Can we quit telling guys to ‘man up’?

Man (Hasan Minaj) saying 'What does that even mean' (also captioned below) with perplexed look,

‘Man up’ originally meant to man up a team or crew – as in getting people together for a common cause.

But the term ended up being twisted into a put-down, to tell someone they should 'get over' whatever fears, pain or doubts they have and ‘harden up’, on their own.

Sure, you could say that ‘stoicism’ and ‘self-reliance’ can be useful qualities sometimes. But really, to be happy, healthy and content humans we need to concentrate on things like our emotional intelligence, empathy, honesty, generosity, consideration and self-respect.

There are also some serious downsides to telling someone to ignore their fear, sadness, pain or doubts. When you discourage someone from dealing with their emotions or circumstances in a positive and constructive way, there’s a risk they’ll end up becoming angry and/or depressed.

Computer being pressed with screen that says 'You have encountered a PROBLEM'. A screen below says 'HANDLE IT' next to a blue button followed by 'IGNORE IT AND HOPE IT GOES AWAY' next to a red button. A hand is pushing a red button. In the background there is scrolling text in green repeating the words 'UH-OH'.

In a society that has long taken pride in ‘manning up’, Australia now has extraordinarily high rates of violence and suicide among men. Telling each other to just ‘get over it’ discourages positive action like talking to people about how we’re feeling and what we’re going through – whether that’s with friends and family or professional help.

  • Telling someone to stop crying is like putting wallpaper over a leak in the ceiling – eventually something’s going to burst.
  • Advising people to ignore their sadness, loneliness or fear is like telling someone with a broken leg to just ‘jog on’ – that injury ain't going to heal, it’s just going to get worse.
  • Discouraging someone from asking questions or worrying is like ignoring warnings from a flight-computer – things need to be dealt with before they go into a ‘nose-dive’.
Plan crashing into a forest with a man in front of the crash with both hands up covering his head then turning around and saying 'He's going to be fine!'.

When you see someone crying or unhappy ask them what’s going on and see how you can help.

When you hear someone say, “I’m not feeling so good” ask what’s up, and listen.

When a mate is struggling with stuff, be there for them.

And get other people on board, whether it's friends, family or organisations* – remember, that’s the original meaning of ‘manning up’: getting people together for a common cause.

*If you or someone you know is experiencing problems and needs help please visit Headspace or Beyond Blue .

You may also like...

Loading next article