Let’s leave the testicles out of this

I loathe and detest it when people call a brave or audacious action ‘ballsy’. Courage doesn’t come from testicles. The human race would be in trouble if it did.

A professional colleague said in a meeting recently ‘don’t they say your vision is only as big as your balls?’ Lucky for all the congregations and organisations I’ve served over the last decade that I didn’t say¬†that, or I wouldn’t have been very good at my job, which certainly included strategic, visionary leadership.

And wow, do I hate the manipulative advice to ‘man up’ or ‘grow a pair’. People who say those are usually¬†saying ‘if you don’t do what I want you to do, you’re not really a man.’

This kind of unnecessarily gendered language is bad for men and bad for women. It puts all of us in confining boxes. Men have to be brave and women can’t be.

Gender is not connected to character. What kind of person you become, and the heroic deeds you are capable of has very little to do with your sex or gender. There are lots of kinds of ‘real men’ and ‘real women’. It’s time we disconnected these things in our language.

If you want to encourage a guy to be brave or responsible or to do the right thing, then¬†say that. It’s hard enough to make good choices in life without having them tied, irrelevantly, to a sense of your masculinity.

Testicles make sperm. Neither their presence nor their size tells you anything about a person, except that they can probably make sperm. So when we’re talking about things that are not sperm, things like courage, vision, responsibility and good character, let’s just leave the testicles out of it, shall we?

Courage doesn't come from your testicles | Sacraparental.com


It would be almost insulting for me to try and prove the obvious fact that women can be just as brave as men. But how about you feel free to tell stories in the comments below of courage and visionary thinking that have nothing to do with gender.

And as always, please do chip in with your two cents’ worth of opinion. What do you think about all of this? What do you want children you know to hear and understand about the connection between character and gender? What do you think when you hear this kind of language? Are there other gendered phrases¬†that get to you?

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9 comments on “Let’s leave the testicles out of this”

  1. wendy Reply

    well, I never thought about it that in-depth, but you’ve got a point Thalia. Seems pretty ridiculous when you think about it like that, and probably the people that say it have never actually thought about what they are saying.

    • not a wild hera Reply

      Lovely to hear from you, Wendy. Yes, agreed, mostly it’s an unconscious thing. I suspect it has more than unconscious effect though, so I reckon it’s good to do a bit of analysis!

  2. Pippa Reply

    Well said.

    Add “that’s gay” and “like a girl” for phrases to be binned too.

  3. Rob Kilpatrick Reply

    What- of course courage must come from the testicular regions!! How on earth can I keep putting women down if I’m not allowed to chide, castigate or be completely dismissive of them because they lack the physical equipment for courage, leadership and general all round social superiority??

  4. awhimama Reply

    Until recently I hadn’t really thought about how often I actually use phrases like this. It is challenging to rethink the gendered idioms present in the way we talk. Somehow because I am a woman I haven’t questioned my use of the phrase “grow a pair” and often I use it in the context of wishing someone would stand up for the right thing rather than give in to the masses. Thst they would behave more courageously. Could women reclaim testicles in the same way that young African Americans have reclaimed the ‘n’ word? Or is it something which is damaging to both men and women? I guess I can be as sexist as the next man.

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