Monday, 23 March 2015

Stop the man-bashing: it's counter-productive!

I’d finished packing my shopping at the supermarket checkout when the cashier asked if I was collecting coupons for the glasses.

“No, I’m not, so could you pass those coupons to the woman next in the queue? Thanks!” Then I remembered I’d some money-off vouchers in my wallet, but I was too late. The transaction was done.

“Here, you might as well have these vouchers as well. I forgot to use them in time!” I said, passing them to the woman.

Taking the vouchers, she looked over to me with scornful eyes and said:

“Typical man.”

Right now I’m a little sensitive about man-bashing, for reasons I’ll explain, so I was hasty with my response.

“I’m sorry but I find that sexist and offensive.”

Later I contemplated the madness of it. I’d just given her coupons and seven quid off off a €50 shop. Was that ‘typical man’? I’d taken my list and followed a testosterone trail around the supermarket, building up household stocks alongside ingredients for meals that I planned to cook through the week. Was that ‘typical man’?

I think it’s all typical man, because I’m an egocentric male who thinks he’s pretty typical. We’re all our own normal, which is why the word counts for nowt.

If in a parallel universe the woman had sighed and uttered the very same words in a gentle and complimentary fashion, everything would have been just as apt.

Poor diddums manboy here was not devastated by being slagged off by a woman, but I was disconcerted by the heat of my response.

The issues of gender equality appear so clear to me it would feel trite to write them down, were the worldwide situation not still so appalling.

Right now women perform 66% of the world’s work and earn 10% of global income. They produce 50% of the planet’s food yet own 1% of the land.

Throw in systemic violence and FGM and there’s no debate. We’ve a long way to go but at least we’ve started.

Like a man on a mission, this Dangler first sought to understand and then support the feminist dream in the early 1980s. Alongside listening to female friends, I read Simone de Beauvoir and Betty Friedan, progressed to Erica Jong’s zipless fuck and then hero-worshipped feminism in action, in the shape of German Green revolutionary and politician Petra Kelly. Her book ‘Fighting for Hope’ became something of a bible to my idealistic eyes. That fire still burns bright within me.

During that decade there emerged a phenomenon called ‘Militant Feminism’, personified by the heroic women of Greenham Common Peace Camp. Although rarely credited with victory, they managed to upset the British establishment and the Cruise and Pershing missiles were taken away.

I’m sure all those magnificent women did not strive for sexual revolution just so that they might eventually be able to behave as badly as men.

Changing the status quo takes a unified and determined effort. Men enjoy incumbent privilege, and happy people don’t seek change, so it’s not enough merely to strive for a change in male thinking: you have to show us how to behave better, by example.

Women need to redefine every aspect of gender communication. Stop diminishing your unquestionable cause by undergoing an Animal Farm metamorphosis where you become Farmer Jones, in all his horrific glory.

Of course women need to slag men off, just as men will continue to make the odd remark about women, but let’s all seek the same standards. Gender politics should neither be about winners and losers, nor who's the best or worst, but rather all of us.

If four men were talking live on radio about how awful their women were between the sheets, there’d be complaints by the bucketload. So how is it supportable that a few days ago I listened to a radio phone-in where women were talking live on air about men being laughable lovers?

Are all women good lovers? I doubt it, but we don’t talk about it. Did it never occur to anyone that women might not be the only gender to fake it?

Contrary to the tedious sexism inherent in TV commercials, we know how to use washing machines, raise children and floss our teeth. Trying to escape the crumbling confines of the Patriarchy, we’ve made an effort to change, so let’s no longer talk of each other in disrespectful or detrimental ways.

We need to get cracking though. In 2007 this colyoom wittered about Male Chauvinist Pigs metamorphosing into Female Chauvinist Swine. Sadly the situation has barely improved. While some men and women have moved closer to mutual respect, swathes of sexism still exist in both genders.

If I sound angry it’s because I feel let down. We’ve striven for generations to bring about improvement, yet now it is acceptable for women to behave like sexist boors; to treat men just as they themselves hated to be treated by men.

At the other end of the PC spectrum, when I write in any way disparagingly of a woman, I’m accused of misogyny.

It’s a heck of a long fall from Feminist to Misogynist. The accusation doesn’t trouble me as I trust the passion l harbour for social justice.

More than anger, frustration best describes how I feel. Since the 1970s many men have changed how we see women; how we think of them; how we talk to them and of them.

These are not a forced behaviours, yet our aspirations are now tempered by the behaviour of others.

Women: it’s time to stop the man-bashing. Slagging off men in the media is old-fashioned and unacceptable. Some men exploit these attacks as justification for failing to transform.

Don’t be upset that a man is making suggestions. You don't own your struggle, and a man’s perspective offers something you might never see.

I want us all to succeed, but that demands high standards from both genders. Now is the time for men and women to improve together: side by side.

©Charlie Adley

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