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maybe, girls don't really wanna know

THE suzi feay COLUMN
WHEREVER you stand on the great Blur/Oasis divide, you've got to admit that, the odd rendering of "Country House" aside, you don't get buskers belting out Blur. Whereas you can hardly move on London Underground without being aurally assaulted by somebody wailing Oasis. The funniest (and the first) I heard was in the Greenwich foot tunnel, moaning his way through "you're my wun-ner-wa-aa-all" to derisive barracking from local pop-kids. Every few seconds he would break off Noel Gallagher's haunting lament to bellow: "Shut up! Just shut up, all right!"

The busker on my route has a repertoire of only two songs. In the morning he pleads "Bebbe don't worree! About a t'ing!" and it's always a shock to see, instead of a beaming ragamuffin off a Lilt ad, a scrawny white geezer who looks like he hasn't been above ground since the first Battle of the Bands. In the evenings he puts on his best Gallagher scowl: "May- beh, dahn rilly wanna naaaah ..."

Ah, that scowl. The Brothers Gallagher are rarely photographed smiling, no doubt on the advice of their publicists. Liam's reputation for handsomeness relies entirely on the gormless immovability of that Cro-Magnon frontage. And without his studied gloom, Britpop Noel ("the new Shakespeare") looks just like beaming New Gen poet Glyn Maxwell ("the new Lennon"). Come to think of it, has anyone ever seen gingernut Glyn in the same room as gnarly Noel? Glyn once grumbled that pop-stars were doing poets' jobs, and, with a sachet of Clairol Mouse Brown and a faux younger brother, is doing his best to reverse the trend.

Glyn is a New Lad poet. The Gallaghers are decidedly Old Lads, luvly boys who are sweet to their old Mam.

Here is Liam in Sky magazine: "Any bird who's fit is all right ... if she thinks I'm boss, then thumbs up." The feud with Blur took an ugly turn when Liam reckoned he'd have bedded the lead singer's girlfriend Justine "Knicker Elastica" Frischmann by (last) Christmas.

Now, renewing the attack on Damon Albarn, Liam opines: "His bird does it better than him. That's sad. I wouldn't have no bird of mine playing rock 'n' roll better than me. She'd have her bags packed and be out." Liam is now apparently going out with Patsy Kensit, who was once in a band, but even so is very unlikely to "do it" better than Liam.

Liam's problem is that he has never known a world without feminism. He is only 23. The Female Eunuch was published in 1970. My father used to try the tack, round about the time of Liam's birth, of demanding his own way because "I earn the money!" It was a desperate bluff even then. Because Noel and Liam earn pots, and because there are always quantities of sad little Sugar-reading shag-sacks following them around, they think feminism never happened.

This stance is paradoxically sexy; a far cry from the tampon-chewing Erica Jong heroes, the New Man types who murmured "Wrong time of the month, love?" and got a knee in the bollocks for their empathy. Lumbering dinosaur man is rather sweet, not to mention outmanoeuvrable. I attended the most unreconstructed sexist school, where girls were an afterthought and rugby was king. Heavy metal echoed down the senior boys' corridor, and every study had a set of white-paper bikinis for the nude pin-ups in case the beaks came round.

There was a Head Girl, but her male counterpart was called Head of School. Arguments in favour of this arrangement were always curiously circular, of the "boys are better ... cos they are" variety. "The Head of School is always Captain of the rugby team. And the captain of the rugby team is always a bloke, right?" the lads would say with an unshak- able logic.

Asking why the Head of School always had to be captain of rugby was a bit like discussing amps which go "one louder" with Nigel Tufnell of Spinal Tap. They would look at you, puzzled - could you really be that thick? - and repeat, patiently, "But Head of School is always Captain of Rugby, right?"

And yet, and yet ... looking back this seemed to promote an almost Elysian balance of the sexes. Manly pursuits left a girl so much time to get on with the important things. "Goodbye, goodbye," we'd chant, waving our sweaty swains off to their away matches on hot afternoons; then, briskly: "Right, let's go and do some nude sunbathing in the top field/skinny dipping in the reservoir." Of course, these were activities you could do quite profitably with the boys, but you couldn't let them have all their own way.

The school, not surprisingly, had a rather panicky attitude to teenage sex. On being discovered naked in a boy's study - pre- or post-coition was not clear - one girl was gated for a week, whereas the boy who shot a village child with his air-rifle at point-blank range had merely to stroll around at break-time picking up sweet-wrappers.

Ah, those were the days: when men were men and women couldn't keep a straight face.