The problematic terminology of the phrase “man-up”

More stories from Lachlan Abner


What does it mean to be a man? The answer changes from person to person. Some would answer brave and strong, while others would say intelligent, while others again would say being able to back in a gooseneck trailer. There is no paramount definition to manliness, but it generally boils down to the same principles; strength, emotional repression, and aggression. 

Life can be tough, and you cannot always face it alone. The phrase “man-up” suggests that we as men need to forget that we have problems and just deal with it, for no other reason than because we were born male. Sons will hear it from their fathers and be taught from a young age that they can’t show weakness in front of anybody, even somebody who is supposed to be their role model.  

Men are expected by other men to bottle up their problems, particularly when it comes to mental health, and figure it out on their own. No “real man” would be caught dead talking to someone about how he felt, regardless of how close they were or how much they trusted each other.  

“Man-up” is detrimental to men’s health, not only because we refuse to talk it out, but because the only perceived solution to many problems is violence, be it taken out on others or on ourselves. Fights break out over the most trivial of offences, we cannot be disrespected for fear of looking weak in front of other men. Suicide rates among men grow continue to grow, because we are pressured by our peers to fit in, and to conform to what it means to be a man.  

We set our worth on what society and other men deem to be “manly.” If you can’t bench press your own weight, you’re not a man. If you can’t fix your own car, you’re not a man. If you have to get extra help with a subject you don’t understand, you’re not a man. All this piles up, and without external help we either end up hurting others or hurting ourselves. 

It’s okay to not be okay. We can’t expect to solve other problems without first solving our own. If you need to talk to someone, it’s perfectly okay to talk to someone. We can only become better by working together.