We read a lot today about sexism. I tend to look at it from a woman’s perspective – and there’s no question that such misogyny exists. But prejudice cut both ways. Whilst waving the banner for equality, I wonder if we practise something very different. Are we emasculating the very men we’re telling to grow up?
It seems to me that we’re part of a culture that continually puts men down. Get a group of women together and it’s not long before we start complaining about our partners. The stupid things they say. How useless they are around the house. Men, huh? Unless we tell them what to do, they’ll merge into the sofa. Or disappear under Dorito mountain.
On television too, men are usually portrayed as ignorant, lazy and clueless. The hapless husband in the washing powder ads or sitcoms. The desperate, sex-obsessed singles driven by beer and hormones. Lovable but useless. Or sexy, but reassuringly thick. They’re ugly and they smell. Or they’re big girls who spend hours manscaping in front of the mirror.
Of course, men are too preoccupied with breasts to notice what’s happening. And even if they did, who would they talk to? 24 per cent fewer men than women confide in their friends. Yet 2.7 million men in England have a mental health problem. They’ve got two models – the strong silent type who wrestles bears, not demons. Or the lovable rogue, with kebabs for brains, bumbling merrily from one scrape to another. Little wonder 5 per cent of men experience suicidal thoughts compared to 2 per cent of women. After all, therapy is for girls.
Listen to the media and we women have the monopoly on depression and eating disorders too. 66 per cent of Englishmen are overweight. But that’s just lack of self-control, right? Men don’t comfort-eat. They play rugby and go to work. In modern society, for a man to be, he has to do. That’s a problem when you’re made redundant – not just in the office, but the bedroom and kitchen too. Men are 4 times more likely to go off sick with stress. 20 per cent of men take two days off a month. But don’t waste your sympathy – laziness, that’s all it is. Left to their own devices, they’d sit at home all day, scratching themselves and throwing popcorn at Jeremy Clarkson.
If you look at successful advertising aimed at men, you’ll spot a common thread. Much of it taps into anxiety about what it means to be a man. It offers men the things they feel are missing. Identity. Stability. Strength. Purpose. There’s the award-winning Old Spice campaign – ‘Smell like a Man, Man’. French Connection’s ‘Manifesto’. The Dockers slogan ‘You’re not a fellow, chap, dude, cat, gent or bro – face it, you’re a man’. Check out this link for a few more.
It used to be thought that men ruled the world. Men earned the most, men made the decisions, men knew who they were and men knew they were going. Much has changed since then – some of it for the better. Yet whilst with one hand we’re pushing them to step up, with another we’re dragging them down.