<< News Scan | Main | Revising U.S. Supreme Court Decisions >>

Man Up?

Secretary of State John Kerry has raised eyebrows with his statement regarding Edward Snowden: "The bottom line is this man has betrayed his country, sitting in Russia where he has taken refuge. You know, he should man up and come back to the United States."  Alexandra Petri has this lighthearted look at the WaPo.
My old book from legal writing class has a dated but still very helpful section titled "Avoid Sexist Expressions (When You Can)."  The book is Henry Weihofen, Legal Writing Style (2d ed. 1980).  Weihofen endorses continued use of masculine pronouns as the unmarked gender simply because there is no good alternative.  "The clumsy effort to avoid this by saying 'he or she' or 'him or her' every time we need to use a pronoun would soon become a drag." Indeed.

On expressions like Kerry's though, Weihofen has zero tolerance:

Above all, avoid expressions implying that a virtue is found only in men: facing danger 'with manly courage,' or 'like a man.'  Things would not be easier if women endured childbirth 'like a man.' "
The expression "man up" did not come into vogue until much later, but the same principle applies.

On the substance, of course, Kerry is correct that Snowden betrayed his country.  He gave information to the enemy that reduced our ability to detect persons planning terrorist attacks against us.  That is betraying your country just as, in an earlier conflict, assisting the Viet Cong's propaganda efforts by grossly exaggerating the extent of war crimes by American soldiers was betraying your country.


I absolutely, totally, unequivocally refuse to get myself in big trouble by suggesting that Pvt. Manning should "man up," so I'm not going to do any such thing.

If this was Facebook, Bills comment would definitely get a like.

Hmmm, maybe I should put it on Facebook.

Leave a comment

Monthly Archives