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“Man Up”: Hidden Sexism at TAS

“Man Up”: Hidden Sexism at TAS

A few weeks ago, I was having dinner with some of my guy friends at a burger joint.
We were all joking around and laughing, so when the conversation switched to school dances, I expected an equally jovial tone. Instead, I was confronted with this statement: “Man, all the girls were so thirsty last year at Prom, remember how all of them kept asking guys out?”
And to my complete bewilderment, everyone else began to nod and agree. Now, all of these guys, including the one who first spoke up, are smart, educated, well-spoken young men. So why on earth were they agreeing to such a sexist comment?
According to a study by Benokraitis and Feagin in 1999, sexism comes in three main forms: blatant, covert, and subtle sexism. Blatant sexism is when someone is outright and intentionally sexism. Covert sexism is also intentional, but it’s purposely disguised or masked from sight. The third, subtle sexism, is what I want to discuss today. According to the researchers, “Subtle sexism represents unequal and unfair treatment of women that is not recognized by many people because it is perceived to be normative, and therefore does not appear unusual.”
And unfortunately, while blatant and systemic sexism are now a lot less prevalent in the developed world, subtle sexism is still rampant, including at TAS. Just head to the cafeteria to hear about how Ms. So and So must have been PMSing because she was so snappish in class today. Maybe head to the field during PE class to hear how shouts of “just man up!” are offered as encouragement.
Only men can be brave. Only women should cook and clean the house. All women are emotional and needy, while all men are emotionless and needed. I’m almost absolutely sure that you, my reader, don’t believe in any of those statements, but when you go along with subtly sexist comments, those are the beliefs that you’re perpetuating.
There are some instances where people being subtly sexist genuinely don’t realize what they’re saying, like my friend at dinner. But in most cases, subtle sexism occurs because people can’t be bothered to shift their language. It’s not bigotry, just laziness. Instead of taking the time to question the inequality that’s become so sadly normative in our culture, you simply go along with it. Because it’s easier to say “grow a pair” than to think of another way to say “stop being a coward” which doesn’t imply that courage is a uniquely masculine trait. It’s easier to laugh at the girl who just asked someone to Frolic and to call her thirsty than to consider why exactly you find it so weird for a girl to ask someone out.
And while many examples of subtle sexism involve phrases or ideas that discriminate against women, remember that this outdated brand of gender bias is just as detrimental to men. In his spoken word poem “Ten Responses to the Phrase ‘Man up’”, National slam poetry Champion Guante paints a startling picture of a society where men sacrifice happiness and health in the name of being manly. “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…but of course. Why fight to remove our chains when we can simply compare their lengths?” He calls for everyone listening to stop being a part of a culture that imposes certain characteristics on someone because of their gender, even if it’s just for two words or sentences.
After my friend made his Prom comment, I asked him what it was about asking guys out that made him think the girls at Prom were “so thirsty”. From there we actually segwayed into a meaningful and productive discussion on gender and sexism. Yeah sure, it was a little awkward cutting into the casual conversation with such a heavy topic, but I think ultimately everyone came out of that conversation bettered in some way.
Subtle sexism isn’t a problem that requires months of work or hours upon hours of hard labor. All it takes is a little extra thinking and a willingness to try and change yourself for the better. So why not try it? You don’t have to man up.
Just change it up.

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  • 1

    111222Dec 19, 2014 at 12:02 am

    didn’t the 2015 class cheer include “I’ll make a man out of you” last year? Who wrote that?

  • T

    tyrone321Dec 18, 2014 at 10:07 pm

    Subtle sexism represents unequal and unfair treatment of women
    Holy irony, Batman, even their definition itself is sexist. If you think sexism can only affect women you are quite the sexist yourself. This is one of the reasons why it’s so hard to take this stuff seriously: the people who keep lecturing others from their high horses are usually the worst offenders. (Paging upper-middle class white women lecturing homeless guys about there ‘male privilege’.)
    “Man, all the girls were so thirsty last year at Prom, remember how all of them kept asking guys out?”
    What exactly is “sexist” in saying that girls were thirsty or that they asked guys out? Sexism (please look it up in an actual dictionary) is discrimination or prejudice based on sex. I see exactly zero discrimination or prejudice in the stuff you quoted. That generally it is guys who ask out girls is a simple observation about reality, and making this simple observation is not sexism. The definition of subtle sexism as “unequal and unfair treatment of women” is in itself subtle sexism. The definition is describing subtle misogyny. Subtle sexism would be “unequal and unfair treatment of people because of their sex.”
    Only men can be brave.
    I don’t know where you got this from but I call bs. Nobody I know personally or on the internet thinks like this.
    Only women should cook and clean the house.
    What the actual eff are you talking about? You live in a lame parody of Mad Men or something?
    when you go along with subtly sexist comments, those are the beliefs that you’re perpetuating
    I see you think this is the case but do you have any proof? I don’t need some empirical study on the matter (although it would be nice), I’ll make do with a simple but coherent argument built step by step. Cause now, honestly, I don’t see the connection between saying “the girls were thirsty last year” and “only women should cook and clean the house”. It’s not even an exaggeration, it’s pure bs.
    To talk about the main point, well, ‘man up’ is usually used by women to shame men into doing their bidding. Other times it’s used by men to urge other guys to pull themselves together. If you think the phrase is derogatory to women you are sorely mistaken.