Liverpool Football Club have recently released a list of banned phrases, that they want the fans to avoid using. (Read the story)

One of these phrases is "Man up".

Why is this phrase considered offensive, and who is likely to take offense?

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    – user19148
    Jul 31, 2013 at 13:34
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    It doesn't imply that it's better to be a man, cross-gender references are an almost unavoidable aspect of how gender is treated in English. Many of these kinds of phrases will cause offense in exactly those who are looking for it - my wife will occasionally tell one of my daughters to man up - it's an informal, short and pithy phrase and if you're offended, well, erm, man up. There are some genuinely offensive phrases in the list but this is more than likely going to backfire on them, cf. the Streisand Effect.
    – Unsliced
    Jul 31, 2013 at 15:42
  • Apparently the synonymous phrase "Grow a pair!" is still acceptable.
    – oosterwal
    Jul 31, 2013 at 21:45
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    In response to those claiming this question be opinion-based: I'm not asking whether the phrase is offensive- that's very subjective. I'm asking why anyone could find it offensive- very much more objective.
    – Urbycoz
    Aug 1, 2013 at 8:24

3 Answers 3


From the article:

"The club have produced a handbook which highlights common slurs against race, religion, sexual orientation, gender and disability which could cause offence."

Man up, along with a phrase such as You play like a girl, imply that it is better to be a man/male and worse to be a woman/female. Would you tell a woman to "man up?" Using a masculine descriptor as a positive or the feminine as a negative is rather insulting to females/women. Similarly, the club has banned "gay" as an insult, as implying being gay is a bad thing is offensive to actual gay people. Same thing for racial epithets, which the club has already had an issue with.

A friend of mine coined(?) the phrase "grow some ovaries," which I personally like to use.

EDIT: The complete and rather offensive list can be found here

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    +1 especially for your suggested alternative. I'd be interested, though, in the etymology on this of whether it's contrasting "man" with "woman" or "man" with "boy".
    – Thomas
    Jul 31, 2013 at 13:43
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    While "grow some ovaries" is an understandable riposte to "grow a pair [of testicles]", I am not sure continuing the use of gender favoring phrases will advance the cause of equality or civility.
    – bib
    Jul 31, 2013 at 13:49
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    +1'd to counter the unwarranted (in my opinion) downvote. Answers can include opinions, in addition to information. This isn't a clinical encyclopedia. Jul 31, 2013 at 14:52
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    @KristinaLopez make a great crosswords definition: What's one up? :)
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jul 31, 2013 at 17:46
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    @Mari-LouA, realizing of course that most jockeys "ride", not spin platters. 'nough said. :-) Jul 31, 2013 at 17:52

It is likely considered offensive because it suggests that anything less than a particular version of "man" (decided by the person saying it) is inadequate, weak, etc. If a man needs to "man up", he is not a real man. The same applies to women - how can they man up? It is immediately condescending and can be considered sexist, misogynistic and prejudice because it can apply to anyone who isn't man enough in the moment, situation, group.

I personally don't find it offensive. It can be a great motivator. Political correctness...

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    It's also interestingly recursive; the people most offended by the phrase are the people the phrase applies to the most, and are also the ones creating this list. Jul 31, 2013 at 20:04
  • To quote Shakesville, I'm not offended, I'm contemptuous.
    – TRiG
    Nov 13, 2013 at 20:49

This is an imperative (note "You understood" subject) sentence. Imperatives are orders.

Any order issued without authority is offensive because the speaker assumes the power to control the behavior of the addressee.

This is an offense to the addressee's face, and to the addressee's freedom to act independently. In the military, one loses this right by agreement, so orders are common; but positive courtesy is still important. Outside the military, real orders are rare, because they are rude.

In this case, the impolite order is made worse by the sexist attitudes that others have described.
So, yes, it should be considered offensive.

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    I notice "Go away!" is not on the list. That's imperative too.
    – Urbycoz
    Jul 31, 2013 at 15:40
  • It's certainly offensive. But probably not actionably so. Jul 31, 2013 at 16:30
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    what is up with all the downvotes? It's a perfectly good answer. Jul 31, 2013 at 17:45
  • Outrage at my heretical views on the subjunctive tense, or mood, which are accumulating downvotes elsewhere. If I were correct that English has no subjunctive mood, then everything some people had been told in Junior High English class could be ... wrong. Quelle horreur! Aug 2, 2013 at 18:43

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