‘Man Up.’ It’s the phrase of the year, used on adverts, TV shows, in school playgrounds and offices around the country. It’s nice and succinct, it means ‘you aren’t enough of a man right now.’ It means ‘you’re not meeting the expectations of men all over the world.’ Feeling the cold? Man up. Can’t grow a beard? Man up. Feeling ill? Man up. Want a salad? Man up. The list goes on but have no doubt that almost anything you are doing in your life isn’t quite manly enough for someone else.
The amount of times I was told to ‘man up’ at work, or school when I complained about feeling ill. I didn’t know what was wrong, why I was so sad all the time but one thing I did know is I constantly felt I was letting my peers down. Perhaps more importantly letting my dad down. I wasn’t meeting anyone else’s expectations of manliness. I was depressed but that wasn’t an excuse. ‘Man up! What have you got to be depressed about?’ So I buried the sadness deep down inside and layered the new found feelings of inadequacy and failure over the top of it.
There’s an advert for a particular fried chicken emporium on TV at the moment. It opens with two men discussing their new television purchases where one is belittled for ‘only’ buying the 56” version. ‘Aww, adorable, I bought the 90” because I’m a man. Did it come free with your scented candles?’ They may as well have gone the whole hog and included the line ‘what, are you a gay or something?’
This is the world we live in now, where you aren’t a man unless you can grow a rugged beard, afford the biggest and best gadgets, show off your six pack whilst drinking one. We are about to witness the debut of a new TV show from Fox, imaginatively titled ‘Man Up.’ It’s pitched as a factual entertainment series which explores the male psyche, taking mummies boys and geeks and transforming them into brilliant, capable men. Is that not one of the most insulting notions you’ve ever heard?
In 2012, the male suicide rate in the UK was 3.5 times that of women. The highest ratio between the sexes in more than 30 years. Just a thought but perhaps it’s to do with the fact that every time a man complains or worries about anything he’s told by the media and society as a whole to ‘man up.’ It’s tragic that so many men feel they can’t ask for help for fear of being seen as somehow less of a man for doing so, and I have no doubt that the ever more impossible media depictions of what being a man means are a big reason behind this. That’s why I welcome the Year of the Male campaign led by CALM. Their aim is to get the nation talking about the needs of men and to look at what being a man means in the modern world.
For now, though, lets all pledge to take one simple course of action that may just help a little bit. Stop telling men to ‘man up.’ Every man is man enough.
You can follow CALM’s Year of the Male on Twitter: @yearofthemale
Or check out the website for more info on the campaign: yearofthemale.com