I wanted to write about what the seemingly more common phrase ‘man up’ could mean in the current environment when many men are no long up in any sense. I had to shelve the writing. My wife went to her office, and I–being a stay-at-home man–was off running with my sick daughter to the doctor, after she had had a feverish night with a nasty cough.
I have a gut sentiment that ‘man up’ is as confusing–and perhaps offensive–a message as can be given in a world where sharing burdens is more what is needed rather than sticking to tried and tested roles and activities. I listened with a lot of concern to some men who have taken the step to stay-at-home fathers (even being home schoolers) or be the primary care giver, while their female partners pursue their career choices. When one mentioned that he was constantly being told by his office colleagues to ‘man up’ when he leave early to deal with his children, for instance, he made it clear that somehow in their eyes the choices he had made to bind his family together made somehow less manly, at least in the eyes of some other men. Were his colleagues playing a familiar avoidance game, which is not limited to men, when it comes to family responsibilities?
The phrase makes me feel uncomfortable, but I need to listen more to how people are positioning men, and whether they are really setting them up to be really manly or merely putting them into a slot that is really not one to be filled.