A Phrase I’m Ready to Be Done With
As I’ve said before, I’m ready for our culture (and our church) to progress when it comes to the words we use with regard to gender. You know what I’m talking about, the gender exclusive terms that unfortunately litter our rhetorical arsenals. Perhaps the most common example would be using words like “man” or “mankind” instead of “people” or “humans.” Words matter, and, in the case of gender exclusive language, they can too often cause damage.
Of all the gender exclusive words, terms and phrases that we use, there’s one that’s really starting to bug me:
“You’re the man.”
Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like I’ve been hearing this little gem a lot lately. Like when I’m watching a tournament and a golfer tees off to the sound of someone in the crowd yelling, “you’re the man!” Or when someone posts a picture on facebook of their son doing something good and some commenter chimes in with a, “he’s the man.” Or when the pastor preaches a whale of a sermon and the overheard comment on the patio afterward goes something like “wow, pastor was the man this morning.”
It sucks. And here’s why:
It equates success, victory, achievement and accomplishment with being male.
And that’s a problem for women. Because what it says is that if you have the wrong chromosomes, then you’re out of luck. In the “you’re the man” framework, women are sequestered to the realm of the inferior. They are the contrast, the other. And it’s a one way street. After all, no one’s saying “You’re the woman!” when an LPGA golfer stripes it down the middle.
But it’s also a problem for men. Because there’s a dark side to male privilege. Continually having to embody the gold standard of human accomplishment can be exhausting. It can be stressful. Because it’s unrealistic, and it’s painful when you don’t measure up.
So…what to do? Allow me to propose a couple of alternatives:
First, if you insist on using the term “You’re the man!” to affirm the good works of the men in your life, balance the ledger by using “You’re the woman!” as well. Will it be awkward? No doubt. Maybe it would help to make it a campaign? We could hashtag it at #yourethewomanisjustaslegitasyouretheman
Or, better, what if we all just staring using a hearty “well done” or “good job” when someone does something good?
Regardless of gender.