Men are brilliant. Seriously, we are. We invented philosophy, medicine, architecture, cars, trains, helicopters, submarines and the internet. Not to mention the jet engine, IVF, electricity and modern medicine.
We’ve led all the industrial revolutions and sent rockets into Space. We’ve fought wars with tin hats and bayonets and won them. The world we live in would be nothing without Alexander Graham Bell, Sigmund Freud, Horatio Nelson, Winston Churchill, William Shakespeare and Albert Einstein. The geniuses Leonardo da Vinci, Stephen Hawking, Michelangelo, Beethoven, Charles Darwin and Michael Faraday have all contributed immeasurably to our modern lives.
So why is it that, today, there has there never been a worse time to be a man? Rubbishing the male of the species and everything he stands for is a disturbing — and growing — 21st century phenomenon. It is the fashionable fascism of millions of women — and many, many men, too. Instead of feeling proud of our achievements, we men are forced to spend our time apologising for them. When people chide us for not being able to multi-task or use a washing machine we join in the mocking laughter — even though we invented the damned thing in the first place.
If ever we do manage to do something well we’re told it’s because our achievements were handed to us on a plate — probably at the expense of women — and not because we’re skilled and work hard. And, naturally, the problems of the world are all our fault.
In 2013 the Labour MP Diane Abbott made a damning speech about Britain’s men and boys, smugly announcing that masculinity was ‘in crisis’.
The then shadow Public Health Minister declared that male culture is a ‘celebration of heartlessness; a lack of respect for women’s autonomy and the normalisation of homophobia’.
She sneered that men were choosing to stay in ‘extended adolescence’ by living at home with their parents — which has nothing to do with rising house prices, of course, but everything, according to Ms Abbott, with men being ‘resentful of family life’. If it weren’t so tragic it would be funny.
As it is, this kind of stiletto sexism — popularised by an army of female media commentators such as Julie Burchill, Suzanne Moore and Barbara Ellen — has become a depressingly familiar feature of modern British life. And it shows no sign of going away.
Consider the statistics. If you become a father to twins — one girl, one boy — current data proves that your son will die younger, leave school with fewer qualifications and be less eligible for work than your daughter.
Our universities and further education institutions are dominated by women at a proportion of ten to every seven men, with the Royal Veterinary College formally identifying boys as an under-represented group.
Across the Russell Group of Britain’s leading 20 universities, just three have a majority of male students.
This means your son will be more likely to join the ranks of the unemployed, the majority of whom are now — yes, you’ve guessed it — men.
The Office of National Statistics noted that in the summer of 2014 a total of 1,147,511 British men were out of work, compared with 887,892 women.
Psychologically, your son will be more likely to suffer from depression and attempt suicide than his sibling, but there’ll be less support in place to save him.
He’s also more likely to endure everyday violence than women, with the latest crime statistics for England and Wales noting that two-thirds of homicide victims were men.
If he’s seduced by his female teacher, she’ll leave court with a slapped wrist thanks to a legal system which is frequently lenient with women. But if your daughter has an affair with her male maths teacher he’ll be chalking up numbers on a prison wall before you can say: ‘burn your bra’.
By the time your son is 18, he will probably have absorbed the social message that his dad is much less valuable as a parent than his mother — that fathers in families are an added bonus, not a crucial cog.
Then, if he starts his own family and his relationship doesn’t last, he may become one of the four million UK men who have no access to their children, yet are forced to fund them.
To cap it all, he’ll be progressively neglected by British healthcare despite being more likely to get — and die from — nine out of the top ten killer diseases. You know, the biggies: these include cancer, heart conditions, strokes, pneumonia, diabetes and cirrhosis of the liver.
Fifteen years ago the UK Men’s Health Forum showed that, for every £1 spent on men’s health, £8 was spent on women’s. Since then little has changed, for no good reason. Or rather, one very bad reason: we live in a medical matriarchy. In other words, male life is cheap. Bargain basement, last-day-of-the-sale cheap.
The ultimate insult? It’s all done at our expense. The National Health Service is funded by the public purse, but it’s men — yes, men — who pay a whopping 70 per cent of UK income tax. Yet we are thrown nothing but crumbs in return.
Currently, women are screened for breast cancer, ovarian and cervical cancer. This is great, but excuse me if I don’t jump for joy. There’s still no screening programme for prostate cancer, even though it kills four times more men than cervical cancer does women.
And while we’re on the subject of statistics, we men will die five years earlier than our wives, sisters, daughters and girlfriends in a life expectancy gap that’s increased 400 per cent since 1920.
Oh, and if we are lucky enough to survive the NHS long enough to be able to go on holiday and sit next to a child on a commercial airline such as British Airways, he’ll be moved in case he sexually abuses them. Your grown-up daughter won’t, even if she has previous form.
All in all, the outlook for your son is pretty bleak, isn’t it? Sadly, he will accept the way things are because over the past couple of decades or so it’s what men have done.
In our anxiety to support women’s emancipation — which men agree with, by the way — we have allowed our intellectual ability, our emotional intelligence and our capacity for commitment to be endlessly ridiculed.
Obviously, this isn’t to say that girls are having a brilliant time of it. Most of society is well versed in the problems and pressures faced by women — the same women who have spent years trying to prove their worth beyond motherhood and housework.
But, unlike us, they get column inches and air time. They get government funding and MPs. They have a vocal community who will stand in their defence.
We men, on the other hand, have nobody. We are of no interest to MPs, UN panels or charities. If we want somebody to fight our corner, we are going to have to do it ourselves.
And fight it we must, before it’s too late. We don’t want to undo or compete with feminism — far from it. But we urgently need our own version of women’s lib to stop our sons being permanently deflated, downgraded and disenfranchised. Remember the suffragettes? We are the suffragents.
So here are my suggestions for a new, improved approach to masculinity. It may not be politically correct, but look where political correctness has got us.
Let’s start by ditching a few of those everyday myths about being a bloke in the 21st century. First up, the wage gap. For years men have been guilt-tripped over a supposed discrepancy in pay that apparently sees women lose thousands of pounds every year compared with their male colleagues.
The great news? According to experts who understand it, this simply isn’t true.
The claim has been debunked by leading economists, including Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz, both professors of economics at Harvard University, and Christina Hoff-Somers of the American Enterprise Institute.
‘The wage gap myth has been repeatedly discredited but it will not die,’ says Hoff-Somers. ‘The 23 per cent gap is the difference between average earnings for all men and all women, but it does not take into account differences in occupation, expertise, job tenure and hours worked. When it does, the so-called wage gap narrows to the point of vanishing.’ Essentially, this means a woman who works as a primary school teacher isn’t going to be paid the same as a man who works as a brain surgeon. Which is how it should be. This is about salaries structured on skill, difficulty and reward.
Many women work fewer hours than men. Many choose comfortable, low-paying jobs that fit in with their many other commitments, perhaps to children and ageing parents rather than strenuous, dangerous and life-threatening ones. These naturally bring higher pay for men, but — according to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health — also put male workplace fatalities at 94 per cent of the total.
Which suddenly makes women’s career choices look very much more sensible, whatever the pay difference. And make no mistake about it, a choice there has to be. When it comes to careers and families, something has to give.
But that’s as it should be.
It’s a mathematical fact there aren’t enough hours in the day for anyone, male or female, to work 60-hour weeks all year, raise children and run a house full-time. So the idea that it should be split down the middle to prove some political point might sound right-on, but in reality it’s the cause of so much unnecessary marital conflict.
Instead, let’s be realistic. Whether it’s an unwelcome truth or not, most new mothers like to nurture the baby they’ve been carrying for nine months, while fathers typically return to work and help bankroll it.
This is absolutely OK.
Think about it: women carry life. That’s the ultimate. We men can’t compete with that, so our purpose is to provide for that life.
That’s our identity as fathers and what we bring to the table. It’s been this way since time immemorial because it’s cost-effective, practical and sensible.
Recent legislative changes tried to rewrite this fact when the Coalition brought in extended paternity leave in 2011, taking it beyond the standard two weeks. But it failed miserably. Fewer than one in 50 used it. In fact, for various reasons, a quarter of new fathers took no leave at all.
This is also absolutely OK if it’s what both partners want.
Eventually, in every relationship, somebody will need to take the bulk of childcare responsibility, while the other manages the rest. Personally, I don’t care who assumes the traditional breadwinner role, but unless you can afford a nanny (or manny) to do the child rearing for you, it can’t be both of you.
Whatever the outcome, just remember: it’s not a choice that must be adjudicated by feminist harridans. I say this because whenever working fathers are discussed in the media, the insinuation is that they don’t pull their weight.
Actually, the opposite is true: aside from proving we can multi-task just fine, research collated by the Fatherhood Institute shows that British dads work the longest hours in Europe — an average of 46.9 hours per week, compared with 45.5 hours in Portugal, 41.5 hours in Germany and 40 hours in France.
Around one in eight UK fathers works excessively long hours — 60 or more — while almost 40 per cent graft more than 48 hours each week. Contrary to popular opinion, we don’t leave the house every morning for the sole purpose of jumping into bed with our secretaries. And when we do get home to spend time with our children we’re no slackers either.
In the late Nineties, fathers of children under five were devoting an average of two hours per day on child-related activities, compared with under 15 minutes in the mid-Seventies.
Today, fathers’ time spent with their children currently accounts for one-third of total parental childcare, even though many of them are working full-time as well.
So we’ve established that men are, in fact, pulling their weight at home, and that the pay gap is not what it’s cracked up to be.
Indeed, in many cases it’s going the other way: the Chartered Management Institute found recently that female managers in their 20s are now bringing home 2.1 per cent more than men of the same age.
So why, I ask, are men still expected to pay for nights out? I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve sat in restaurants observing men financing lavish dinners while their glamorous guests freeze at the sight of the credit card machine — even though, dripping with jewellery, they could clearly afford to cough up.
Don’t get me wrong. Plenty of women do go Dutch. Plenty more settle the tab themselves. We like these women. We like them when they allow us to treat them — and likewise, we enjoy it when they spoil us. What we’re after here is a mutually beneficial sharing of bills, as well as minds.
That’s not to say we should throw out chivalrous behaviour altogether. There are plenty of aspects of it — otherwise referred to as ‘being nice’ — that are worth keeping. Holding a door open for a woman, for example, just makes the minutiae of daily life a bit easier for everyone. It’s a kind and respectful thing to do.
All I’m asking for is that we men get a bit of respect in return. Because at the moment we’re being exploited and abused — not least, as I’ll explain on Monday, when it comes to our most important roles of all: as husbands and fathers.
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