One of the hottest epithets to emerge this political season has a gender basis: “Man up.”
“Man up, Harry Reid,” Nevada Republican senate candidate Sharron Angle said to her Democratic opponent. “You need to understand we have a problem with Social Security.”
“Hey, politicians who are in office today you, some of you, need to man up and spend some political capital to support the Tea Party candidates instead of doing this, waiting to see how everything is going to go,” Sarah Palin said in Reno, Nev.
“I think people should have access [to health care],” Missouri Democratic senate candidate Robin Carnahan said to Republican Roy Blunt. “They should have the same access you have as a member of Congress. So I think if you want to repeal health care reform and let insurance companies go back to their worst abuses, Congressman, then you ought to repeal your own first. And man up. And do what you’re asking other people to do.”
“You know, these are the kind of cheap, underhanded, un-manly tactics that we’ve come to expect from Obama’s favorite Republican, Mike Castle,” said Delaware Republican senate candidate Christine O’Donnell about her primary opponent. “You know, I released a statement today, saying Mike, this is not a bake-off, get your man-pants on.”
“He needs to man up and leader up and run his own race,” Florida Democratic senate candidate Kendrick Meek said of independent candidate Charlie Crist. “Don’t try to come over and eat off my plate, because I’m 6’3,” 250 pounds and a former state trooper.”
Ruth Marcus, writing in The Washington Post, wants to know what testicles have to do with toughness.
The breakthrough appeal of the Mama Grizzly is that she combines the ultimate feminine act — motherhood — with fierceness. Have we really come a long way if cojones equals good and lack thereof equals wimpy? …
Don’t equate typically female characteristics or activities (baking, wearing high heels) with weakness.
Don’t — even, or maybe especially, if you’re a woman — equate toughness with manliness. At least not unless you think it’s acceptable for your opponent to tell you to behave like a lady.
Don’t use terms with sexist or racist overtones. If you, or someone in your campaign does, groveling works better than quibbling.
Politicians of both genders don’t need to man up — they need to grow up. Judging by the campaign so far, that might be harder to pull off.
Over at Slate, John Dickerson laments that “man up” has turned into a cliché.
Imagine if someone spoke plainly about something that mattered! Original, unvarnished speech is such a danger, however, that politicians of both parties have joined together to make the expression ‘man up’ into a cliché, rendering it as harmless as the promise to ‘put America first.’ When a politician uses the expression now, it is rehearsed as dinner theater. It is dreary to watch, boring to listen to, and tells us nothing about the politician or the issue he or she is talking about.
Sociologist Geoffrey Greif, writing in Psychology Today, wonders why female candidates feel the need to ask if their candidates have the ganas.
I understand the history of the outdated notion that someone needs to “be a man” and act tough, take responsibility, and be a leader. But is that expression really still around today on the lips of women candidates? Is it okay to impugn their masculinity like this? “Take responsibility” could easily have been substituted for “man up” but in using “man up,” it calls into play the obvious retort. What if a candidate, male or female, told an opponent to “woman up?”
In a bygone era, telling someone to “woman up” would have meant she should act the way a traditional woman was expected to act. She should stay home and take care of children, perhaps while a man took care of family financially. In today’s world, woman up could mean the same as man up – take responsibility and act like a leader (think Hillary Clinton, Angela Merkle, and Margaret Thatcher – all women who take/took responsibility and act(ed) like leaders.
So I can’t quite figure out what these women were saying about their opponents’ masculinity or what they were saying about women in general. But it feels like a putdown of both and, ultimately, of themselves as women candidates.