The other day I wrote about my mother-in-law's key to successful son-raising that involved never telling my husband to man-up. She said she let him cry when he was sad and never tried to make him tough. Miraculously, he grew to be a tall, bearded human being with a deep voice despite this radical parenting of not giving a crap if he was a "manly" baby. Imagine!
Be a man. Don't cry like a girl. Man up.
Unfortunately, this manning up business of boy babies and little boys is still common, if not gaining in popularity in recent years. Take Grayson, the little boy now-famous for his love of My Little Pony who was told to hide his lunch box by the school guidance counselor. Instead of teaching students how to behave and accept one another, the school shrugged, seemed to side with the bullies and banned the backpack. Kids will be kids. That boy should man up. Don't be such a girl. Hide your girly backpack.
The underlying bullshit here is being a girl is the worst thing to be, hence the insult. Teaching boys to "man up" ultimately teaches them not only that their feelings shouldn't be felt, but that girls are beneath them. That carries into adulthood. Look at the problem of stay-at-home-dads bewildered and frustrated at the lack of respect they command for their work. Solution: Respect the work when women do it and it won't be seen as degrading when a man does it.
My friend at High Heels & Training Wheels argues girls have more choices than boys. Do they? Or are the choices girls traditionally make only good enough for girls, which is why boys can't make them? Take for example two situations of kids bringing gender-opposite lunch boxes:
1. There was Katie with her "boyish" Star Wars thermos. She was bullied at school. Her awesome mom wrote about the situation and support came in. It clicked. The kids came around. Katie's mother was rightly praised for supporting her and Katie was never taken out of school.
2. Grayson comes to school with a "girly" My Little Pony lunch box and not only did the administration side with the bullies by banning his lunch box, but online support has been mixed. There seems to be a vocal camp that blames the victim himself for not conforming and for "asking for it" with that "girly" lunchbox that makes him an "easy target". The bullying got so bad, Grayson's mother (criticized as well for not "manning" him up) had to pull him out of school. He's currently being home schooled.
Another example I have noticed of "man up" craziness is the issue of baby names. Leslie and Lauren used to be men's names. So was Addison and Ashley. Tell me how many common girl names have turned into boy names? It doesn't happen because as soon as a name has girl cooties, the boys abandon it while girls are always chasing that rainbow of acceptable choices. Think about it. Even baby names have to man up. (Not that girls with boys names aren't TOTALLY adorable. They are! Just an observation!)
But hey, the situation has an easy fix: Down with man up. Lucky Mothers Of Boys and I are teaming up to launch a little fun called Down With Man Up. If you feel like writing your own experiences, you can guest post here (email me at HighGlossChicago@gmail.com) or blog your heart on your own and tweet using the hashtag #downwithmanup. It will be jolly!
Manning up hurts boys and it hurts girls too. The patriarchy hurts everyone. Oh crap, there I go being a feminist again. The next thing you know, I'll be looking people in the eye with a firm handshake and taking credit for my work like a banshee. I kid.
But seriously. Down with man up.
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Filed under: Raising sisters