Monday, September 22, 2008

The trouble with men

According to a US survey, men with sexist attitudes are more inclined to out-earn those who do not. In the same piece, Dr Magdalena Zawisza of Winchester University suggests a couple of possible explanations for this:
"It could be that more traditionally-minded men are interested in power, both in terms of access to resources - money in this case - and also in terms of a woman who is submissive.

Another theory suggests that employers are more likely to promote men who are the sole earner in preference to those who do not - they recognise that they need more support for their families, because they are the breadwinner."
Possible - but I've got a third theory, not based on any quantitative research of any kind, of course.* No-one with even a casual acquaintance with the real world believes we live in anything approaching a meritocracy. On the other hand no-one with any sense of history would deny that we have in liberal capitalism a greater degree of social mobility than existed prior to the industrial revolution. What this means is quite limited: the number of careers that are open to talent - regardless of background, ethnicity, gender, religious affiliation etc. - is much larger than it used to be. This is about the limits of 'meritocracy', I reckon. Amongst the reasons some of us think it is greater equality, rather than 'equality of opportunity', that is desirable is because we don't think it is terribly realistic for this principle to be extended that much further than it has been already. Especially when one considers what 'careers open to talent' actually means in practice: not the possession of talent per se but the willingness to push yourself with what talents you have to the front of the queue.

This willingness depends on a certain self-belief, in my experience. Not my own experience, you understand; this is based on observation - which brings me to the subject raised above: perhaps one advantage the sexist male has is that he possesses a surplus of the kind of confidence and self-belief that gets you on in the workplace. I certainly wouldn't advocate sexism but I do think that sensitive male could do with chilling out a bit and do a little less of the whole self-loathing thing. Take this example: give a journalist a slot entitled, "What women don't get about men" and what do you get? Well, some thoughtful stuff and a few good lines, actually - but also a fair bit of crippling self-doubt and confusion with the usual bullshit about the 'crisis of masculinity linked to a decline in manufacturing'.

I don't get this. I do a nice line in crippling self-doubt myself but this has fuck all to do with being a man. I'm thinking as I get older that this may be because my father served as a much better role model than I gave him credit for. He didn't present masculinity as something that had to do with lifting heavy things, playing stupid sports or any of that shit. I didn't appreciate it at the time but I do now because I genuinely don't worry about this sort of thing. I could fill a book on "What women don't get about men" but since I've not been invited to do this, I'll inflict some of this on you lot instead:

What women don't get about men

1) While the average male has a number of qualities, generally speaking telepathy is not among them. Will you stop with the whole, "I'm in a mood and you really should know why" thing? Just tell us what's pissing you off. Apart from anything else, if we were telepathic, no doubt you'd find this annoying too.

2) The behaviour modification programme y'all unveil at some point - usually in the first year of the relationship? We only put up with this because we want sex - not because we think your your lifestyle advice has some intrinsic value. If you were unaware of this, I'm not sorry to be breaking the news to you because if you think about it, you could use this to your advantage.

3) Ladies - there are so many of you who don't realise you need to give space in the behaviour modification programme for your man to do guy stuff. What this might be depends on the social context. Golf, football, watching sport in general, watching porn, masturbation, going for a pint with the lads, DIY, watching Newsnight and smoking spliffs or whatever. If you don't allow for this understand that there are only two possibilities: 1) he's doing it without your knowledge, 2) if he's not doing it, at some point he'll feel the need to do so; if you don't let him, your relationship's fucked.

4) Our attitude to our living space tends towards the utilitarian rather than aesthetic: it provides heat, comfort, facilities for making pizza - beyond that, most of us aren't fussed. It's pointless wishing this should be otherwise - unless you want a man who has OCD or is gay.

5) Yes of course we find your stunningly gorgeous friend attractive - it's really rather difficult to do otherwise, quite frankly. It doesn't mean we're going to try and shag them or anything but if you're that bothered about it, why did you introduce them to us in the first place? I mean honestly!

I could go on but I sense that the many of you out there who are stuck in an eighties time-warp are feeling a little twitchy already...

*It really pisses me off when people leave snooty comments along the lines of, "I find your thesis fanciful and absurd; this post is poorly-researched and ill-thought out". It's a fucking blog, ok? It's not my goddam job for chrissake.

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