Masculinity: Why Telling Men to “Man Up” Hurts Men…and Women

Since we’re discussing sexuality this week and masculinity next week, and since we just read CJ Pascoe’s “Dude, You’re a F__,” I’m posting performance poet Guante’s poem “10 Ways to Respond to the Phrase ‘Man Up.'”

In his poem, Guante explores the way that telling men to “man up” reinforces harmful gender stereotypes about men and masculinity that are also built on the devaluation of femininity. And consider how telling men to just “grow a pair” also actively discourages men from expressing vulnerability or establishing intimacy, either with other men or with the women in their lives – because such behaviors quickly bring their heterosexual masculinity into question.

“10 Responses to the Phrase ‘Man Up'” – Guante


Eve Ensler: Reclaiming the “Girl Self,” Vulnerability, and Other Ways of Knowing

“I love that I don’t take things lightly. Everything is intense to me…These feelings make me better – they make me better, they make me present, they make me ready, they make me strong.”

Feminist activist, writer, and performer Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues which are still performed every V-Day (Valentine’s Day, End Violence Against Women Day/Vagina Day) all over the world, celebrates the emotional, intuitive “girl” part of ourselves that we, as both women and men, often devalue  as weak, foolish and irrational as a result of our gender socialization.

The following excerpt comes from Ensler’s TED Talk “Embracing Your Inner Girl.” Here, Ensler captures how vital the “girl self” is to our humanity – it strives to be connected, to everyone and to everything, and to feel those connections, that is, to feel communally, not just individually. The girl self comes to knowledge through the gut, through intuition, rather than through intellect alone – so when we cut off the intuitive, emotionally-knowing girl self, in fact we cut ourselves off from a great deal of knowledge about the world.


Violence Against Women: Intimate Partner Abuse (Domestic Violence)

Last class, we talked about rape culture – what that means and how our media and daily conversation often support victim-blaming and slut-shaming, and perpetuate and normalize acts of violence against women.

Today, let’s talk about Intimate Partner Abuse, what we used to call domestic violence. Both rape culture and Intimate Partner Abuse are part of a larger, global culture of violence against women. Let’s put this violence in perspective with other forms of violence we hear about/see:




Let’s put Steiner’s talk in conversation with Debra Davis’s article “Betrayed by the Angel.”

Here are two examples of street art by nnnnnnnn that changes the conversation about street harrassment of women, and that also gets at our expectation – particularly men’s expectations – that women always appear friendly, open, and available; for example, that they should start by smiling, even at strangers:

In 2012, Brooklyn illustrator/painter Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, started ‘Stop Telling Women to Smile,’ a series of large-scale posters, featuring portraits of women with instructive anti-harassment captions, that she wheatpasted in public places. To further help spead the message, Fazlalizadeh has taken her series on the road, creating city-specific posters, installing them across the country and abroad, and asking for help from local women who want to be involved in her campaign.

Here are some of her pieces from Oakland, CA:

stop telling women to smile street art 1

stop telling women to smile street art 2


  1. How does the way we socialize women continue to enable violence and intimate partner abuse?
  2. Why do you think Steiner tells herself that she’s just “in love with a difficult man” and not that she’s being abused?
  3. Why is it important for Davis that she fight back because she’s angry, and not just because she’s afraid?


I’ve given you a handout from and also one from our local YWCA’s resources regarding violence, which houses a shelter for women and children fleeing intimate partner abuse and domestic violence.

In small groups, examine the signs and behaviors that signal an abusive relationship. Do you recognize any of them, in your own reletionships or those of people you know? Do you recognize these behaviors as abusive or, like Steiner, do they seem normal/expected to you (i.e., would they make you angry, or would you accept them)?

Artist Confronts Street Harassment by Turning the Gaze Back on Men

Most women have experienced street harassment. Such behaviors can range from a simple whistle to more sexually explicit language, all of which can make a woman feel less safe walking down the street and can reduce her to incredible self-consciousness about her body as an object. Worst case scenario: harassment can become a form of verbal violence that many women learn to accept as part of their everyday lives – particularly women who live in urban environments, like photographer Hannah Price.

Rather than averting her gaze and hurrying past, Price decided to turn her gaze back on the men who cat-called her – with her camera. Her resulting portraits, collectively called City of Brotherly Love, are human and revealing. Read about the artist’s work and see more of her photographs in “Photographer Takes Portraits Of Men Moments After They Catcall Her; The Results Are Mesmerizing.”

“After moving to Philadelphia from Fort Collins, Colorado, artist Hannah Price started experiencing street harassment for the first time, and she came up with a novel way to respond to it: she turned her camera on the men who catcalled her. In a fascinating interview with The Morning News, Price describes how she takes the portraits: ‘Once a guy catcalls me, depending on the situation, I would either candidly take their photograph or walk up to them and ask if I can take their photograph. They usually agree and we talk about our lives as I make their portrait.'”

Or watch the video interview with the artist on NPR, which also shows a number of her portraits. Here are two of Price’s photographs. Click here to see a gallery of her photos:

Untitled, Pullover: one from the series City of Brother Love by photographer Hannah Price.

“Untitled, Pullover”: one from the series City of Brother Love by photographer Hannah Price, in which she turns her camera on her street harrassments to capture them immediately after cat-calling her.

Every Day After Work, West Philly: another portrait from Price's series.

“Every Day After Work, West Philly”: another portrait from Price’s series.