“Grow a pair” is one of our favorite closers – a powerful cliffhanger. Toss it over your shoulder as you walk away from someone who is, frankly, pissing you off. When we say it, we want to change someones behavior, goad them into doing what we want them to do, or what we think they should do.
Take it a step further and following it with, “and just do the right thing”. Grow a pair and do the right thing (Sounds like a slogan for the military). This one statement is essentially telling someone to grow a pair of testicles so that they may become empowered, strong, brave, and capable of doing the right thing. So what’s the antithesis? “Don’t be a pussy”.
Why is it that this is what we use when accusing a person of being cowardly, weak and in the wrong? The phrase is even more insulting when directed towards a man, almost accusing him of being a step down the ladder, a step lower. There is a commonality between the two phrases: you are challenging a person to change their behavior, however the differentiating factor is by what reproductive organ you assign them – and this makes all the difference.
While this may seem like no big thing to some, I have to disagree. The difference is significant because it is an attack on our identity. When it comes down to it, people are different because some people have two X chromosomes, and some only have one that shares a space with a very small, Y chromosome. This results in the formation of men having testes and women having ovaries. There are other minute changes in neuronal behavior and bone structure, but the most basic distinction between men and women is our reproductive organs.
This is the most basic, and foundational part of our identity. And here in lies my problem with “grow a pair” – it is attacking the very basic identity of being a woman. Simply because her double X chromosome dictated that she grow a pair of ovaries has become linked with an inherent cowardliness, weakness. Secondary characteristics do not matter. I get no say- my reproductive organs have gone before me and automatically categorized me as “weak”.
Think about it before you say “grow a pair.”