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.

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Feeling all at sea: Barbara's 18-year-old son came under the influence of a Canadian libertarian preacher – and she had to fight to win him back
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Living the high life: Anne Robinson enjoys some skip-surfed soup
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
Doctor Who and Missy in the Doctor Who series 8 finale

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

    Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

    Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent