The Men Are Being Eclipsed? Fine By Me.
Women, eh? They kept their mouths shut for ooh, centuries and then suddenly they’re all over the place demanding stuff. When an empire declines, when a group feels threatened, the aggression comes out – but in these times it takes new, slyly passive-aggressive forms.
Opening the papers yesterday I find a new, subtly appalled article about #MeToo overstepping its mark and strident women ruining everything. The articles are becoming more frequent and aren’t just by males, either. A (female) friend’s argument went; ‘We can’t dig roads, we get the best jobs in some industries and lots of time off, we live longer and still we complain.’
I didn’t know where to begin with that. I started by reminding her about my little corner of the working world, where most books are bought by women but most are written by men. I point out that most artists and musicians are still male. And I argue that every big change that requires the realignment of society comes with loud fringe dwellers who draw the press from those quietly doing good.
In the eighties, the great strides made in women’s rights were overlooked by the hatred directed at Greenham Common, the Welsh women’s peace camp. And at every Pride march news crews never interviewed the ordinary men and women fighting to be treated like human beings, but zeroed in on the crazy flamingoes who danced around the non-political edges.
Here’s another one; ‘Women aren’t children. They don’t have to go to men’s bedrooms. They can just leave.’ What they don’t realise is how closely work and play are intertwined in the creative industries. If you pitch an idea to a Hollywood indie at Cannes, you’ll most likely be doing it in a bedroom because they operate out of hotel suites, for God’s sake. I have attended pitches, casting sessions and production meetings in more bedrooms than offices at film festivals.
The pub argument that men are being emasculated is the same one that was being used in Britain 140 years ago. It’s also largely a myth now, as surveys show the British people far more liberal and empathetic than they’ve ever been.
Any call to arms will produce extremes (a recent press piece gleefully reported on a woman trying to sue a colleague for being ‘inappropriately stared at’) and clickbait is everywhere. My profession is one of the least affected that I can think of, and I rarely encounter sexist attitudes. But it was only a year ago that I sat with a famous male crime writer holding court who held up a hand to a female diner and said, ‘Not now, dear, I’m speaking’. We know where dinosaurs went.
My parents managed to pass through terrifying changes in their long lives, and managed to roll with the punches. My mother suffered from crippling shyness but held down multiple jobs while raising a family, and said that her time with the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force was one of the happiest times of her life. She went from being a doll in a floral frock to her own woman.
The days of women having to play ball harder than men just to earn grudging respect can finally go away now. Exposures of ‘boys club’ life in Silicon Valley and Hollywood are still coming to light. As one journalist pointed out, ‘the city bankers were badly behaved in the 90s but at least they owned it.’
So women are getting to sit at the front of the bus? It took long enough. In some cultures they always had the whip hand (you really wouldn’t mess with Greek or Latin matriarchs). I like to think that we’ll quickly look back and see even the so-called ’empowering’ ‘Wonder Woman’ franchise as patronising, that we’ll move on and accept equality as so natural and obvious that it’s not worth mentioning.
I understand what is being sought; not dominance but acceptance to the point where the argument becomes redundant. When same-sex marriage arrived (something that can easily go; look at the Bermuda ruling) I felt we had finally earned a special right to be as boring as everybody else. When men and women are equally represented, any other way becomes unthinkable.
Why this article, now? Because the backlash has started. Males always, always behave appallingly when left alone together. That’s fine. What’s happening to our rethinking the sexes is not so dramatic, just a bit of an upgrade to society, a reboot. And until it settles in, everybody need to calm the f*ck down.