Monday, 14 August 2006

Sometimes It's Hard To Be A Man - ‘Real’ Man Redefined, Again

It seems that the role of ‘real’ men is changing yet again. We are apparently at the beginning of what is called the "Menaissance. The movement has begun in the US, and we already know that when America sneezes, Britain catches a cold (usually 6 years later). In the past few decades the role of the man has been constantly reassessed, it used to be ok to be the sole breadwinner of the family and go to the pub and not be required to speak much, then a few dacades later he was expected to get in touch with his femine side, cry more, speak and listen, do dishs etc etc. It was so much easier being a man when people lived in caves before someone thought of publishing Cosmopolitan.

Back then the role of the real man was clear. In the those early days, the man would leave the cave in the morning to kill a wild beast and drag it back to the den, where perpetually-pregnant woman would already have the fire burning in anticipation. The man's role as hunter-gatherer was clear and unambiguous; no social skills were required. The caveman needs strength and speed, but he is certainly not required to emote or to slap on moisturiser. Despite his repellent breath and steaming oxters, he has a clear role in the procreative process and it does not involve asking, "How was it for you, darling?"

Variations on the "Me Tarzan, you Jane" paradigm lasted well into the twentieth century. Then came the feminist revolution. Caveman was made redundant. Women, for some reason, no longer wanted to be stuck in the house with crying children. They demanded careers, equal pay, and - if they wanted a male around the place at all - a man who didn't spend his time scratching his rear and grunting. It was all very confusing for men. Ever ready to respond to the new challenge, they shaved off their beards, cut their hair and put lashings of moisturiser on their face. It worked. The gentle new man was born, managing to emote in full sentences. They learned to wash dishes and write poetry. They cried on national tv when they learned they couldn’t sing.

Then more bewilderment. An edict from the women's collective said that they didn't want men to open doors for them, or to walk next the road to protect against splashes from horse-drawn carriages, or to stand up for them on a bus. These things were deemed to be patronising and demeaning. But just when men had finally managed to repress my conditioned impulses to offer up their bus seat to every living creature equipped with anything remotely resembling a cleavage, a fresh edict was issued just last year saying that, no, most women actually quite liked to have men acting in such old-fashioned, chivalrous ways. Aaargh. Darkened room time.

And now, God help us, the Menaissance. What's this all about? Well, it's a reaction against the gentle, concerned male with the moisturiser and the pink sweaters. It's back to machismo manhood and fearsome jumping on your mate's bones. Carnivorous caveman is back. We're talking retrosexual here. It's all about unreconstructed masculinity advocated by men (and some women who have tired of emotional boys with Kleenexes) who believe that males have been emasculated in the course of the gender wars. The new/old battle cry is for masculine assertiveness, bravery and a willingness to beard the psychological wild beasts in their lairs. At its best it's about dignity and manliness, at its worst it's about beer bellies, flatulence and "spontaneous" (ie drink-fuelled) bad behaviour. Attractive and exciting, ladies?

Many women will insist that it was ever thus, and that the considerate New Man who cheerfully does the housework and changes nappies was always a mirage, a figment of the male imagination. There is truth in this. The gender wars are full of wishful thinking and self-deception.

It’s easier to just be yourself. If someone isn’t going to like you, they might as well not like the real you.


Anxious said...

"It’s easier to just be yourself. If someone isn’t going to like you, they might as well not like the real you."


I agree that the caveman life was unambiguous. Through "civilisation", we have complicated our lives so much that we seem to think we can suppress all that is natural. We should recognise the fundamental differences between the sexes and work with them, not against them.

Steven said...

I thought I heard angels sing to me this morning, and I was sure I heard bagpipes being played in the background but then I woke and discovered it was all a dream. Bummer! Hoewever I did get my first blog comment, and its not even my birthday! Was that over the top? Probably.

Anyway I agree with you if we are smart enough to recognise differences then we should be smart enough to celebrate them (within reason) rather than trying to change people into what we would rather they were.

ill man said...

I'm equal parts slobbering caveman and considerate gent. The caveman gets locked away during social intercourse. During sexual intercourse, I generally forget where I left the key. This has generally disappointing consequences for both parties..............

Scotsman said...

That rules out using handcuffs in any bedroom activity then?