TEN RESPONSES TO THE PHRASE “MAN UP.”
1. Fuck you.
2. If you want to question my masculinity, like a schoolyard circle of curses, like a swordfight with lightsaber erections, save your breath. Because contrary to what you may believe, not every problem can be solved by “growing a pair.” You can’t arm-wrestle your way out of chemical depression. The CEO of the company that just laid you off does not care how much you bench. And I promise, there is no lite beer in the universe full-bodied enough to make you love yourself.
3. Man up? Oh that’s that new superhero, right? Mild-mannered supplement salesman Mark Manstrong says the magic words “MAN UP,” and then transforms into THE FIVE O’CLOCK SHADOW, the massively-muscled, deep-voiced, black-leather-duster-wearing superhero who defends the world from, I don’t know, feelings.
4. See I don’t drink a lot of beer… you know, because I’m not a “real man,” but I’m pretty sure that, of all the beers in the world, Miller Lite… is not the most flavorful brew. It kind of tastes like… whatever insecure jackass wrote these “man up” commercials got rejected by a beautiful, no-nonsense bartender, drank a six pack of REAL beer alone in his apartment, and then Miller bottled his tears.
5. You ever notice how nobody ever says “woman up?” They just imply it. Because women and the women’s movement figured out a long time ago that being directly ordered around by commercials, magazines and music is dehumanizing. When will men figure that out?
6. “Man Up” assaults our self esteem by suggesting that competence and perseverance are uniquely masculine traits. That women—not to mention any man who doesn’t eat steak, drive a pickup truck, have lots of sex with women and otherwise conform to gender norms absolutely—are nothing more than, background characters and props in a movie where the strong, stoic, REAL man is the hero. More than anything, though, it suggests that to be yourself—whether you, wear skinny jeans, listen to Lady Gaga, rock a little eyeliner, drink some other brand of light beer, or write poetry—will cost you.
7. How many boys have to kill themselves before this country acknowledges the problem? How many women have to be abused? How many trans people have to get assaulted? We teach boys how to wear the skin of a man, but we also teach them how to raise that skin like a flag and draw blood for it.
8. Boy babies get blue socks. Girl babies get pink socks. What about purple? What about orange, yellow, chartreuse, cerulean, black, tie-dyed, buffalo plaid, rainbow… there are so many beautiful colors and combinations of colors. Yet boy babies get blue socks. And girl babies get pink socks.
9. I want to be free, to express myself. Man up. I want to have meaningful, emotional relationships with other men. Man up. I want to be weak sometimes. Man up. I want to be strong in a way that isn’t about physical power or dominance. Man up. I want to cry if I feel like crying. Man up. I want to ask for help. Man up. I want to be who I am. Man up.
See Guante’s discussion of the poem and the performance here.