Men plumb the depths of bad behaviour

Jack O'Sullivan relates a chronicle of atrocity, sin and lies

Let's face it: 1996 looked like a bad year for British males. Rather than a chronicle of great achievement it seemed to mark the descent of man.

The lowest point was Thomas Hamilton and the killings in Dunblane. Then Horrett Campbell attacked a group of toddlers with a 2ft machete. These events further raised public anxiety about the safety of children with men. So did the news earlier this month that one-third of Britain's police forces were investigating allegations of abuse by paedophiles in their children's homes. That's men, again.

Euro 96 offered some relief from men behaving horribly, a temporary boost to those who keep faith in male heroism. Victory against the Netherlands, dignity in a narrow defeat by Germany and the elegance of Paul Gascoigne's great goal against Scotland were reminders of when men could feel proud. And then Gazza blew it. He beat up his wife, Sheryl, and reminded us of the modern shame attached to maleness.

He was not the only hero to tumble. Until "Randy Roddy" hit the headlines in September after running off with a divorced woman, he was the much- admired Roderick Wright, Roman Catholic Bishop of Argyll and the Isles, a model of male celibacy and trustworthiness. Then it transpired that he had another mistress, who had borne a son, never publicly acknowledged by the bishop.

And the other male figureheads? Prince Charles, the man who would lead the rest of British men, looked out of touch and out of date, distant from his children and alienated from his society as he divorced his wife. As for his father, Prince Philip did not seem even to understand why the rest of us were so upset about handguns after the atrocities of Dunblane.

It all made for a fairly sad image of decline. And the Royal College of Nursing further elaborated the picture of men as pathetic inadequates when it reported last August that when men live without women, they eat rubbish, drink excessively and smoke too much. As a result, they die sooner. In short, take away nanny and men end up with one foot in the grave.

So men have a problem with the way the lead their lives - and it causes difficulties for everyone else. But the biggest problem in 1996 was their silence. On an individual level, many are experimenting with new ways of working, of being parents, of being masculine. But, unlike the days when feminism set its agenda, they are talking little to each other about what they are doing.

There is dearth of leadership. It was not possible in 1996 to name a single significant male public figure who articulated a fresh vision for men, a new dignified, useful and satisfying way to define themselves. Thinking men abdicated that responsibility, preferring to focus their energy on other forms of politics. What does our male- dominated Parliament have to say about the nature of men? Nothing. MPs and other male public figures can speak about Labour and the Tories, about religion and foreign affairs. But not about themselves as men.

So women filled the vacuum and, as they have done for two decades, told the story of men in 1996. Good for them. Not so useful for men. The picture that prevailed was inevitably stereotypical rather than innovative, partial rather than complete, reflecting a female rather than a male perspective. And its dominant images - abusive men, feckless fathers, criminal boys - were unrelentingly negative.

In 1997, men should start telling their own story.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Dining Room Head Chef

£32K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Dining Room Head Chef to work for one of ...

Guru Careers: Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Chef

£27K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Che...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Are you a recent graduate loo...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Did you know? SThree is a mul...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine