Read about a two-word phrase that can scare men away from “acting human”

November 19, 2013

LZ  Granderson says words like these have the power to control men
The recent NFL scandal over bullying serves as a jumping off point for CNN contributor LZ Granderson to reflect on how words and expressions like “man up” or “be a man” can affect boys and men.  He says if a man has the strength to be honest and admit (even to himself) his feelings of vulnerability, emotional pain, and sensitivity, words like “Man up!” can zap him like the shock a dog feels when it tries to venture beyond an electronic underground pet fence. Granderson talks about the gender socialization that insists boys not feel or express emotions that are viewed as soft, gentle, and empathic.  Such feelings (and any outward show of them) are seen as signs of weakness.  And the effects of such views begin taking hold early in a boy’s life.  “Which makes sense, “ says Granderson, “when you think about the first time we hear things like ‘man up’ or ‘be a man.’ It’s never when we’re suppressing sensitivity; it’s only when we express it.”  He points out that such disconnection with feelings hurts the ability to empathize.  “And if we can’t feel with others, how can we truly feel for others?” (Italics added.)

Related.  See two other excellent articles on the same topic, both written for Slate.  One is by Katy Waldman and is titled, “When a Guy is Bullied, He’s ‘Not a Man.’ When a Female is Bullied, She’s ‘Just a Woman.’”  The other essay, by Amanda Marcotte, is titled “’Stand Up and Be a Man’: What the NFL Bullying Scandal Tells Us about Masculinity.”  Marcotte says she would like to see the concepts of “masculinity” and “femininity” disappear altogether.  Why? “As long as we imagine that there is ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity” and these things are in opposition, then men are going to be under relentless pressure at all points in time to prove that they’re not somehow turning into women,” she explains. She continues with this powerful observation: “Masculinity gets defined as ‘not women,’ and so any trait that women might possess, no matter how positive, gets rejected. Women display compassion, so compassion is emasculating. Women are willing to admit they have hurt feelings or moments of pain, so men can’t even have that.”

Letha Dawson Scanzoni
Letha Dawson Scanzoni (1935-2024) was an independent scholar, writer, and editor, and the author or coauthor of nine books. In 1978, she and Virginia Ramey Mollenkott wrote Is the Homosexual My Neighbor?, one of the earliest books urging evangelical Christians to rethink their views on homosexuality (updated edition, 1994, HarperOne). More recently, Letha coauthored (with social psychologist David G. Myers) What God Has Joined Together: The Christian Case for Gay Marriage (HarperOne, 2005 and 2006). Another of Letha’s most well-known books is All We’re Meant to Be: Biblical Feminism for Today, coauthored with Nancy A. Hardesty (Word Books, 1974; revised edition, Abingdon, 1986; updated and expanded edition, Eerdmans, 1992). Letha served as editor of Christian Feminism Today in both its former print edition (EEWC Update) and its website for 19 years until her retirement in December 2013.


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