Thursday, 30 August 2007

Is there a more tedious sport than bloke-bashing?

I've been in this traffic jam for three and a half weeks so far, sitting behind a Renault Megane whose owner has stuck those pink and blue ribbons on its behind.
Now I'm trying to pass the time and amuse myself by messing with my focal points: I aim for a distant tree, and then try to zoom suddenly to something close; something like that blue ribbon on the car in front.
Somehow I knew the pink ribbon was concerned with breast cancer, and call me foolish, but what with the pwitty wibbons in pwitty familiar colours, I was pwitty sure that the blue ribbon must be about bloke stuff.
But no.
'ISPCC', it says, followed by 'nurture a child', or 'protect a child', or something along those lines.
Clearly, I'd have to be some kind of a terrific bastard to begrudge this or any space allocated to such an essential and excellent service.
But what about us blokes?
If the pink is for women, and the blue is for children, then all I can assume is that blokes don't really matter that much.
What about testicular cancer? What about prostate cancer? What about the fact that, historically, irrefutably and emphatically, as a gender we die sooner.
A couple of days later, I'm lying in bed, reading the often-excellent Mariella Frostrup writing about the menopause in a magazine. She's making the over-familiar and sadly tedious argument that, if men had a similar condition, ooh my we'd know all about it.
But we do. We do know about the menopause. We know about HRT and the facial hair, the sweats and the moods.
Once again, this colyoom finds itself standing up for men. Is there a more tedious sport than bloke-bashing?
Whenever I hear "Ooh, if men had periods, we'd know about it then, wouldn't we?", I struggle to resist the urge to reply:
"Periods? Why, pray tell, what do you mean? Are you considering those finite slices of time, or the American for 'Full Stop'?"
Might I suggest that if the the vast majority of the world's women died younger than men, we might possibly hear a bit more about it than we do right now? Could it be possible that the reason that blokes die younger and the reason that nobody talks about it, is that we are traditionally perceived as inadequate if we fail to provide, and as such silently carry a heavy burden?
I love, respect and enjoy the company of women, and know that they are often not only our equals but often our betters.
But our lives as blokes would be so much more enjoyable if women treated us with the same amount of respect that they demand from us.
I'm not sure if I want to watch the BBC's 'Real Men' series, wherein we find out about blokes who do the most dangerous jobs in Britain. Apparently, the fact that these noble lads bring home the bacon by hanging perilously and diving dangerously makes them 'Real Men'.
So but like, exc-yoooze me. Does that not infer that somehow, because I make my living by daintily tapping on these keyboard keys like some nancy boy from Froo-Froo Land, I am not a 'Real Man'?
So to be a 'Real Man', I have to put my life in extreme danger each day when I go to work; I have to know how to cook, clean, and raise children; I have to provide; I have to be safe, and yet exude a certain sense of danger; I have to somehow be aware of bloke cancers, and the fact that I will die early, but not go on about it; I have to accept that I have no right to enter the taboo subject of how woman perform as lovers, yet I have to live in a society where it is de rigeur to mock male sexual performance in the media.
That's a tall order.
And now there's the Viagra backlash. For aeons men endured emotional agony and societal stigma as their women complained of poor penetrative performances.
Enter Viagra (so to speak!) and all of a sudden, blokes are able do what women have always been asking them to do, but before you can say "Snap!", women are complaining about how Viagra has ruined their lives, and turned their men into monsters.
Being a bloke in the 21st century is not a straightforward number. Are men meant to be real macho heroes with muscles the size of continents, or sweet sensitive lovers with a flair for fusion cuisine and a mean way with the hoover?
Of course we have yet to evolve, emerge and stand tall as perfectly-formed 'Post Sexual Revolution Men'.
But what was the point of the massive effort women invested in three decades of sexual revolution, if I, as a man, now find myself using the vocabulary of 80's militant feminism to talk of my opposite sex, while women seem happy to settle for boorish sexist behaviour?
Some of you might remember the 'Male Chauvinist Pig'? I venture to suggest that women would not much enjoy bearing the label 'Female Chauvinist Swine'.
Of course we should know all about the horrors of breast cancer and be ready to help children in need.
But while we're living in a world where bloke cancers don't play in the Bumper Sticker League, we have a long way to go to achieve a well-balanced and fair society.
Go on, girls, stretch yourselves a bit. At least appear to give a damn about blokes.
Spare a though for testicles, and prostates too, while you're at it!

On a much lighter note, and at risk of alienating even more of my female readership, let's move from 'chicks' to 'chicklets!
Entire government committees and swathes of focus groups are right now trying to work out how to stop chewing gum ending up on the paving stones beneath your feet.
Yet everyone knows the answer.
When I lived in California, chicklets were illegal. Gum came in sticks, each wrapped in paper, said paper providing a receptacle into which you can place your mangled chewed-up lumps.
No missis, I'm on about gum now.
We left testicles behind ages ago.

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