Follow by Email

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Why I am (mostly) glad I am a man. And why nice girls don't do sport

Every now and then I am overcome with a feeling of resentment towards women.  I look at them with their shoes and their scatter cushions, and feel .. what is the word?  Oh yes, jealous.

By most objective measures, women are the superior gender  Taken as a population, women are more socially intelligent than men.  They are better able to deal with conflict, and less likely to be lead by their ridiculous egos.  They work harder than men, often at more than one thing at a same time (a skill that many men would condemn as witchcraft).  And most importantly of all, women are much, much nicer than men,

Obviously, they are not especially nice to each other.  I've taught in a girls school, so I have seen things that would make your toes curl.  And if you haven't, trust me: the evil that men do is nothing compared to what two thirteen year old girl friends will say and do to each other.

But such behaviour is merely an anomaly.  My personal theory is that it is a result of excessive intelligence.  Human brains evolved to deal with the harsh, Machiavellian social settings of early hominids, and we have essentially the same brain architecture than our ancestors had 40,000 years ago.  It seems to me that most women just have a lot of that Machiavellian intelligence to spare.

I am, of course, aware that I am making wild generalisations that are crude and stereotypical.  And I know that for every Hillary Clinton there is a Sarah Palin, and for every Noel Edmonds there is a Stephen Fry.

Overall, weighing up and the pros and cons, I am happy to stick with my theory.  Women are best.  Men are rubbish.  So, every now and again the loser in me whispers in my ear "Look at them, with their intuition and social grace.  See their under-stated humour and their kindness?  Compared to them, you and your kind will always be oafs.  Hairy, smelly oafs.  Who start wars."

What's stopped me from switching sides?  Of taking the unkindest cut of all?

Well, women don't have it all their way.  Nature always strives for balance.  For all their virtues, they have to deal with a variety unpleasant biological afflictions that are best not discussed in civilised company.

And they have to cope with the Daily Mail.  There are many popular newspapers in the UK, but the Mail stands out.  Partly because of its stout defence of all things that are great about modern Britain, like Princess Diana and the death penalty.  And partly because it markets itself primarily to women.  The Mail claims to be The Newspaper for Women.

The extent to which the Mail stands FOR women can be judged by its content on 8th March.  International Women's Day.  Whilst other media were banging on about women's achievements or the prejudice of patriarchal society, The Daily Mail cut right to the chase.

The movie star Cameron Diaz's attempts to be 'girly' were undermined by the fact that she had clearly done some exercise: "...  sporting an LBD [no idea, sorry] with an asymmetrical neckline [er], Cameron Diaz was unable to disguise her toned arm and shoulder.  The actress looked more tomboy than feminine at a promotional event ..."

The author of this social commentary, Alanah Eriksen, doesn't really mean 'tomboy', does she?  By claiming a degree of androgyny about the actress' appearance, she is feeding into a long-standing cultural theme: sport and exercise are boys' activities, and girls who choose to break this basic rule probably break other, more serious, social taboos too.

Nice girls don't play sport.  Girls who play sport are not nice.

And this principle must be right because we witness it every day: from increasingly early ages, girls drop out of sport and physical activity, often never to return.

I wonder if it was a coincidence that the Mail choose this particular day to publish this diarrhea.  I don't read it, and for all I know, the paper usually has features by Germaine Greer on the joy of menopause, and the sports pages are full of women's boxing and international netball.

If so, it is simply unfortunate that it printed an article that demeans and insults women on the very day that the world was celebrating the extraordinary advances that women have made this century.

But I suspect not.  This nonsense is ridiculous but not without precedent.  Women are bombarded with messages that tell them how to behave in order to remain 'girly'.  And some of the messages, like this one, are positively harmful to women's health, because exercise is a necessary ingredient of well-being.

And this is why I grudgingly choose to remain a man.  I can live with being a bit slow and useless.  And I look forward to my inevitable decline into ridiculousness.

And if I decide to play some sport or do some exercise, I know that I won't be condemned by an evil hate-rag that makes its money by reinforcing society's prejudices and playing on people's fears.


geeoharee said...

'Women are bombarded with messages that tell them how to behave in order to remain 'girly'.'

Such as not discussing their "afflictions" in public? The Mail is a hate rag from hell, but please check yourself. 'Girls are best' generalisations that stereotype women do us no favours.

When you got to the line 'I am aware that I am making wild generalisations that are crude and stereotypical' you should have stopped doing it.

Richard Bailey said...

Apologies for any offence caused. The intention was to use to use humour to make a serious point. I might not be very good at it, but it is a grand old tradition.

Gemma said...

Totally agree with the bit about the issues of women's body image and exercise. Media is a woman's enemy that's for sure! The main problem though, is how to stop, or at least reduce, this vicious cycle?

linz_e_p said...

if only the media could use their social status and power to encourage girls into exercise...seeking the benefits available! instead of hyping yet another stereotype that will affect generations to come

Richard Bailey said...

what's shocking that is many of this 'media' are women imposing these values on other women.