Man Up & Don’t Be Silly Girls!

Man up! A phrase which seems to be gaining currency and a perfect example of insidious sexism which creeps into our language and contributes to a subtle undermining of women’s confidence.

I was having this discussion recently with some great women on my RenewYou course. I had just shared the information that the Institute of Learning & Management ILM) has identified women’s lack of confidence as one reason women weren’t making it to the top.

I know this to be true and I think there a lots of reasons for it, not least the very male world that we live in and the lack of female role models in all areas but especially represented in the media – TV, films, print. This is particularly true of older women.

Imagine the power of that message. As you get older, women, you cease to be of significance in this society so you can’t be found easily in our culture (unless we’re having a go at you  you, as in Professor Mary Beard’s case where having the temerity to air her well informed views on a BBC news programme resulted in an onslaught of misogyny. You can be in the media as an older women but within a very narrow stereotype: national treasure,  sad old woman, or a woman who is looking amazingly youthful and therefore to be lauded for having good genes or loads of plastic surgery. Heaven help me.

But back to ‘Man Up’. This phrase was used recently by a well known British politician while berating local councils for complaining about some measure he’d introduced which they weren’t enthusiastically embracing and were  criticising. He told them on national news, and on the web to ‘man up‘.

Which if you stop to think about it, actually means “Stop behaving like a woman which is undesirable behaviour.”Which can be interpreted as “women don’t do it properly so come on be a proper man, be strong and lead”.

That type of casual sexism happens day after day after day and yes, it does eat away at confidence levels and the worst thing is half the time we don’t even notice it, men or women. No doubt if that particular politician were challenged he’d scoff at the idea. He needs to think again. The language we use says a lot about us. ‘Man up’ may be fine when talking to a group of male rugby players but it has no place in the workplace.

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Posted on January 29th, 2013 by

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