Gender By Exception

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but women – and I genuinely do hate to generalise about these things – are genuinely quite capable. Organised, adept and ready to make things work: much in contrast with the views of Jordan B. Peterson, etc. It is the case now and, as humanity has done very little to develop its skill set for millennia, it has likely always been the case. Cue cries of shock and horror.

For many of those millennia men have ruled the roost – although no one can quite remember why. Any areas which men decided they were interested in became veritable sausage parties, with women being completely excluded. This left the areas where men were decidedly uninterested for women to flourish. Hence, aspects of home life, family life and childcare became utterly devoid of male influence, because men simply can’t be bothered and women knew that it needed to be done.

Come to these supposedly more enlightened times, when men are actually interested in being part of their own home lives, their own family lives, and the care of their own children, and women rule the roost. Should men really be allowed to crow about how difficult it is to take part in such areas?

I’m not talking about cooking and cleaning: I think women, in general, are perfectly happy for all of that to be shared precisely equally. They may have been waiting patiently for the men to pick up the slack on that for quite some time in fact. I hoovered the house yesterday, lugging the machine all around the place; I was shattered: anyone who says it isn’t “manly” enough, hasn’t done it enough.

No, I feel utterly invisible on the school run. A primary school is a distinctly female environment. All of the women talk to each other, but not to the men. I understand the stereotype that women are the more sociable of the genders, but I know some pretty bloody antisocial women, and they always manage to strike up a conversation on the school yard. I once made eye contact with a woman at school, because I thought she was about to try and talk to me. I was almost patted on the head with condescension; there was a woman behind me, you see: I won’t be making that mistake again.

Do I accept this as a lesson in what it is like for everybody else? Is the issue here simply my male privilege at work, or does something need to be done to redress this brand new gender imbalance?

Andy Serkis and Martin Freeman – white men, both – worked on the film Black Panther. The cast was almost exclusively black, as was the crew. This is a good thing; about bloody time, in fact. They were asked, as part of the promotion of the film, how it felt being some of the few white people on set. They responded that it is how black actors feel all the time. I like that they experienced that.

Is the all-female environment of a First School a comparable lesson? Do women walking in there feel like I would walking in to a room full of men? More appropriately, do women walking in to a room full of men feel as invisible as I do on the school run? I very much doubt it: largely because I have never felt objectified while dropping a child off at school. Lucky me. But the idea holds, somewhat.

White men, like myself, have been at the top of the food chain for too long. There is no legitimate reason for the position of power we have found ourselves in for so many centuries, and our protectionism of this position has inflicted pain, suffering, rape and death on countless millions of people. Does that mean we have no right to reply when we feel hard done by occasionally? Not sure.

Squaring the circle between the small scale and the large scale is a tough one: I may feel that I am a second class citizen in some spheres of my life, but I am also going to earn more money for doing the self-same job as a woman; I’m considerably less likely to suffer domestic violence; I very rarely have the entire planet treating me like I am only a body, or that my appearance is my only actual worth.

The reason I am so annoyed about all of this is that I have recently been reading comments that the reason men have held all of the power for all these years is that we are better at running things. I nearly spat my coffee out when I read it. In every sphere I have direct experience of – the home, the office, clubs and societies – women have been the people who have kept these things afloat.

I have no experience of business at the corporate level, so I can’t really see whether having a penis makes one a more effective corporate executive. Nor have I witnessed whether taking a period of absence for maternity leave makes one a significantly less effective one. Having worked in a number of businesses for many years, I doubt that gender makes any difference on such performance.

We live in an odd world, in slightly uneasy times. I would argue that the times of the world are always going to be uneasy, but the sensation of regression when so much progress has been made is never going to sit well. Meninists and Incels have been with us, albeit under the radar, for many years, but now they are feeling the ability to be, not just more vocal, but actively, openly aggressive.

Racist social policies have taken place in countries where we were under the vain assumption that we had moved on from that. Muslim bans and the deportation of the Windrush generation felt like a punch in the gut: a return to the 1930s. The second half of the 20th century felt like we were taking steps away from discrimination, hate and state-sponsored hate crimes. This decade saw that end.

Just because it feels like we are moving towards the darkness doesn’t mean we are. Just because we have made the world a better place doesn’t mean that it can’t be undone. Just because we feel that a degree of balance has been established doesn’t mean that that balance exists in all spheres. If we let those issues knock us to the ground we’ll never get anywhere. Take your kids to school, lads.