“Think Like a Man” and other Silly “Pinned” Things

I like Pinterest. I have a pretty “Books to Read” board, a “Gifts” board, and the obligatory food porn in row after glossy row. In addition to the double peanut butter choco-chunk rice-crispified ding dong sticks, Pinterest also facilitates the sharing of stupid shit (much like the whole internet). My dear friend (another Emily), has sent me her pet peeve that was the latest recipient of unnecessary pinning frenzy:


Look like a girl, act like a lady, think like a man, work like a boss. Oy vey. People repin stuff like this everyday without giving it a second thought. Though it headfakes towards pithy and witty, in reality it’s a rather convoluted, offensive, heteronormative piece of sexist bullcrap. If you were to rewrite this as most people interpret it, it would read “Be pretty, don’t be slutty, men are smarter, work hard.” That last bit is fine, I suppose, but the rest of it is all kinds of dumb.

Let’s start with “Look like a girl.” What do girls look like? would tell you they look all kinds of ways (tall, short, thin, fat, short hair, long hair, busty, flat-chested, mostly, they look like humans). Believe it or not, sometimes girls even look “like boys,” and that’s okay! If you like sweater vests, combat boots, men’s overalls, basketball jerseys, ties, jumpsuits, mohawks, hairy armpits, or clown costumes, it really, really, really doesn’t make you any less of a girl.

Act like a lady. What do ladies act like? Some of them are bold, some are quiet, some are aggressive, some are shy, some are boisterous, some are polite, some are demanding, some are sweet, some are mean…. I could go on as long as I can keep thinking of adjectives. But what do we usually mean when we say “act like a lady?” Don’t be slutty. Don’t be pushy. Don’t make a scene. Don’t make people uncomfortable. Don’t be a bitch. Don’t rock the boat. Don’t question the standard quo. Don’t ask for what you want.

Most obviously problematic is the directive to “Think like a man.” How do men think? If we’re supposed to mimic them, the implication is that they think better than women. Why is something so blantatly sexist so appealing for women to post all over the most female-dominated social network of all time? Are we really that self-hating?

“Work like a boss.” This is just douchey, and sounds like something Ryan Lochte would say, but it isn’t really sexist so I’m not going to bother addressing it.

Look like a human, Act like a good human, Think to the best of your ability, Work like a boss. Fine, we can keep the last one.

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Filed under Gender, Media

11 responses to ““Think Like a Man” and other Silly “Pinned” Things

  1. I might use this the next time I teach about gender to an intro class. Good stuff!

  2. Cher

    I’m with you on all points, though I must take exception with clown costumes, regardless of identity.

  3. I just want to let you know… I totally pinned this article. :-D


  4. “Be pretty,” why not?
    “don’t be slutty,” same goes for guys…don’t be a sex idiot
    “men are smarter,” …or sometimes thinking analytically is productive
    “work hard.” American dream

    If I had seen the Pininterest posts first, I might have been offended too. But reading about the meme in your post makes it benign somehow *shrug*

    • Matt, man… you’ve got it all wrong.
      “Be pretty.” – This is not something women can opt into with a “why not.” It’s a requirement to be pretty in a very specific, very narrow way in a huge array of social and professional settings. Actively NOT pursuing a certain kind of beauty is a statement.
      “Don’t be slutty,” – It is absolutely not the same directive aimed at men. What’s a “sex idiot,” anyway? Study after study shows that the expectation of what is an acceptable # of sexual partners for men and women is not the same. Men who think women shouldn’t have more than 5 partners routinely expect to have 15. How’s that now? Women are penalized in court, in the office, and in social situations if they are even THOUGHT to have had multiple sexual partners (whether or not it’s true).
      Think a like a man – Are you saying men are uniformly more analytical? I would say there’s a range, a bell curve of some kind, for both men and women. Show me some data if you really think the averages are really that far apart, or if the range from man A to man B is any smaller than from man A to woman A. Also, what does “thinking analytically” mean to you?

      • Chris

        You beat me to it, and your response is much more articulate than mine would have been. This is why the subject of gender roles/equality and sexism needs to be revisited again and again – people rarely question their underlying assumptions.

  5. *Clap * Clap* I love this. Specially your own version of the phrase “look like a human, act like a a good human, think to the best of your ability. .”

  6. I thought “think like a man” meant to put yourself before the needs and feelings of others. I might be sexist.

  7. Ridiculous that something so blatantly sexist is popular.

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