If you are a man, you probably have been subjected to it throughout your life, I would imagine. I am referring to the societal summons for you to fulfill the obligations of your gender: “step up like a man,” “act like a man,” and a precursor when you were very young, “big boys don’t cry.” Me, I am especially taken with the injunction these days to “man up.” More economical than its predecessors, the call to “man up” pithily encapsulates the idea of manliness.
For to be a man requires that you do something. Perhaps your dear mother adores you as the apple of her eye, but, trust me, no one else — including (or is it especially?) your wife — takes her cue from Billy Joel’s schmaltzy serenade and loves you just the way you are. (And who are you kidding? Not even your mom really feels that way.)
No. You, my poor bloke, are instead told to comply with the expectations of your community — "man up." What does manning up entail, though? While its meaning, like that of many aphorisms, is imprecise, the injunction to "man up" when distilled to its essence is meant to prompt a man to comport himself with valor.
But what is valor? And, by extension, what is manliness? Prepared for a Nevada Law Journal symposium, this brief essay, in the process of exploring both questions in the domains of law and culture, fails unabashedly to provide tangible answers for either but gleefully unpacks several more.