Good women make men behave badly - Straw

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The Independent Online
BOYS and men across the social spectrum are acting like the hapless characters in the television comedy Men Behaving Badly because they cannot cope with the greater success of girls and women, Jack Straw, the Home Secretary said yesterday.

"Some men find it really very difficult to cope with the fact that women are now increasingly on an equal footing," Mr Straw told Alastair Stewart on GMTV's Sunday programme.

"And they cope, as it were, cope badly, but try to cope with that by acting the goat, by being the fool, and you see this in schools and in families as well, where some boys almost give up on trying to keep up with the girls.

"I think that's a really serious social problem; and it's one, by the way, which is classless."

Mr Straw said: "It's worth remembering that the main characters in Men Behaving Badly are, as it were, middle-class lads who are dumbing themselves down."

His own view was that the programme, which he found entertaining, mirrored what was happening in society. "There's certainly something quite worrying about what is happening to a generation of men."

For those out of work, the Government was delivering its welfare-to-work programme and adult literacy schemes, and Chris Woodhead, Chief Inspector of Schools, told the same programme that it was possible to remedy some of the problems with improved education for boys learning slowly.

"If a lad leaves primary school unable to read," he said, "it seems to me inevitable that his self-esteem is going to be low. He won't be able to cope with the demands of secondary school curriculum and as a result, he will seek refuge in deviant behaviour...

"Why do girls do better? I think that they are more willing to accept the authority of teachers in schooling; they're more eager to please their teachers; and there are people, I'm not sure about this, who see reading as something that appeals more to girls and women than to boys and men."

Mr Woodhead also accepted that there was a greater degree of coarseness within society at large, citing the example of the Dixon of Dock Green presentation of an idealised view of the police in the Fifties, when he was growing up, compared with The Bill today.

"It's very much gritty, documentary, lowest common denominator realism," Mr Woodhead said. He felt that such things were influential. However, he added: "On the other hand, I do think we have to keep things in perspective; this laddish culture thing."

The shepherd in Shakespeare's A Winter's Tale said: "I wish there were no age between 10 and 23, because young men get wenches with child, upset the ancientry, stealing and fighting." Mr Woodhead added: "Four hundred years ago; the same problem. So I think we've got to keep these things in perspective."