This has been one of my favourite spoken word poems for quite some time now, and I wanted to share it with those who aren’t familiar with it yet. Everything that Guante says in this piece is eloquently and concisely phrased, and I hope it gets you thinking. Masculinity isn’t all about being strong and brave and never crying–at least it shouldn’t be. Just as females are fighting for equality and freedom, males and those who don’t conform to the gender binary should be free to be who they really are, regardless of physiology or “differences”
Here are the words to this poem, as found on Guante’s website:
TEN RESPONSES TO THE PHRASE “MAN UP” (words are for the updated version)
1. Fuck you.
2. If you want to question my masculinity, like a schoolyard circle of curses, like a swordfight with lightsaber erections, save your breath. Because contrary to what you may believe, not every problem can be solved by “growing a pair.” You can’t arm-wrestle your way out of chemical depression. The CEO of the company that just laid you off does not care how much you bench. And I promise, there is no lite beer in the universe full-bodied enough to make you love yourself.
3. Man up? Oh that’s that new superhero, right? Mild-mannered supplement salesman Mark Manstrong says the magic words “MAN UP,” and then transforms into THE FIVE O’CLOCK SHADOW, the massively-muscled, deep-voiced, leather-duster-wearing super-man who defends the world from, I don’t know, feelings.
4. Of course. Why fight to remove our chains, when we can simply compare their lengths? Why step outside the box, when the box has these bad-ass flame decals on it? We men are cigarettes: dangerous, and poisonous, and stupid.
5. You ever notice how nobody ever says “woman up?” They just imply it. Because women and the women’s movement figured out a long time ago that being directly ordered around by commercials, magazines and music is dehumanizing. When will men figure that out?
6. The phrase “Man Up” suggests that competence and perseverance are uniquely masculine traits. That women—not to mention any man who doesn’t eat steak, drive a pickup truck, have lots of sex with women—are nothing more than background characters, comic relief, props. More than anything, though, it suggests that to be yourself—whether you, wear skinny jeans, listen to Lady Gaga, rock a little eyeliner, drink some other brand of light beer, or write poetry—will cost you.
7. How many boys have to kill themselves before this country acknowledges the problem? How many women have to be assaulted? How many trans people have to be murdered? We teach boys how to wear the skin of a man, but we also teach them how to raise that skin like a flag and draw blood for it.
8. Boy babies get blue socks. Girl babies get pink socks. What about purple? What about orange, yellow, chartreuse, cerulean, black, tie-dyed, buffalo plaid, rainbow…
9. I want to be free, to express myself. Man up. I want to have meaningful, emotional relationships with my brothers. Man up. I want to be weak sometimes. Man up. I want to be strong in a way that isn’t about physical power or dominance. Man up. I want to talk to my son about something other than sports. Man up. I want to be who I am. Man up.
As Rhoda Jordan wrote, “We’ve short-changed our boys and men by defining masculinity in such a way as to constrict the complex essence of their humanity.” This is not okay and we should not allow it to be seen as normal. We need to stop raising young boys to be ashamed of their feelings and love for anything non-aggressive or athletic. We need to stop encouraging young people that they need to define themselves within the narrow confines of gender norms and expectations. We need to stop the verbatim of “man ups” and “stop crying” when we talk to males of all ages.
As much as this post is about masculinity, it also needs to be about something else: femininity (and no, don’t get upset. This is not my “feminist side” coming out to steal all of the attention away from males–the two just happen to be intrinsically related, like yin and yang. You can’t really have one without the other). Here’s a fun joke:
Question: Why are males told to man up?
Answer: Because there’s a negative association with having feminine traits.
Only it’s not a joke. Think about it: what do “man up”, “stop being such a girl”, “you’re being a little bitch”, “you _______ like a girl” (etcetera, etcetera) all have in common? They all imply that being a female is inferior to being a male. And that’s not okay, obviously–for females, males, or anything in between and none of the above.
Did you know… that the definition for feminism is: “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities”?
We need to change our language, but more importantly, we need to stop defining what it means to be masculine and what it means to be feminine. Maybe, we need to focus on defining what it means to be human. To have shared compassion, and strength, and intelligence, and humanity.
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