

Chatwin said women should adopt the male “can-do” attitude.

“We should stop gossiping and start acting. Men make decisions well.”

Maybe I’m alone in this, but I dislike hearing gender-based generalizations like “men make decisions well”; “women air their problems with too many people”. Especially from a psychologist. Maybe I am hyper-sensitive, but I just loathe being told that I am a neurotic, catty, boundary-less insecure wreck; because that’s what you do when you make a generalization: you’re making that blanket statement about every member of that group. Guess what? I can make decisions pretty well, thanks. And I know plenty of men who don’t have that male “can-do attitude” (and would admit this themselves). Does this exempt them from the male group? Are they women now?

Chatwin said women who focused too much on being perfect – whether it involved keeping the bathroom clean to not having a hair out of place – could also be doing themselves a disservice.

Here’s a crazy idea: why don’t we do something to change the motherfucking culture that tells women that they need to be perfect? Because this worry doesn’t come from nowhere. It comes from repeated exposure to messages about being the best and having it all and looking good while doing it. And it comes from pressure on women to look after their kids and work a job so they can have a career and then come home and clean the bathroom, all with not a hair out of place. Women aren’t just worrying about these things and feeling inadequate because we don’t already have enough to stress about. These ideas come from somewhere. So telling women who worry about these things that they are doing themselves a disservice is pretty insulting, and very patronizing. Oh, you mean not worrying about being perfect is an option? I had no idea, silly me. If only I had known this, and it was that easy, then I wouldn’t have done it at all!

In the bedroom, women generally had things under control. But Wellington-based sexologist Michelle Mars said women could work on arousal.

“Men are comfortable with the idea of being aroused,” said Mars. “Women are less likely to say that something ‘turns them on’. They’re just not as comfortable with it but getting aroused is what makes all those feel-good hormones.

This too is missing a glaring point: women’s sexuality is pretty freakin’ maligned in society, and a lot of women don’t know how to ask for what they want, or think they can, or they think they have to be a certain way to be sexy – a way that they themselves might not find sexy and arousing at all – because of the messages they are exposed to about what sexiness is, and what is an acceptable form of sexuality for a woman. So is it surprising that some women might not feel totally comfortable with the sexuality and the idea of being aroused? This article is so superficially written, completely failing to mention any of the societal forces acting upon women. I know, it’s The Herald. But if you can’t accurately represent the situation, don’t do it a massive disservice by presenting only the shallowest of half pictures. Because people like me will get angry, and maybe shout about it. And someone will read this and feel bad about themselves because they have these problems and now feel like they are to blame, or someone will read it and go “yeah! Damn women just need to be more like men!” and start perpetuating that idea, which could do some damage.

The whole article is ladies do this silly thing; men do this sensible thing. Ladies swallow down tubs of icecream when they’re sad; men just swallow their feelings and get on with their lives! Aren’t men the smartest? Be like men! Men can just get up and go for a run; ladies decide not to because they have a physical injury – one that will probably be worsened by running! Oh, ladies.

Another terrible thing about this was the little tip list at the end by the actress (Sally Martin) who plays Nicole on Shortland Street about how she “lives like a man”. Oh, so there are tips on how to do this besides “if you identify as a man, you are living like one”? Because, in case some 101 is needed here, there is no one way to “live like a man”. A list of advice demonising ‘female’ behaviour, and praising the ‘male’ behaviour to perform in these situations is terrible, and I find it pretty offensive. If this was saying ‘hey, sometimes we all procrastinate, or we try to enjoy our lives more’, and was gender-neutral, then ok. But it isn’t. It’s pigeonholing behaviour (and people), saying that women do this, and men do that. Basically, the tip list and the whole article are saying here are ways that ladies are fucking up, and if you just act like men, you’ll be doing things properly. Which completely ignores the giant glaring fact that all of us -men and women- act in non-optimal ways sometimes, and making a mess of a situation, or having fears, or being flawed isn’t gender-specific behaviour.


  1. Katie says:

    Wow. I was under the impression that part of the reason NZ has such a high suicide rate amongst men (especially young men) was that they find it difficult keeping problems pent up and having no one to talk to. I have a big problem with the culture that tells men to “man up” which can result in suicides, alcoholism, violence, etc (obviously women do these things too, but statisics are heavily weighted towards men). Now us ladies are supposed to ‘man up’ and even out the suicide statistics?

    Also, last year there was a tsunami of current affairs shows and reports of statisics telling us that females were ‘manning up’ and becoming ladettes – and much hand-wringing ensued. So which is it? Should I act like a man or act like a lady? When can I act like me? And am I supposed to encourage my male friends to act like themselves, or when they come to me with their problems should I tell them to “man up”?

    Apologies for the rant, but this kind of drivel makes me so mad – it’s almost enough to drive a girl towards starting her own blog! Good on ya Herald, and your inspirational rage inducing crap.

    • steph says:

      Thanks for the comment, Katie 🙂

      Glad to know someone besides myself sees a real problem with this. The blanket statement that women tell their problems/worries to too many people is ridiculous; how would they know how many people I talk to about my problems? And how many is too many? Apparently telling one person is ok, but more is just oversharing. And being told that the way you deal with your problems is wrong is a pretty harsh thing to say, because most people will deal in their own way.

      Yes, I agree wholeheartedly with you that reinforcing the idea that men keep stuff to themselves and this is the best way to do things could be very harmful. Shouldn’t we be encouraging people to ask for help, and talk to people about their problems?

      You’re right again when you mention that women are being told to man up, but also at the same time to stop acting like men and be more like women. If ever there was an example of ridiculouslt contradictory advice…

      Don’t feel like you are ranting, it seems like a very natural reponse to this kind of rubbish! And this is the reason I started my blog, so I fully understand the ‘this will drive me to blogging’ attitude!

  2. Boganette says:

    Well said Steph and Katie. Couldn’t agree more.

  3. Grumpy says:

    Well put!

    I am so tired of generalisations being applied to the mind-blowing variety of people in NZ and it is such lazy thinking to proport such ideas. Jesus, even when I was an 19 year old student we used to take the piss out of each other with “sweeping generalisations” and “mass assumptions”!

    Best not to even get me started on how dressing “sexily” allegedly makes one feel “turned on” and improves self-esteem. Personally, it would make me feel as if I was playing a role in order to convince myself I was feeling something that just wasn’t there. Bullshit.

  4. […] have Lauredhel at Hoyden About Town on unequal pay and Steph at Lady News on gendered language: Maybe I’m alone in this, but I dislike hearing gender-based generalizations like “men make […]

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