Stop using the phrase “you’re acting like a woman”
Too often I hear men snap at one another and carelessly use the insult “you’re acting like a woman.” It often comes in response to a man taking too long to make a decision, showing emotion or expressing fear in the face of a threat. It’s a phrase used so frequently by adult men, that very young boys will mimic it as they tease one another.
I have no objection to men calling each other out when they are acting irrationally, cowering in fear or wasting everyone’s time with nonsense. In fact, I encourage this. I think it’s healthy for men to challenge one another. Having a group of male friends who push you to excel beyond your mediocre use of the talents God has given you is an awesome thing. In Proverbs 27:17, the Bible describes this as iron sharpening iron. Men often set the bar for themselves too low. A few solid friends who push you to be better can be the difference between achieving the high score on Call of Duty or actually accomplishing something of value that benefits someone other than the shareholders of Activision.
However, why is it considered a negative thing to be a woman? Why is that analogy used as an insult as if there is something inherently wrong with being a woman? In Genesis 1:27, the Bible makes clear that God made both men and women in his image. When an assertion is made that lame behavior by a man is somehow indicative of the essence of a woman, it’s not only offense to women, it’s offensive to God. It suggests that something was flawed in His creation and mocks those who were was made in His image.
Our culture will sometimes portray men as courageous and women as fearful. Think of how many super hero movies reinforce this stereotype. As with many generalizations, it’s not necessarily grounded in reality. When Jesus was arrested, most of his disciples ran away. Peter’s denial is well known. At the cross, the only disciple who seems to be there is John. Yet, many of the women in Jesus life were there. Jesus’ mother Mary, her sister, Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary Magdalene were all there (There are a lot of Mary’s in the Bible. Someone should give them nicknames so we can keep them all straight). They didn’t run away in the face of danger. They stayed. The idea that being male makes you courageous and being female makes you cowardly is a farce. When men behave in a cowardly way, we shouldn’t accuse them of “acting like a woman.” We should call them out for being gutless and point to the many men throughout history who acted like cowards. And there are plenty from which to choose. Think Jonah, Peter or any number of male politicians who lack the courage to take a position on anything of significance.
At the Justice NYC conference this year, we’re going to challenge men to step up and protect women from sexual exploitation. It’s not that women are somehow weaker and have greater need for protection. It’s that women are targeted for sexual exploitation so much more frequently. In addition, many men are guilty of the exploitation. According to Barna, 2/3rds of all Christian men look at porn at least once a month. Some of those women are trafficked and coerced to participate. We want to move men from participating in the exploitation to promote a culture that protects women. Of course we want men to protect other men as well and women to protect both men and women. We’ve just chosen an area of focus this year where we believe men can have the greatest immediate impact in ending exploitation in their communities.
But we can’t challenge men to protect women while we’re simultaneously insulting and dehumanizing them by making their very essence a cavalier insult tossed at our friends in a moment of frustration. We can’t reinforce a stereotype that is demeaning and out of line with the Bible. God made women in his image. Who are we to disagree? I would challenge all men to stop using the phrase “you’re acting like a woman.” The truth is the guys you’re insulting are probably acting more like spineless men anyway.