Feminism, “Manning Up,” and the Zero-Sum Game

Man up (mæn əp) v. : 1. to be strong,  2. to achieve your goal despite the obstacles, 3. to work through obstacles without complaining, 4. to grow up and behave maturely.

As a woman and a feminist I have a very specific perspective on the term ‘man up.’ It’s a highly gendered phrase, for one thing. The phrase implies that manhood is something that is achieved beyond simply being male. It also implies that certain characteristics, such as stoicism and strength, are masculine traits.

It’s also a phrase I’ve always been denied access to. As a woman, it is assumed that I am not capable of ‘manning up.’ What’s more, if I do exhibit characteristics usually associated with ‘manning up,’ I am perceived as behaving outside of the norm for my gender. Considering how highly western society values being able to ‘man up,’ this is problematic. Most jobs, for example, value someone who will get the job done regardless of whether they are ill or injured. We want employees who won’t let their personal lives affect their professional lives. Essentially, we want our employees to be able to ‘man up.’ So, as a woman in a job interview, I have to jump through that extra hoop and go that extra mile to prove that I am actually capable of all of these qualities. I have to exhibit enough characteristics that indicate I’m not like ‘most’ women, when it comes to my ability to ‘man up.’

Now, if you’re a man reading this, you may very well be frustrated by what I’m writing. You may be forming a comment in your mind right now that reads something like this: the term ‘man up’ puts undue pressure on men to remain stoic in even extremely difficult situations. It’s a phrase that tells men to deny their emotions, and that their actions are more important than what they are feeling. It also emphasizes our society’s assumption that men don’t have strong emotions, or at least not strong enough that they shouldn’t be quashed for the sake of finishing a task. It is also a phrase that can be used to imply that a man is not performing his gender well enough. To tell a man to ‘man up,’ is in essence telling him that in that moment he is not actually a man. Having access to the phrase ‘man up’ is actually quite a burden. Men aren’t just assumed to be capable or manning up, they are pressured into manning up, even when it’s detrimental to their well being.

If you were thinking of writing a comment like that, you’d be right. That is all true. Now if you’re a woman reading this, you may very well have read the above paragraph and thought, “That’s all well and good, but it still doesn’t take away from the way in which women are assumed to be incapable of ‘manning up.’” And if you’re thinking that, you’d be right too. Back to the men, “Alright, but that still doesn’t mean that being pressured to ‘man up’ is any less problematic.” Guess what, guys, you’re right too. ‘Round and ‘round and ‘round it goes, where it stops nobody knows.

This is where the zero-sum approach to gender issues often rears its ugly head, and the conversation often devolves into “women/men have it worse,” and record-breaking Oppression Olympics. But those sorts of arguments largely miss the point, which is that the term ‘man up’ is problematic and harmful to individuals in our society. Arguably it’s harmful to our society as a whole. So I say, let’s focus on figuring out how to get rid of that phrase entirely. Let’s focus on actually solving the problems with our gender system. To get metaphorical: let’s focus on fixing the forest, instead of arguing about which trees are worse.

So then what is the metaphorical forest in this issue of ‘manning up?’ As with so many social issues the focus should be on the systems that create and perpetuate the concept of ‘manning up.’ In this case, it’s only partly connected to our outdated gender norms. Our society has gendered a human behaviour that is not inherently tied to maleness or femaleness. This means that women who do prove their ability to ‘man up’ are perceived as being less feminine and womanly. On the other hand, men who don’t ‘man up’ are perceived as being less manly and masculine. If we took away the gendered aspect to this behaviour, it would become something that everyone had equal access to. It would be something that was judged on an individual basis, which really keeps in line with western culture’s emphasis on individuality.

However, even if we did somehow eliminate gender from the concept of ‘manning up,’ I question whether it’s really a trait worth valuing at all. Now the system we’re looking at is economic and work related. The way that capitalism has manifest in the west, particularly the U.S., results in placing a higher value on output than on the welfare of the employees. In effect, that’s what the term ‘manning up’ is asking people to do. The entire concept is borne out of an assumption that it is more important to suffer in silence and get the job done, than it is to work through negative emotions. It treats emotions as a luxury, and a not particularly useful luxury either.

When it comes to the concept of ‘manning up’ and the problems associated with it, gender is really only part of the equation. When we focus on which gender is affected worse, we end up completely missing the root causes of the idea. And if we fail to see the actual social systems in place that created ‘manning up,’ then we will be unable to truly change it.

See also: Grantland, ‘Man Up’ Is Bullshit by Ryan O’Hanlon.

—Photo credit: xinem/Flickr

About HeatherN

Heather N. is a Californian living in the United Kingdom. In order to survive, she has developed a keen appreciation for the color grey, rain, and sausage rolls. She spends far too much time reading, writing, blogging, and gaming. You can also find her saying witty things on Twitter.


  1. For me “Manning Up” is processes of competing with other males to attract an excellent female mate
    in the areas of
    1. Financially
    2. Physically
    3. Mentally
    4. Spiritually.
    5. Socially

    It says look at me, I am doing all the right things pick me ( To have a family with).
    Its taken me along time to accept this. Its the law of the Jungle.

    Were Feminists may stuggle is with is they too are competing for the best mates.
    Who are they competing with, other women. This is the real war women fight every day.
    Hair dye, High heels, make up, boob jobs make no sense other wise.

    I know women can have a family on their own, but two parent are generally way better then one.
    Men who are manning up, can be fussy in picking “missus right”
    and unfortunately for “Career focused Feminists” it might not be them,
    There is a needs mis match.
    Her career before his family life.
    Her career before his relationship.
    She is not meeting his needs and it is bye bye.

    A manned up man, Her career can get in the way.
    A womened up women, His non career gets in the way.

  2. Not buying it says:

    I enjoyed the article & the whole conversation to & I must say I look at you a whole lot differently now “heather” at least you are willing to look at & give & take in a gender ideology based discussion in my opinion, without running or hiding behind ideology statements only, that takes a lot of courage, call it manning up :):) or whatever you have lot’s of it, & thank you again for the article miss.

    • “At least you are willing to look at & give & take in a gender ideology based discussion in my opinion, without running or hiding behind ideology statements only.”

      Neil Degrasse Tyson (the physicist) has this quote that basically says that education is about teaching people how to think, not what to think, and I take that to heart. Just throwing that out there. 🙂

      Also, thanks for your comment. 🙂

  3. Josh Bowman says:

    Great article, Heather!! In my experience, showing emotion is often akin to showing weakness. If you don’t let everything roll off you, you are are seen as being petty or weak.

  4. Eric M. says:

    There must be a balance. Without output or with insufficient output there is no revenue or insufficient revenue and therefore no or poor well being. That is true wherever printed and/or electronic currency is used.

    • Well and I’m not saying that the concept of ‘sucking it up’ has no place in society. I just think it’s a limited place.

      And valuing output is still a cultural construct. The idea that without sufficient output there is no revenue is only valid in a society that pays for output. If we had a society that had monetized, say, employee well being, then that’d make for an entirely different way of generating revenue. Now with globalization it’s not very likely that we adopt a system that doesn’t monetize output, so yeah a certain amount of “sucking it up” is necessary. But at the minute we are most certainly out of balance.

      • Eric M. says:

        “And valuing output is still a cultural construct. The idea that without sufficient output there is no revenue is only valid in a society that pays for output.”

        All societies that are structured to trade goods and/or services for money or other goods and/or services pay for output. Well being is an individual value. Who (other than perhaps my family) would pay me for my well being, and why? Where would they get the money to do so? Further, many people find hard and what they feel to be worthwhile work to be a contributing factor to their well-being, even if it requires them to suck it up and roll out of bed when they would rather sleep for a few more hours.

        “But at the minute we are most certainly out of balance.”

        Out of balance for some, perhaps many, maybe eve most; I don’t know. But, I tried to organize my life even before college to maintain a balance. Not all my plans have panned out but that’s one that has.

  5. Good article and good debate in the comments. “man-up” is a perfectly good phrase, it’s a reminder to suck it up and focus on your objectives. But I have to say I’ve worked in a female dominated field and the female bosses I’ve encountered never cared a bit about the wellbeing of others, only the output. So maybe the genders aren’t so far apart.

    • ” But I have to say I’ve worked in a female dominated field and the female bosses I’ve encountered never cared a bit about the wellbeing of others, only the output.”

      Female-dominated jobs and markets don’t exist in a bubble, just as male-dominated jobs and markets don’t exist in a bubble. I’m not suggesting the reason that we place pressure on employees to ‘man-up’ is because the bosses are male, not at all. I was suggesting that the capitalist system we have (which men and women and everyone in-between all contribute to) places importance on output over well being.

  6. Here is how I feel and it’s no reflection on the few feminists that I do see making an attempt to level the playing field for both genders. By virtue of its name alone, feminism has never and will never work for the benefit of men. I don’t care how feminism is painted, no one has yet shown me how anything that feminism has done, purposely came out to be for the benefit of men/boys. Dads taking on the role of primary care giver for his kids is no more then a byproduct that “happen” but it was most certainly not intended. Prompted by men, this role has come to fruition.

    Can feminists like Heather chisel away the so called old feminist vision? Sure, but she’s got a long road that’s nowhere near being paved. Is it realistic that she and others be able to do so? Unfortunately, not in my opinion. MRA’s have been around for a long time and look at the roads they’ve made? Was VAWA changed? Has there been a major impact on child custody? Has male suicide gone down? What I’m saying is that a feminist is still a feminists as long as he/she continues to see him/herself as such. A forward thinking feminist has what chance of making a difference in feminism?

    From what I’ve seen Heather, you appear to be more of a MRA then a feminist. You and others in this forum appear to fall more in line with what MRM represents then feminism. Just as many men have become self-proclaimed feminists, is it that far reaching to join the many women who have become part of the MRM? As you don’t support some things that main stream feminism represent, you also don’t have to support some things MRM’s represent … where is the difference? The difference is that you write for Good “Men” Project and accordingly, how does it look when you represent yourself as a “feminist.”

    First time viewer of GMP … sees your article and opens to read … “As a women and a feminist” ding ding ding ding …. Oops, I’m in the wrong place. If this was the first article I open, hell yeah, I’d run like a bat out of hell. Heck, you have regular readers that admit that they didn’t read past that line.

    Until things change in a big way, and I can only speak for myself, “feminism” has a bad connotation and I will not accept feminism. Heather, I like you and respect you but I can’t accept feminism.

    • “From what I’ve seen Heather, you appear to be more of a MRA then a feminist.”

      Yeah, no. Masculist & feminist together, possibly, but not an MRA. Much too much of the MRA is quite socially conservative, which I’m not. I’m about as socially liberal as you can get, really, so not an MRA.

      Other then that I’m going to stop this particular line of the conversation only because it’s sort of what I was discussing is so problematic in my article.

      • HeatherN

        “valuing output is still a cultural construct” I agree with you completely. But I’m sure that a system based on well-being would be as uphill as the comments.

        Imagine though a system where you could choose electronically exactly where your tax dollar goes every one of them. Institutions would appear and disappear based on popular choice. The military industrial complex would likely be cut back to 5 percent of what it is. Kids in Montreal would be representing their position to taxpayers rather than protesting.We would collaborate for support rather than compete for control.We would struggle for consensus among our piers, no need for the current political system at all.

        And we could still operate based on output.

        By the way Heather I’m not an MRA and have never identified as one and I’m also not socially conservative.

        I think you wrote a great article but I don’t think you have to wrap it in feminism to legitimize your position. In fact had you not identified from that position I would never have posted what I did. But you set the tone so I blew my horn too.

        • I didn’t “wrap it in feminism.” I was pointing at where all of these things intersect and intertwine. My position is as a feminist, and the first couple paragraphs are certainly from that position. The part where I mentioned the hypothetical comment by a hypothetical man who read the first couple paragraphs certainly fits into broad feminist ideas, and masculist too.

          The last bit, where I’m talking about how the concept of ‘manning up’ intersects with capitalism, isn’t necessarily a feminist idea. I’m taking the conversation away from gender, and feminism is about gender inequality. That’s a criticism of capitalism, and that can intersect with feminism, but not necessarily.

          Perhaps part of the misunderstanding is my fault for the way I framed it? However, certainly that is not the only problem. Someone who doesn’t react to ‘feminism’ as if it’s a trigger word wouldn’t necessarily react to the entire essay as though it were all about feminism and gender, when at the end what I’m saying is that it’s not about gender.

          • HeatherN

            I won’t argue the difference between wrapped in and framed in. Why?

            I have read your article and the comments completely through three times. It is much more about context than trigger. The issue in and of itself extends beyond what you call feminist interpretive framework.

            The term “man up” is a phonetic derivative of a very old concept and lineage that long predates capitalism. Should you choose to even view the roots exploring the lineage would help. But it might require that you extend beyond the comfort of your interpretive framework. In using the term “wrapped in” I’m suggesting a contained and small context. In viewing it’s lineage you may be surprised to see how it has been applied in a very gender specific way for thousands of years.

            It would be fair to say that your interpretive framework has allowed you to poke the issue enough to discover that it may bite. The question is can you see more or does your framework also permit you to re script the essence, significance and lineage of the term. If it does then you are simply adding to its lineage rather than ending it.

      • Just curious, how do you know much of the MRA is conservative? Is there actually a pile of sites that identify specifically as MRA? I haven’t seen any that flatout say MRA, but many members that could be mra or masculist across various sites?

  7. Anthony Zarat says:

    If more feminists thought this way, we would not need to have this war.

  8. IMO, “I am a feminist” when put into context in this forum, is no more then an attempt to redefine feminism to appear to be more forward thinking. I guess if feminists say it enough, it will become true? But as it’s been said in these forums, these are individuals and don’t represent the main stream. So I’m still confused as to why anyone would still maintain the label in any way shape or form. I can only speak for myself but when I see “feminist” … the flag is thrown and I become suspect of anything that’s said.

    • Believe me when I say I totally understand that flag going up (because its more justified that a lot of feminists realize or want to admit).

      However let’s say for a moment that these are just individual feminists and don’t represent the mainstream. If anything what if they were finally able to get their numbers up and eventually represent the mainstream? Like Anthony says below if more of them were like HeatherN a lot of “gender war” nonsense would be settled.

      • Replace “feminist” with “MRA” and that’s how I feel a lot of the time. And…that sort of emphasizes my main point which is that going on about “if the other side would just be less confrontational” or “we just do have it worse,” is counter-productive. Because take a look at these comments, and most of them are people discussing (or flat out arguing) about whether men or women have it worse, and whether feminism is anti-male or not. How many of these comments are discussing how society can fix the problems with the phrase “man up?” Very few, and I’m just as bad participating in these back-and-forths.

        • Its all (or at least mostly) old wounds talking.

          Ive wondered myself how exactly we (and I mean everyone, on all sides of the gender discourse) can manage to address our wounds and allow for them to heal properly.

          I shared a post over at Womanist Musings a while back damn their the opposite of what’s happening here happened there. I made the mistake of saying that teaching boys a sexuality that includes being forceful with girls harms boys as well. You’d think I had declared that misogyny is not real or something and I even had someone femmplain to me how misandry is an attempt at a false equivalency to say that the things that harm men are just as bad as the things that harm women and thus is not real.

          Anyway the problem here is that while you are acting in good faith you are doing something that many a feminist has done while acting in bad faith. You outlined how the “man up” bit harms men and women. You took something that has primarily harmed one gender and applied to another. Not only that you then went on to say that that something that has primarily harmed one gender has more going on to it than the gender aspect.

          Bearing in mind what I said about DV further up in this thread you come off as just another feminist that’s trying to remove the focus on men and either make it about women or pretend that gender is not a factor.

          Back to what I said at the top of this comment. Honestly I’ve been stuck on that myself for a long time. I’d love to be able to work with feminists but ones that I can see eye to eye with are pretty few and far in between.

          One thing I do know though:
          And…that sort of emphasizes my main point which is that going on about “if the other side would just be less confrontational” or “we just do have it worse,” is counter-productive.
          The only true way for this type of arguing to end is for it to cease on ALL sides. And while I can see how counterproductive the comments have gotten here it only takes a moment for me to recall this exact counterproductivity happening in reverse (sometimes you can even find it here).

          And a dark part of me smiles…

  9. HeatherN

    Good comparison between the term “man up” and an employer. I stopped asking myself what the point of the term is. Clearly a tactic to humiliate, to take something away. With all the discussion surrounding it anyone using the term understands the purpose and they express their intent with its use. It certainly does objectify the person it is directed at. It simply says you are less than what I expect. I often find the very person using the term is the least capable of living up to it. It is more often an excuse used by dishonorable and dishonest cowards, sort of intellectual sneak thieves bent on misdirection.

    Interestingly I share a great deal of values and ethics with feminist ideology but I don’t identify as one, never have, never will. I also share many values and ethics found in the bible but I don’t identify as christian or any other denomination and never will. I have met very few religious people in my life, equally I have met very few feminists. I find most are busy doing feminism to others rather than being a feminist for themselves. Scouts looking for merit badges, proselytizing ethics they don’t really believe.

    I find a consistency between religion and feminism as expressed beliefs, they both lack the integrity to assign merit to anyone other than themselves. Both seek moral and ethical authority and hegemony and as such lose the credibility of trust. I don’t need a church to pray and I don’t need a woman to be a man.I agree with you there is no need to use the term, as such I now ask if the person using it has the authority and capacity to live up to it. I haven’t met anyone yet who does.

    • I understand what you’re saying, except that feminism is not really all that similar to a religion. It’s not a belief system. It’s an academic field, an interpretive framework, and a set of political ideas, yes. But it’s not about belief…there is no element of faith or believing something without proof. And while some feminists do seek “moral and ethical authority,” feminist ideas themselves aren’t about seeking that.

      • “there is no element of faith or believing something without proof.”

        There is no “proof” of many feminist ideas. They are often merely hypotheses. Hence, if they truly believe them, it is just as much an act of faith as belief in many religious tenets.

      • HeatherN

        To quote:

        “So, as a woman in a job interview, I have to jump through that extra hoop and go that extra mile to prove that I am actually capable of all of these qualities.”

        This is a curious statement and may in fact be contrary to the norm. At face value I can find no evidence or proof that “a woman has to jump through an extra hoop” regarding employment or job interviews. I base my supposition on a well known government program called affirmative action. Also in comparison many jobs will advertise for women or minorities, but I have never come across a job advertising for men only.

        In areas of employment that traditionally employed men such as military, policing and firefighting in fact in comparison hoops have been removed and job standards reduced to accommodate women. I also find no evidence of an extra hoop for women in job fatality statistics or what could be called the final hoop.

        I also see no evidence in media or social discourse in which a woman would be shamed, marginalized, ostracized or chastised for being unable to provide for a family. So I question your supposition and wonder if this hoop is a myth. Of course if you believe that lowering standards of employment somehow defines you as less capable your hoop becomes self imposed and gender based. I would then ask why you do not work towards having these standards removed. If you don’t then feminism is applied as a zero sum gain in which cost/benefit determines moral equivalency.

        This is not more than patriarchy or what I would call faux-menism.

        In essence a short man is not always short but he is always a man, or person if you prefer. In order for him to “man up” it becomes obvious that he needs a ladder. While this may increase vertical flexibility the horizontal flexibility becomes limited. To “man up” becomes a requirement for utility and an absurd form of utility when the ladder is not provided. We might agree that the ambiguity of “manning up” is to demand utility without providing the ladder.

        As previously outlined, examples of a ladder are provided in the workplace for women. Equally the term “woman up” is less relevant or non-existent in common perception. I appreciate the position of the article as simple as it is, but in context there is no corollary to “manning up” for women. It is not a light and breezy subject for men that they should get over. We as a society have implemented stringent institutional policy to embed the requirement to “man up”. A man found guilty or incapable is effected in areas that include property rights, family law, criminal law, employment, housing and intimate family relations.

        If that is not a zero sum game I don’t know what is. To suggest that not using the term will make everything fine is to suggest that we ignore the elephant in the room. If this is definitive of feminism then it is not more than a distracting justification for the hatred of men.


        I would suggest to you that when a woman uses the term “man up” what she is in fact doing is threatening the violence of the state consciously on that man. When a man uses the same term towards another man he is warning him of the potential violence of the state. A man does not have access to the exclusive violence of the state that serves women.

      • I understand what you’re saying, except that feminism is not really all that similar to a religion. It’s not a belief system. It’s an academic field, an interpretive framework, and a set of political ideas, yes. But it’s not about belief…there is no element of faith or believing something without proof. And while some feminists do seek “moral and ethical authority,” feminist ideas themselves aren’t about seeking that.

        I disagree with every part of that.

        1. Feminism is very much a belief system, and how much it works depends largely on how much you accept (have faith in) certain core concepts and definitions which can not be experimentally demonstrated and repeated independently. Imagine two religious scholars disagreeing about what “Original Sin” is, and two physicists disagreeing about the speed of light. When it comes to having a way to define and test for who’s right, which scenario would more closely resemble two feminist scholars disagreeing about what “Rape Culture” is?

        2. Academic study of something lends gravitas to a subject, but doesn’t mean it can’t be faith-based. Just look at countless academic programs and graduate degrees in theology, divinity, and so on. I’m sure those people take their studies very seriously and consider the vast body of theological scholarship to be good evidence that their faith is true, but it’s still just faith.

        3. I can’t take seriously the claim that there is no element of faith or believing something without proof in feminism. For that to even be remotely possible, there’d have to be an agreed set of definitions about what feminism even is, and feminists themselves don’t have that. What would proof of “rape culture” even be? It’s not like determining the speed of light or gravitational constants, which can be verified in independent experiments. Concepts like “rape culture” lack objective and precise definitions, so every person using it can define it and re-define it until it feels right as a description that explains the world as they see it. Another word for that kind of truth is “faith”.

        4. The final point making a distinction between a belief system seeking “moral and ethical authority” and the believers who do so applies to religion, too. The Bible is just a book with a lot of ideas in it, and without any believers, could not itself be described as “seeking moral and ethical authority”, but that’s what many believers do with it. I don’t see how feminism is qualitatively different from that – a set of ideas which some believers use to claim moral and ethical authority.

        While it may sound like I’m dismissing any kind of truth or perspective that doesn’t come from hard science, I’m not. Belief systems still have real-world consequences and bear exploration and discussion. What I roll my eyes at, though, is equating academic study and scientific proof, as if a gender studies scholar and a physicist produce the same kind of falsifiable hypotheses.

        • So then, Marcus, would you say that all of the social sciences are actually belief systems? Anthropology and sociology are belief systems? Because that’s basically what you’re suggesting.

          Look, I’m not saying that the physical (natural, etc) sciences are exactly the same as the social sciences…there’s a reason they are largely lumped into those two categories and not just one big “sciences” category. However, the perceived objectivity of the natural sciences, and the perceived subjectivity of the social sciences is not nearly as simple as people often think. Social scientists don’t just come up with theories about how people behave randomly from thin air, and they don’t just say things based on their own perspectives.

          We collect data and organize it and discuss whether we’ve imposed artificial limitations on that data based on our own cultural bias, etc. We run statistical analyses and look for patterns (or look to find where there aren’t patterns). And then we try to come up with an explanation for the patterns we’ve observed. We may start with a possible explanation, and then analyse data to see whether it fits, or not, and if it doesn’t then we may try to find a different explanation. But, it’s only the crap academics who start out with an explanation and then try to force their data into that explanation.

          And if you want to talk about not having a constant and consistent set of ideas that everyone ascribes to, well physics (which you brought up) has tons of debate. There are areas within physics where people disagree completely. Does that mean that physicists who have accepted one theory over another are engaging in faith? No, of course not. It just means that their understanding and interpretation of the data is different.

          And finally, if you want to talk about taking ‘moral and ethical authority’ from a set of ideas, well then democracy could be considered a belief system. Or how about our ‘belief’ that a human being is an individual that resides fully in his/her body. That is something based totally on ‘hard science’ and yet we have used that ‘belief’ to enforce all kinds of human rights policies. How about the ‘belief’ that depression is a medical problem? That’s certainly rooted in hard science, and we’ve used that to bring medication for depression to cultures that didn’t used to perceive depression as something that needed to be fixed. We’ve taken our knowledge gained by hard science and weilded ‘moral and ethical authority’ because of it. Does that mean that psychology is a belief system?

          • HeatherN

            “Social scientists don’t just come up with theories about how people behave randomly from thin air, and they don’t just say things based on their own perspectives.”

            Actually feminist social scientists do exactly that. How else can you carry out a rape study and assign victim status to individuals who do not identify as victims.

            The Duluth Model of Domestic Violence bases its perspectives on the power and control wheel. The author of the model herself stated that her findings did not support a model in which men sought power and control but in effect were assigned it. That assignment is itself oppressive to men and offers no mechanism with which to escape it.

            In fact by initiating the “primary aggressor” policy coupled with “zero tolerance” both supported by VAWA and NOW which beyond any claim is representative of feminism in action, insured that these policies would guarantee that the data would fit the theory.

          • HeatherN

            Should you choose to go further regarding faith based feminist science I would suggest you review the facts surrounding Doctor Money and the boy with no penis. You will discover that the data offered by him was referenced by such academic acolytes as Raewyn Connell and the likes of Michael Kimmel. Further used to support feminist theory regarding nature and nurture. A corrupt doctrine used to disenfranchise young boys from their own gender.

            The individual that was the subject reference to Doctor Money’s data eventually committed suicide upon discovering what had been perpetrated on him. But feminist theory disregards the facts when it doesn’t fit the model. Feminism is socially, morally and ethically corrupt to the core.

          • I don’t believe feminism is a social science like anthropology or sociology. I think it is an ideology. That doesn’t render it immune to study, research, and debate, but I do think that on a spectrum running from hard science on one end to faith on the other, it lies even closer to the faith end than the other “soft” sciences you mentioned.

            Honestly, I don’t even know exactly what we’re arguing here because what you mean by “feminism” and what I mean by it could be wildly different. I’m talking about the kind of feminism I’ve encountered online over the last couple years, in which terms are bandied about with little apparent academic rigor, but a whole lot of faith. One might reply, “Then go read the academic literature!” but to me that’s a Courtier’s Reply. I’ve seen enough to be fundamentally skeptical about the field, including summaries, explanations, and arguments by people who claim such expertise, and it hasn’t brought me any closer to believing in those bandied-about terms. (On the bright side, I never stopped believing in the kind of equal rights, egalitarian sorts of things I used to think “feminism” meant, so rejection some of the dogma I’ve seen has not turned me pro-opression, anti-choice, or pro-rape.)

            When physicists disagree, there are ways to potentially resolve who is right, even if the necessary tools and technology to gather the necessary data do not yet exist. They hypotheses are falsifiable, or it’s not science. How are concepts like rape culture and privilege falsifiable to a feminist studying those concepts? I would think that even academic study of those things presumes that they exist (i.e., faith) and just sets out to better understand them. I don’t claim an ounce of expertise in the field, but I would be shocked to discover any scholarly work on such things that stays neutral enough in it’s definitions and methodology to leave open the possibility that they don’t exist after all. It would be like a scholarly theologian leaving open the possibility that there’s not such thing as divinity or gods. Even if such an individual arrived at that conclusion, most of their fellow scholars in that field would reject their findings and go on believing what the already believed. Faith.

            I have no problem considering democracy an ideology/belief system. It works or it doesn’t, and people choose to live by it or they don’t. It comes and goes. In contrast, physical phenomena like gravity or oxidation or photosynthesis don’t just describe things that sometimes exist if enough people say they do.

            The belief about where humans reside easily slides into faith-based stuff about souls and spirits, but if nothing else, the science is pretty conclusive that identity and consciousness while a person lives are tied to the brain. Many parts of the body can be lost or replaced without altering the identity of a living person, but not the brain. Speaking of the brain, neuroscience can actually detect things like neurotransmitters, electrical activity, and so on, that inform their views on conditions like depression. While there are still a ton of unresolved mysteries, feminism and neuroscience aren’t even in the same ballpark, scientifically speaking.

            Is psychology a belief system? Sometimes, sometimes not. Ever seen any peer-reviewed data on the existence of the id, ego, and super-ego (Freud)? Or how about for the existence of a collective unconsciousness (Jung)? Such ideas were more ideology than science, but they influenced psychology and continue to, even as more modern theories have mostly supplanted them. “Ego” is still an everyday word, and the “collective unconsciousness” continues to have a truthy, literary kind of appeal to it, but neither one has ever been detected via the scientific method. I think psychology nowadays is much more scientific than in the days of Freud, but methodology and interpretation of data still tends to be open to dispute than in the hard sciences.

            • You just hit a nerve with me, Marcus, but sort of summarily dismissing what I said, you know?

              Anyway, the thing is, if you’re basing your analysis of feminism off of what you’ve seen on the internet for the past couple years, then you really haven’t read enough on it, Courtier’s Reply be damned. 😉 Look, people take all sorts of ideas and end up creating beliefs around them. I mean, people read all sorts of pop-psychology and pop-biology and pop-whatever-else and end up talking about those topics like a belief system. I treat a lot of online feminism as pop-feminism.

              What you’re talking about with regards to psychology and ideas that were subsequently dis-proven, again all disciplines have it. In academia, feminism is a social science…or rather feminist ideas are part of the social science that is gender studies (aka gender & sexuality studies). It’s not the only interpretive framework that’s used, by any means, but it’s a big one. Perhaps instead of comparing feminism to whole disciplines like psychology or physics, it’d be more accurate to compare it to something like Newtonian physics or something….a sub-discipline.

              “I would think that even academic study of those things presumes that they exist (i.e., faith) and just sets out to better understand them.”

              And that would be an inaccurate assumption. Yes, of course there are feminists (even in academia) who set out to do that type of “study.” There are people like that in all disciplines…heck while I was doing my PhD in archaeology part of the reason my topic was so interesting was because for the past 30 years people had been doing just that. (And my topic had absolutely nothing to do with gender. It was just archaeologists being lazy with their application of social theory).

              But on the whole, academic study that is actual academic study (in the social sciences or hard sciences) does not start from the assumption that the specific aspect of feminism they are studying is necessarily true. I mean, in every discipline there are certain things that are assumed to have been proven enough in the past that you can build on them…other wise we’d have to start over every time.

              But if I were doing a thesis on, say, the way in which gender affects (or doesn’t affect) the banking industry ( to pull an example completely out of the air), I wouldn’t start out assuming that I know the answer. I may have some assumptions that sparked my curiosity in the topic to being with, of course. But if I’m studying it academically, I will do my best not to let my own personal bias get in the way of accurately analysing the data…which, by the way, is what everyone has to do (whether you’re a natural scientist or a social scientist).

              • HeatherN,

                I often feel the exact same way that Marcus does, and I’d like to try and explain this a little bit better.

                For me personally, the issue has always been about falsifiability. In both “hard” sciences and many social sciences (and I’m thinking of economics, psychology, and those sociologists not in the critical or post secondary schools), a conclusion is only considered valid if it is falsifiable and has been tested.

                However, a great deal of feminism seems to be built upon unfalsifiable assumptions.

                There are definitions of patriarchy (and I’m thinking of anything that includes the phrase “root cause” here) which are simply unfalsifiable. There’s no way to test and see if it really exists, because the definition has been constructed in such as way as to be necessarily true.

                Often times the way we define “power” doesn’t even seem to make sense. For example, the “powerlessness” of certain minority groups is often argued to be reflected in worse health outcomes and shorter lifespans (this is not an uncommon argument in feminist academic literature). Yet worse health outcomes and shorter lifespans for men are not taken as evidence of male “powerlessness” but rather as evidence of “the oppression of some men by other men.”

                In other words, the idea of who holds power in a society has become unfalsifiably defined as “white men.” If other groups have shorter lifespans, this is evidence of the power differential. Yet if it is the men themselves who have shorter lifespans, then it is supposedly ALSO evidence of the power differential. While this might make sense to those in the Gender Studies field, it’s hard to see this as anything other than doublethink.

                Until such time as feminist thought actually tests ideas like privilege, patriarchy, etc. it’s difficult to take the ideas seriously. You write that:
                “I mean, in every discipline there are certain things that are assumed to have been proven enough in the past that you can build on them”

                This would be true if the underlying ideas of gender studies had ever been proven in the first place. Instead they just been ruled “unfalsifiable” and then built upon.

      • HeatherN

        I think we could agree that a statement is equal to forwarding an idea.A popular feminist statement or idea which does result in seeding a perception that is fairly common is;
        “Practically all wars in human history have been started by Men”

        Although it could be said that all wars are ended by men the choice of expression suggests a moral and ethical authority. While one is uniquely true in every circumstance the other is not.

        Equally if we say that all men are rapists we should and can include qualifiers. For example: if engaging in sex includes additional expectation that become unrealized the act in and of itself becomes monetized by the expectation. The transaction of sex becomes a system of barter in which it becomes incumbent on both parties to set terms. If after setting terms expectations are not met then it is rape. Hence all men are rapists to someone unable to declare their expectations prior to the act. In this example I would agree that marriage as a vessel that supports malleable and changing expectation is an institution of rape culture.But in such a culture ambiguity is the vehicle of rape. One could even say that “settling” is a form of rape or self victimization.

        Whereas violent rape is not something all men do, it is statistically unsupported. Conflating the two as equal and assigning it to all men is another example of moral and ethical authority seeking hegemony.

        I submit to you that feminism is purely and only a belief system without any academic interpretive framework. It is parasitic in its comparative nature and at best a narrative to collective moral arousal. Unfortunately it has become a redundancy to male chivalry and irrelevant to the species collectively. We have learned from feminism in the last ten years that it does not possess the phonetic Euclidean geometry to address the male narrative.

  10. “As a woman and feminst”

    Okay, stop. Stop right there. You guys have got to stop doing that. We all know you’re a feminst by now, you don’t have to make it a talking point in every article and comment you write.

    All it really serves to do is set an undertone to your message that says “See? See? NAFALT!”

    • Just letting any reader know what my perspective is. There are plenty of people who might not be familiar with anything else I’ve written, or even familiar with The Good Men Project that might read this article.

      I actually wasn’t trying to say that “not all feminists are like that,” but rather to say that actually, my position is a feminist position.

      • um, there is no such thing as a feminist position since “feminism is not a monolith”. your opinion is just your opinion, its not more relevant or important just because your a woman or a feminist.

        • This is where the nuance of language gets so interesting and the use of definite and indefinite pronouns becomes so important. There is such a thing as a feminist position. There isn’t such a thing as the feminist position, because as you say, feminism isn’t a monolith. I took up a feminist position…but there can certainly be feminist positions that disagree with me.

          And nowhere did I say my position is more important or relevant as a feminist or a woman. That’s not the point of acknowledging my position. I come from academia, and something that’s very important is explaining what your academic field and background is and to explain your interpretive framework. That’s what I was doing; letting the readers know what interpretive framework I was using.

    • Eh its not like that thankfully. And goodness at least she is not one of those feminists with that presumptive attitude of “if you believe this then you’re a feminist whether you ID as such or not, and if you don’t ID as such the only reason you don’t is because you’re scared” or “if you’re not a feminist then it means you are against equality” or “my position is right because I’m a feminist”, etc…..

      • Well I’m derailing a bit, but heck it’s my article so I can derail if I want to. 😉

        So about whether you’re actually a feminist whether you ID as a feminist or not…that’s one of those wicked interesting conundrums, because there are people out there who would ID as feminists if there wasn’t such stigma associated with the label. But setting those people aside, let’s focus on the idea of whether someone is something (political identity, social identity, etc) regardless of whether they ID as such.

        My general take on it is that I won’t call you a certain social/political label unless you identify as that thing, mostly because I’d be wicked pissed off if you (general you) did the same to me. That being said, I may sometimes point to certain ideologies that a non-feminist (non-liberals, non-progressives, or whatever) espouses and point out that those ideologies are feminist (or liberal, or progressive, or whatever).

        • So about whether you’re actually a feminist whether you ID as a feminist or not…that’s one of those wicked interesting conundrums, because there are people out there who would ID as feminists if there wasn’t such stigma associated with the label.
          Not much of a conundrum if you look at the stigma itself.

          Some of the stigma is unfair. Some of the stigma is totally fair.

          And it doesn’t help that the whole stigma thing is sometimes just used as an excuse to not have to look at their own. Yeah it’s got nothing to do with how they shut men out of the conversation its all because feminists are portrayed as angry man haters on television.

          • Oi now, Danny, I didn’t say that. This is me you’re talking to. 🙂

            I wasn’t referring to whether the stigma was fair or not, I was just saying it’s there. When a label has such stigma associated with it (whether some of it is warranted or not), it becomes undesirable to associate with that label, regardless of whether you actually agree with other people who take on that label or not. So there are people out there who hold feminist ideas, they just don’t like the term. Then it is a conundrum, because as someone who does embrace that term I want to be like – oo what you just said is so totally feminism, admit it so that we can add another awesome person with that label.” (You in general, mind).

            And in many ways, feminists do get a bad rap. I mean, the whole “oo all feminists are lesbians,” thing was meant as an insult and a way to invalidate feminist groups and ideas. And what’s so flipping hilarious is that round about that time, feminists and butch/femme lesbians were like totally at odds with each other. And you know I’ve levelled multiple criticisms against feminism, so of course some of their bad reputation is going to come from their failings. I get that.

            • So there are people out there who hold feminist ideas, they just don’t like the term. Then it is a conundrum, because as someone who does embrace that term I want to be like – oo what you just said is so totally feminism, admit it so that we can add another awesome person with that label.”
              Why do they have to “admit it”?

              • I didn’t say “have to.” I was just trying to just explain what I think when someone who doesn’t identify as a feminist says something that is a feminist idea. That’s what I want them to do. And why do I want that? Well because the more people with good ideas who ID as feminist, the less stigmatized it will be…well hopefully.

                Or, to put it more nefariously, I’m trying to build an army of radical centrists. Come to the dark side. 😉 lol

                • Why a desire for them to admit it then?

                  Or, to put it more nefariously, I’m trying to build an army of radical centrists. Come to the dark side. 😉 lol
                  Oh Heather Heather Heather.

                  Volatile Wildcards don’t pick sides. They might share some ideas with certain sides but we don’t actually pick them.

                  • lolz, I was totally just kidding.

                    But to your question, why desire them to admit it? I tried to explain…cuz the more people who identify as a feminist and have good ideas, the less stigma is associated with them, hopefully.

                    • Oh yeah I thought this had gone to light hearted already. I guess I should have used an emote.

                      (But I was a bit serious about the “want them to admit” part. Which I still have a small problem with your answer but oh well.)

                    • Poe’s Law, eh. 😉 Alrighty…how abouts…it’s a desire of mine, and thus via kink culture, I’ll say that the root of that desire doesn’t matter. lol. 😀

  11. About the whole “who has it worse” bit.

    I know this is hardly an original thought but I think one reason that this happens is because of a feeling that trying to “go deeper” is just a front for taking away from the specific gendered aspect. Let me use domestic violence for example.

    For a long time the discourse on DV has been centered female victims and how female victims were largely ignored. And make no mistake this was done in the context of how the fact that they were women was the majority (if not sole) reason they were ignored. Well over time people have been taking about male victims more and how they are largely ignored. I specifically recall a few instances of how people would respond to talk of male victims in the context of “its not about gender, its a victim culture where victims of such violence are not taken seriously”. So yeah when female victims are ignored its because of their gender but when male victims are ignored its because they are victims? And of course this is from people that will then turn around and say that “men can’t be discriminated against because of their gender”.

    A magical process of stripping gender out of the equation when it comes to men and then saying that gender has nothing to do with it. (Personally I think this has to do with the idea that men are the “default” gender. They want to maintain that illusion so badly they are willing to remove gender from the equation in order to avoid male specific focus, under the pretense that the focus was always male specific, which is of course total bullshit if you think about it.)

    Long story short it seems like when its harming one gender its about gender and gender alone. But when the evidence hows how the other side is treated comes to light all of a sudden they want to switch from gender to some other reason.

  12. Peter Houlihan says:

    Well said 🙂

  13. The Bad Man says:

    Stopped reading after the first line. Yes, women can women-up too, it’s called being responsible rather than blaming others. However, you might need to reject feminism to accomplish that.

    • “Stopped reading after the first line.”

      Ditto re: your comment.

    • Reject feminism why?

      • Eric M. says:

        Because of feminism’s penchant for blaming other people and things, such as women’s studies concepts (e.g., the patriarchy, male privilege, rape culture, guy code, glass ceiling, wage gap, etc.)

        • “Women’s studies concepts” are actually more often really “gender studies concepts,” firstly. Also, all of the things you listed is not ‘blaming others’ but rather examining how social systems affect people. Patriarchy is a social system; privilege is a social system, etc. Every participant in society creates, and re-creates these systems with their actions.

          If you’re interested in an updated look at some feminist ideas of power and institutions/social systems, I suggest checking out Michel Foucault. He’s perhaps a bit more queer theory than feminist, but it applies.

          • Eric M. says:

            Note that I said blaming other people AND things. Then I gave examples of “things” they blame. I won’t argue the validity of their theories but they certainly do implicate those “things” as roadblocks to women’s achievement/progress/develpment/advancement in this or that area.

          • “Also, all of the things you listed is not ‘blaming others’ but rather examining how social systems affect people.”

            They are also an unproven narrative like any other.

    • Hiya, just asking that you read the article before you comment on it. My point is that discussions that centre around this sort of attitude are actually counter-productive.

  14. Eric M. says:

    OK, how about “put on your big girl pannies?” How zat? That’s the female equivalent. The idea is the same: be strong, handle your business without crying, whining, or folding. There are times when we do need to man-up and women need to put on their big girl panties.

    Manning up (put on your big girl panties) doesn’t (shouldn’t) mean to harm yourself, unless it’s necessary in order to achieve a greater good, such as protecting others. Manning up doesn’t mean you are unreasonable, uncaring, careless, irrational, masochistic, or that you don’t/shouldn’t think through the long term implication of your actions or inactions.

    Manning up doesn’t mean you have a sickness or death wish. It means to not cower in debilitating fear, to see things as they are and deal with them as they are, to think clearly and act decisively. It means to lead when necessary and follow when it makes sense. It means to be realistically modest and humble but to have appropriate self-respect.

    Anyone who thinks differently doesn’t understand, IMO.

    • @Eric … right on! Every time I read something like this I cringe. I have all the emotions anyone may have but when it comes to dealing with some issues, I put some emotions behind me and do what I have to do. My son-in-law (fireman) was a first responder to a horrendous murder scene of a teen girl. He still has night meres but when he arrived on the scene, he had no other option then to put his emotions to the side and do what he needed to do.

      I’m beginning to get the impression that men are now being categorized or painted into a box if they don’t follow the warm and fuzzy role that feminists want them to be. Again, it appears some feminists are trying to define how men are supposed to be. I understand their wanting men to have the options but that’s just it, an option. Some men like working their asses off, some men want a business career, I don’t know one man in the trades that would like to do anything else.

      After 38 years of marriage, my wife still questions me as to where I get my cuts and bruises after working on the house/yard. Hell if I know, shit happens. A week ago Thursday I had a heart attack that did minimal damage, they put two stints in and I was back to work on Wednesday (with the okay from the doc). I didn’t see it as “manning up” but just that I can’t sit still for too long. It was the “women” at work that made the most comments on my returning as soon as I did. The guys asked how I felt and that was about it.

      • Yeah I’m about 5 days since my thyroid removal op and I can’t sit still, it’s sending me insane. Trying to find something to do that I don’t need to use my neck muscles too much for. Good luck with the stints, hope it all works well. Don’t forget to take a break when you need it though, although that is hard for some of us to do, sitting idle n all!

        • Glad to hear you both are recovering, first off. Hope it’s not too torturous being asked to take it easy…I understand feeling restless, for sure.

          As to my article, I’m not suggesting that men (or women) who, as individuals, perform “manning up” or “sucking it up” or whatever, is a bad thing. I understand that sometimes a person does have to put their shit aside and just work on getting something done (in some occupations more than others).

          What my article is about is the societal expectation that men can do this, and the societal expectation that women can’t (or at the very least can’t do it as well). It creates societal pressure to behave in certain ways that are not necessarily beneficial. Yeah, I want a first responder who can “man up,” but I really don’t care whether my bank teller can…and right now pretty much all of our industries and job markets are emphasizing the importance of being able to “man up,” even when it’s not necessary.

          • I find it telling about feminism in general that you managed to take something of a pejorative solely against males as a slight toward you as a female. The term is strictly a slight of men who other self-styled alpha males feel don’t conform to their standard of manliness. I’ve never once, ever, seen it levied at a female so to find a way to make it about you just continues the ever present persecution complex inherent in feminism. It’s not unlike Hillary’s quote about how women are the primary victim of a man’s death in war. It’s amazing how, via feminism, men aren’t even the victims of their own death in wars in which only they are expected to fight/die in. Purely absurd. It would be, on the whole. alot more constructive to have discussion about how we may all best fix society’s ills instead of shoe-horning non-points into victimization. Feminism, masculism (funny how computers autocorrect masculism and misandry but not feminism or misogyny) will never lead us there. Humanism and acknowledging the fact that we’re all just adults who are often railroaded by the wealthy and powerful is using all of your brain. The good news is, we all constitute the majority and can combat that reality if we stop wasting time writing fluff like this blog piece.

            • I am suspicious that perhaps you didn’t read my entire article? My point, at the end, is that going around and around about who is harmed most by what often doesn’t get us anywhere. My point was that we should look at how society affects people and then work to make it better.

              • I did read your article to completion and it negates nothing I’d typed. To begin with, as I said, a bend-back of who is actually demeaned by the lame phrase ‘man up’ is, in and of itself, a point to be addressed. Further, IF you truly feel “we should look at how society affects people and then work to make it better” is your one and only creed then why call yourself a feminist? The easy majority of feminists I’ve encountered (centrist and more advocating) hold that, “we should look at how society affects women….” full stop. It’s quite evident that the notion of ‘rape culture’ applies only to females when you consider the buzz behind the Russian rape story wherein a woman defended her shop against a man attempting to rob her salon. She then proceeded to tie him up and rape him for three days after force feeding him Viagra as the story goes. The response of many feminists was ‘hell yeah, you go girl’ and “well she paid him afterward” (as was reported). That’s exactly what happens (and what you should expect) when a creed maintains by virtue of it’s very definition that you are to look at something for how it benefits or detracts from women and women alone. If there existed a story wherein a male shop owner knocked out a female robber then proceeded to tie her up with cable in his basement and rape her for three days you would rightfully not see backslaps and cheers. You’d see society furiously rebuke him and that is what humanism contends we ought to apply regardless of gender, race, religion etc. You don’t contend that you advocate for all by putting the interest of one before your ‘ism’. Would you trust the White Nationalist Party if they declared it their goal to achieve equality for the races? No more than you’d trust Hershey’s if they declared they strive for all candy companies to have equal share OR hopefully feminists saying they hope attain equality in areas of inverse inequality.

                • ZimbaZumba says:

                  “Would you trust the White Nationalist Party if they declared it their goal to achieve equality for the races?”

                  Excellent comment.

  15. Quadruple A says:

    I find the whole concept of “Man up” to be bothersome because it imposes on me an obligation to be something that I don’t find meaningful and which I feel is kind of grotesque and even violating when used against me. As if they want to impose within me a quality that is hard and unyielding and doesn’t flinch in the face of anything sentimental.

    It supposedly such a wonderful thing to be a man and have those qualities? Because hey, your so respected for those qualities right? Your also feared because of those very qualities and I don’t want to be told to be something I don’t want to be.

    • First, I love that picture of Stephen Fry as your avatar.

      As for your comment…well it’s not wrong, but I think that focusing on that is sort of problematic. That’s what this article is about. You, as a man, feel obliged to be something you don’t find meaningful…I, as a woman, find it impossible to be recognized as someone who is capable of being that something that society finds meaningful.

      And what’s really important here is looking at why society finds that something to be meaningful, and whether that’s helpful or harmful to people in society. I think it’s harmful to everyone.

  16. The way that capitalism has manifest in the west, particularly the U.S., results in placing a higher value on output than on the welfare of the employees.
    Which of course is ultimately doomed to fail no matter how many “safe guards” one puts in place.

    Focus on output over employee welfare is bound to burn people out physically, mentally, and emotionally. There are “safe guards” in place to keep one continuing to work past breaking points. Power, status, more money, sex appeal, etc… Those things that motivate us suffer in silence for the sake of the job.

    The rewards are dangled over our heads to give us something to work for.

    That’s how the “man up” bit works as well.

    It gives guys a goal to work towards (which totally feeds that “goal oriented” mentality that is associated with men).

    What this totally ignores that if a man if free to be a man as he sees fit (if he wants to be a man mind you) he would be much happier, thus more productive. If said man wasn’t being crushed under unrealistic expectations and burdens over his gender, he would be a lot better off. And in turn everyone would be a lot better off.

    Impressive work Heather.


  1. […] writes about the issues with “man up” much more eloquently than I. Check out her post and ponder (how perfect that she posted this just 2 days […]

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