Maclean’s recently put out an article a few weeks ago titled “Man Up” with a photo of a beautiful woman shaving her face. The header on the front page is extremely provocative, which seems to be Maclean’s gimmick since they stopped actually striving for high quality journalism. It reads, “Stop blaming the glass ceiling. Or the kids. High-powered female execs now say women should be more like men if they want to get ahead.”
Now, bear with me. I haven’t read the article, in all honesty because I misplaced the magazine, so I won’t go too in depth into what I think it might say as that’s not fair, but the cover itself with worthy of critical examination.
My issue before I even had a chance to open the article was that Maclean’s is still using gender-based language to make reference to character traits that have absolutely nothing to do with biological sex or perceived gender. The headline suggests that the article is calling for women to show more manly characteristics to achieve success in the workplace, and stop blaming “female” issues, like the glass ceiling or children. So, Maclean’s is telling us that success is “manly.”
But success, as far as I understand it, involves an element of determination, hard work, having a tough skin, being organized, balancing responsibilities, and handling stress. You don’t actually need testosterone or a penis to do this, interestingly. If we want to talk about working hard and balancing responsibilities, we have to remember that most women who enter the workplace are dealing with earning about 25 cents less on the dollar to men, an overburdened childcare sector, misogyny, a higher rate of workplace sexual harassment, and the social stigma of being a “bad mother” if they put work first.
Somehow, though, women deal with those setbacks that men do not deal with and still succeed. This has nothing to do with manliness, this has to do specifically with the fact that women are not men and as such have additional issues to overcome to be successful. Manliness is a social construct in this context, and it is offensive for Maclean’s to run an image of a woman shaving her face to show manliness. Testosterone, and the bodily tendencies associated with the hormone – like facial hair growth – have nothing to do with being successful, and it’s a brash way of saying that success is inherently tied to hormones and chromosomes, not personality, social structures or gender stereotypes.
As a woman, I know that my success doesn’t come from being manly: it comes from challenging stereotypes. Learning to deal with the barriers a male-dominated culture and field of journalism has placed in front of me for being a woman, and for telling my fellow women they need to be themselves, not some constructed concept of “men.” We simply need to be hardworking, smart, and achieving.
I don’t shave my face, and I shouldn’t have to wear a suit and tie to be taken seriously, nor should any man.
These social constructions of gender hold us all back by implying that we can only be successful if we live up to the concepts of manhood, concepts that have been entirely socially fabricated. To be successful, men and women alike need to “human up” – to let go of gender as a social definition and move out of the past where girls wear pink, boys wear blue, and “man” is all powerful.
Photo courtesy of treadster.blogspot.com