The trending hashtag, #MasculinitySoFragile, had me scrolling on twitter for hours and hours because I couldn’t agree more with about 80% of those tweets. Not only were some of them really funny, but they were also on point.
For anyone who is lost on this subject, good job on probably staying away from your phone (aka Twitter, Instargram, or Tumblr) for more than 15 minutes, or not so good job if you only follow cute animal pages and never ran into this hashtag! Basically, the hashtag was a trending topic on twitter where people would tweet things that ridiculously weaken men’s masculinity because of how fragile it is. People would tweet things like this:
Funny, right? Well this hashtag also made me wonder why people’s masculinity is so fragile. And of course, like 99% of the time, the answer is because of society. Criticizing men for not being “manly” enough has been happening for a really long time. We even have Angela Davis’ writing “The Anti-Slavery Movement and the Birth of Women’s Rights” where she talks about Frederick Douglas joining women during controversial women’s movements and people in those times criticizing him for it. As Davis’ writes, “Because of his principled support of the controversial women’s movement, he was often held up to public ridicule. Most men of his era, finding their manhood impugned, would have automatically risen to defend their masculinity” (page 30). This man was brave enough to resist society’s ridicule and continued to advocate for women’s rights.
Douglas was able to make the connection of derogatory terms being created in order to manipulate people and degrade them, when they are in fact doing nothing wrong. However, what still happens in todays society affects men so badly that their masculinity is, indeed, so fragile.
What does to “man up” even mean? This completely gendered phrase causes damage that definitely backfires on society when we see the suicide rates of men versus women. Sure, the suicide attempt statistics for women are significantly higher than for men, but actually committing suicide is where men take the prize. Why is that? Maybe telling the men to man up really means, “Hide the pain. Don’t you dare show your emotions. Be what society expects you to be; a jerk with no feelings, and when you actually have feelings internalize them until you can’t hold it in anymore and kill yourself before you think of saying them out loud”.
The construction of the phrase to “man up” is a big mistake on society, but the bigger mistake is the role we take on it when we continue to pass it on. Growing up with my little brother has helped me see the gender stereotypes and sexism that exists in our society and that doesn’t shy away from affecting our homes. The Mexican culture, specifically, is a great fan of this phrase because we use machismo as if it were mandatory. My little brother wasn’t allowed to wash dishes because his dad (my stepfather) wouldn’t allow him to do such a “womanly” chore. You know what else my little brother wasn’t allowed to do? Cry, because he had to “man up”. I say “wasn’t able to do” in past tense, because once I got the confidence to stand up to my stepdad and put him in his place, my brother has been able to step out of thee gender norms my culture and society put him in.
I didn’t necessarily fight my stepdad on leaving gender norms out of our house because I wanted my little brother to wash the dishes for me. I, instead, wanted to make sure that my brother knew it was ok for him to express himself with words and emotions like anyone else should be able to.
“Man up” is a phrase so far away from my vocabulary that even when I hear it on television ads, shows, movies, etc. I cringe. Therefore, I cringe about 20 times or more every time I turn on a television. Language is extremely important, and the norms we put on young children will affect them for the rest of their lives, so make sure to do your part and not restrict people to stick to specific gender norms.