Man Up Princess

I recently overheard some dad’s talking, and one of them told the others how he told his daughter to “Man up, Princess”.

I am still not sure how I feel about this phrase taken as it is, but I haven’t been able to get it out of my head.

To put it into context his 13 year old daughter was having a tough time adjusting to weekly boarding school, despite it being her choice to go. After a few weeks of her crying that she was missing home he eventually gave her the choice and said she could come home.

Her reply was, “No, it’s okay. I want to stay.”

So his reply to her was, “Well then you had better man up, Princess.”

What does ‘Man Up Princess’ actually mean?

I totally agree with him in his approach. He gave her the choice initially to go away to boarding school or stay local; she chose to go. Then he gave her another choice to come home or stay; again she chose to stay away. So basically she needs to toughen up and embrace the reality of her choices. It can’t be that bad if she’s choosing to stay.

It’s just the phrase that I’m struggling with.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for tough love.

The other day my youngest daughter came running over crying because she’d stubbed her toe or something, and my eldest turned to her and said “Yes, but did you die?”

This was a statement she could only have gotten from me! haha

I also like the fact that he’s calling her ‘Princess’, a term many fathers use when talking to or about their daughters, my own husband included. It implies love and protection and is definitely used as a term of endearment whilst also acknowledging that they might be a tiny bit spoilt.

The ‘man up’ part is the part I’m struggling with I think. Whilst I get that he is trying to tell her to toughen up a bit, couldn’t he have just said “Toughen up, Princess” instead.

To imply that only men are tough or strong, whilst by contrast women aren’t, is … irritating.

What’s The Opposite of Man Up Princess?

What would the reverse be? “Soften up, prince?”

That really doesn’t work does it. You would never hear something like that.

I’m not really sure I even have a point to make.

Let’s get some perspective.

These men were all having a heartfelt conversation where they were sharing their love for their children, and having an open debate about what they considered to be best for them. They were all strong, macho type of men, and they were all loving, caring fathers.

I’m sure he didn’t mean anything bad by it either. He didn’t even realise that what he was saying would be taken in any way other than what he was trying to convey.

I’m almost trying to convince myself that it’s okay though.

Part of me doesn’t want to. Part of me is hoping my husband will read this and know me well enough to understand why I wouldn’t want him to say that to our daughters.

I think it’s because it’s disrespectful to women that I’m struggling with it; the implication being that a woman isn’t as strong, or as brave, or as tough as a man.

Is it even fair of me to have a problem with this?

That said, I’m hardly a bra burning ball busting advocate for feminism, that’s just not me, although thank you to those who are.

I’m confident enough that in our family of women, all the sisters and daughters, that my girls will be strong, brave and tough; and should they need a little bit of tough love, they will instead be told to “toughen up, princess”.

Now that I’ve had my little rambling rant, let me go and clean up my daughter’s Elsa costume so she can wear it to school next week. I guess Elsa isn’t the worst Disney Princess to aspire to be now is she? A young royal thrust into the role of protector of her people far too young, but who eventually wins the battle over her own demons to rise to the occasion and defeat evil.

My personal bravest Disney Princess is Merida from Brave. A fiery strong willed Scottish lass.

Disclaimer: Featured image from Pinterest – click for the original link.

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    1. Oh good. Not just me.
      I really don’t think he even realized he might offend someone. But it was said.

  1. That would have pee-d me off totally. And I’m talking about a sitting pee here 😉 My daughter is 16 and can change a tire quicker than her dad, but she loves dressing up too. Why must she man up? What does that actually mean? Don’t cry? Take it on the chin? Grrrr, sorry I’m going off on a tangent here, but girls aren’t princesses and they never have to man up. They are gorgeous woman in the making.

  2. Oh that would have totally got to me too – the most beautiful quality a girl has is being a girl – that is her strength and that is her power! Oo the feminist in me is raging!!! #DreamTeam

  3. I’m so glad I read this, because I have been thinking about this phrase for a while. It slips off the tongue and, as you say, people don’t put any particular thought behind it, but it’s so wrong! It’s one of the ways we need to change people’s attitudes to the language we use without thinking, that becomes bedded in our vocabulary, but which then paints the wrong picture to our children. We certainly want our girls to be tough, as you say and strong, but this has absolutely nothing to do with men. This is a really good post and I love the questioning nature of it. Alison x #DreamTeam

    1. You’re right, what’s needed is a conscious change in behaviour. I suspect we might get there in about two generations time.

  4. Interesting post. I have never really thought much about the phase ‘man up’ on its own before, but reading your post as soon as I read ‘man up princess’ it really irked me. I think it’s really good to question these things, and like you said I’m sure it just slipped out and he particularly mean anything by it but still the implication that only men are tough/strong and we need to be more like them is in the phase. #DreamTeam

  5. I am sort of with you and sort of not. I get why it bugs you, it isn’t the best phrase to use but I think I am just used to hearing it from my husband. I consider it just a fly by phrase because I know he believes women are far tougher than men. That said it is an old and out dated phrase so really ‘toughen up’ would have been a better choice. I like that he gave his daughter the choice too. Sounds like he is mostly doing a sterling job even if his choice of words could perhaps do with some revision. This certainly got me thinking!

    1. Exactly. No doubt he’s being a good dad, it’s the terminology which needs to be considered. It’s a very outdated but accepted and not challenged phrase. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  6. This is so hard, right? It gets under your skin, you have to dig around to figure out why, but then you know if you say something someone’s just gonna tell you he “didn’t mean it like that.” Well, of course he didn’t. He didn’t specifically mean to say “you made this choice twice all on your own now so quit whining about it [like a girl] and toughen up [like a man].” But there’s a reason the saying’s out there….
    Totally get where you’re coming from here.

    1. Thanks. I’m glad I wrote it but I still don’t know how to go about making it right.

  7. I love Merida from Brave! I’ve been trying to have lots of conversations with Amelia lately about gender equality (“If we went to see the doctor/dentist/soldier/fireperson, would they be a man or a lady?” is one of our discussions at the moment) and I think it’s true that there are so many phrases drilled into us and that we say without even thinking that reinforce gender stereotypes. Even swearing – think of the worst swear-word you can….. I bet it has female connotations! #ablogginggoodtime

  8. I suppose you could tell her to “woman up” too- lol. I think it’s better that the man is a caring father first and foremost. We all need help sometimes and maybe daddy just needs a little nudging. Good to think about!! #showmeyours

  9. visiting from #blogginggoodtime and my post a few behind yours is actually about my feelings after catching myself telling our teen daughter that she needed to “man up.” I was praising her for going to school while still a bit under the weather, but wish I had used a different term

  10. Mmm, I haven’t really given that phrase much thought but I am glad I read your post now. It is true that it conjures that presumption of being a man and what only man are assumed to be and can be. I think like what you say, many of us use phrases without really thinking much because it’s been in our vocabulary forever but it is time to have a think about what we really say to our kids. Thanks for sharing this thought provoking post with #bigpinklink

  11. Oooh this is an interesting one. I think ‘man up’ is quite a common phrase used in America, and I don’t know about you, but the majority of movies we watch are the big American block busters. It’s so easy for links of words to become lodged in our minds if we hear them all the time. I wonder if it’s just a case of a repeated phrase. It’s only when you really think about it, that it takes on a much deeper meaning. Thank you for sharing with the #DreamTeam x

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  13. I think in this day and age we all get hung up on language and it’s difficult for alot of people to forget about the wording when they’re not thinking anything of it. Thanks for linking up to #MarvMondays. Kaye xo

    1. I agree. It was more about going forward in life. The dad in question surely didn’t even think about what he was saying, but as a mom of girls, it did make me think.
      Thanks for commenting.

  14. Being a mom of girls makes you abit conscious of speech and the world in general doesnt it? I know, I have four daughters.

  15. Oh it’s such a tricky one – gender stereotypes are so intertwined with our language and culture. I personally don’t think “man up” is a great thing to say to girls OR boys. If you say it to a boy, it implies that they’re not manly unless they’re tough and unfeeling.

    I think more and more people are starting to question these phrases and hopefully we can start to see them phased out as we try to bring our language in line with our 21st century values of equality and acceptance.


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  17. It does make you stop and think when you hear phrases being used that were once so popular but now maybe aren’t the best message to send to kids. #BlogCrush

  18. It sounds like a poorly thought out expression he’s picked up from a movie. I guess I come from the other end of the spectrum, I don’t believe tough and love belong in the same sentense. That said I do not have a teenager…
    It’s a bit like the expression ‘like a girl’ there can be lots of complex meaning behind it. #blogcrush

  19. Hmm I totally get where you are coming from, I think ‘toughen up’ would have been a better way to put it. There are lots of phrases I don’t like, I have had to have serious words with my husband for saying things like ‘stop crying like a girl’ or ‘stop doing X like a girl’. It drives me mad, I don’t want my son thinking women are weak and inferior to men or that it’s not OK for him to cry. My father in law is very old school so that must be where my husband gets it from, after lots of nagging I have finally managed to get to realise the effect his words could have and he doesn’t say things like that anymore. This father you heard talking sounds like a great Dad but I think he chose his words poorly. Congratulations for veubf chosen as Lucy’s #BlogCrush xx

  20. To start off, great post! Way to offer the provocative phrase and get us all thinking a bit. I am a feminist and a mom to two girls. Here is my problem with this phrase: Girls/women can be just as brave as boys/men. While ‘girl up’ wouldn’t yet offer hat same meaning due to the lexicon of our culture, it’s really about having her be braver, tougher, stronger. I try very hard to always offer my girls the opportunity of bravery over perfection. She was brave to let her parents know she was having a hard time. She was brave to make a decision to stay at school. She was brave to go back to school even with hard feelings. In a world where gender is now more fluid than ever, it is important that we bolster our girls with love, sometimes tough love, and guidance in how to toughen our skins to what can be a cruel world. And, we need to let them know that girls can do anything, if they really work hard, set their minds on it, and focus time. #blogcrush xo

  21. I’d never really even thought about that phrase actually being about a man! Isn’t that strange? I don’t really use it myself, but now you mention it, it does seem rather an odd phrase! Great post x

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