Man Up! Women in American Sitcoms

Mariam Alghamdi

“Man up!”: A phrase that has come to mean “toughen up”. It is a phrase that we still hear, well into the twenty-first century; it is a phrase that even those who deem themselves feminists, myself included, let slip out of their tongues accidentally. The occasional use of such a phrase says a lot about the engraved stereotypical views of men as strong and women as vulnerable in our society. Even in the absence of such a phrase, sadly, such views find a way to shine through. This article studies the representation of women as vulnerable beings and as active participants of conversations, mainly by other male characters, in two American sitcoms from two different eras – Cheers and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Cheers, which aired in the eighties, revolved around a group of people that frequent a bar. On the other hand, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which is still airing, revolves around a police precinct in Brooklyn. In order to study such depiction of women, I will specifically be using conversational analysis with a focus on four language units: word choice, pauses, elongation, and emphasis. By investigating such representations of women, I am investigating if there is hope in a society that still uses the phrase “man up”; if the representation of women in American sitcoms has changed enough that young women can feel empowered through watching such shows.

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