At last - men have become interesting

IT WAS a normal pre-match gathering at a summer football tournament, 11 guys chatting about the sort of things which guys chat about when there are no women around.

One of us was sharing a wonderful way of brushing new potatoes with dill and lemon. Nearby there was a discussion about the limits of acceptable dishonesty in a modern relationship and whether men ever positively want to get married rather than accede to pressure. Someone lowered the tone with details of an unusual social disease he had once caught. Eventually, and a touch reluctantly we moved in fist-clenching, competitive mode ("Pride, lads") and took to the pitch.

Interesting, you see. We may be battered and beleaguered. Most of us are dizzied by conflicting demands made upon us - soft, child-caring hands at home, sharp elbows at work. Yet the angry buzzing confusion all about our poor, spinning male heads has had one surprising effect. Men have become rather interesting.

The cut and thrust of every new round in the great gender debate, so earnestly discussed in the media, tends to pass us by. Last week we learnt that the female brain is incapable of grasping how maps work. That was meant to be news! For years, most men have known about this and have accepted that an occasional 20-mile detour is small price to pay for the pleasure of female company.

Then yet another survey revealed that while, for most days of the month women gravitate towards feminised men (that is, gentle, kind domestic types), they change while ovulating and, in spite of themselves, are attracted to "masculine men" (that is, randy, heartless bastards).

Again, where was the surprise here? Men frequently undergo similar changes, the sweetest, gentlest nappy-changer becoming at certain moments - office parties, sales conferences, the Frankfurt Book Fair - a rough and ravening sex machine. The difference between men and women is that, while they complain loudly that to reduce their emotional life to some Darwinian genetic programme is demeaning, we accept the conflict within us as part of our fascinating complexity.

Of course, it is upsetting that, however accommodating we become, the response from the other side of the divide tends to be either foot-stamping rage or leering triumphalism. Once the anti-male sneer was restricted to Cosmopolitan's regular "21 Ways to Dump Your Man" columns; today, it has become intellectually acceptable. So, in a middle-brow Sunday tabloid this weekend, the gender warrior Suzanne Moore was to be found furiously denouncing slurs directed at her map-reading abilities or genetic tendencies during ovulation. Men, in her view, were "sullen apes who can barely communicate", people, who from an early age, were provably inferior to women in their language skills.

To most men, all this bile and graceless, generalised complaint is tedious and old-fashioned. We do not need reminding that salaries are still biased in favour of the male as are positions of power in government and the media, where Birt, Blair, Brown, Bragg, Bland, Cook and Dyke lord it like a clan of Anglo-Saxon chieftains. Nor do the revelations by Fay Weldon, Maggie Gee and Rosalind Coward that in 1999 it is incomparably easier to be a girl bristling with ambition and certainty, than it is to be a boy come as any surprise. Anyone who has contact with men under 25 will know the problems.

Rather than anguishing over these sterile arguments, men are looking to their own lives in order to work out a new role, In fiction, Nick Hornby, Hanif Kureishi, Tim Lott and Tony Parsons explore changing male attitudes towards marriage, success, women, children and careers. While confusion and resentment may be found in some of these accounts, there is rarely the gender-wide rage which so many women writers seem unable to resist. Even Kureishi's novel Intimacy, widely attacked as misogynistic, was essentially an attempt to understand the spiritual emptiness of the footloose, lost middle-aged man.

So men blunder on, faltering and falling by the wayside. Ron Davies, Nick Leeson, Screaming Lord Sutch: only the scale and variety of the modern crack-up changes from day to day. Of course, there are instances of female self-destructiveness, too, although somehow Tara and her coke habit or Sarah Kennedy going slightly bonkers on Radio Two lack a tragic grandeur.

Not that our team would have been brooding on the gender subtext as we took up our positions against a local pub side. Hammered? Of course. But we're men, we know how to take it.

Arts and Entertainment
Wonder.land Musical by Damon Albarn

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
    10 best statement lightbulbs

    10 best statement lightbulbs

    Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
    Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
    Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

    Dustin Brown

    Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
    Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test