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Crossposted at Of Means and Ends.

In an interview yesterday, Secretary of State John Kerry laid down a tired old trope when asked about Edward Snowden (emphasis mine):

The bottom line is this is a man who has betrayed his country, who is sitting in Russia, an authoritarian country, where he has taken refuge. He should man up and come back to the United States if he has a complaint about what’s the matter with American surveillance, come back here and stand in our system of justice and make his case. But instead he is just sitting there taking potshots at his country, violating his oath that he took when he took on the job he took, and betraying, I think, the fundamental agreement that he entered into when he became an employee. And the fact is he has damaged his country very significantly in many, many ways. He has hurt operational security. He has told terrorists what they can now do to be able to avoid detection. And I find it sad and disgraceful.
There's a lot to be annoyed at in that quote, but "man up" immediately had me shaking my head. I doubt he went into the interview with that as one of his talking points, but it's telling that it rolls off the tongue.

What Kerry essentially says here is that Snowden is a cowardly girly girl who won't face the consequences of his actions. It's ludicrous that this is coming out of the mouth of our nation's top diplomat. Erin Gloria Ryan at Jezebel nails the absurdity:

Over the next few days, we can expect John Kerry to insist that his dad can beat up Edward Snowden's dad, that Edward Snowden's momma so fat, and that Edward Snowden plays ball like a GIRL. We're but a few short masculinity questioning insults away from solving diplomacy, guys.

Heavily implied in "man up" is the undesirability of being associated with femininity. Don't be scared, vulnerable, timid, wishy washy. Be a man instead. I don't need to chronicle the hundreds, thousands, millions of brave women who reveal the irrelevance of these stereotypes. (I'll put just one example here as I was blown away and inspired by watching a screening of Freedom Summer and seeing what a badass Fannie Lou Hamer was and how much she scared Lyndon Johnson. Man up, Lyndon!)


"Man up" is more disturbingly used in pushing beyond gender stereotypes toward a more toxic form of masculinity, one that is under a lot of scrutiny in light of the shooting at UCSB. It's the idea of masculinity that says our foreign policy needs to be more militaristic and threatening. It's the push to "man up" get out of the maligned "friend zone" (read if you dare) and get that romantic and sexual attention you're entitled to that is getting some overdue discussion and dismantling this week.


We could take Dan Savage's route and start telling people to "ovary up," but I'm all for getting gender out of the equation and just saying what we actually mean.

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