45, married with three children, is Fellow in politics at St Hugh's College, Oxford University, formerly a women-only college.
WHAT I dislike about being a man is the way this culture, even in a female-dominated environment such as St Hugh's, still requires me to be aggressive. There is a continual need to use aggression to get things done, from dealing with a recalcitrant plumber to handling my colleagues in a conflict situation.
When I came to St Hugh's 12 years ago, only six of 30 fellows were male. In the beginning I was treated like an honorary woman. On my first day an elderly woman fellow beetled up to me and said, 'I'm so pleased to meet you. May I call you David? David, um, I've got a slight problem, would you like to go on the cushion-making committee?'
Even in this female-dominated environment, it wasn't long before I was expected to exhibit the aggression of a man. I was the one called upon to break up rowdy parties, to chase off flashers and interlopers. I had to be as caring as a woman, but also, I was a guy, wasn't I, so it was appropriate for me to handle the physical stuff.
It irks me that there are certain things I'm expected to know just because I'm a man. When I take my car to the garage for repairs, I face a barrage of technical questions as to what precisely is wrong with the thing and then a sneer when I don't know the answer. A woman can just look pathetic, and they say: 'Oh, don't worry, dear.'
Another thing I really hate about being a man is that while my emotional and intellectual sympathies are with women, I can never satisfy them. There is a sense of never being able to come up to scratch. A few days ago I was talking to a female friend about this interview and she quite accurately predicted what I have just said and then she proclaimed, 'Oh no, I don't think we can take any more self-pitying, whining men.' I know my answer is one to which many feminists will say, 'Not another poor little man whingeing about having to be a brute.' But I mean it sincerely.
I envy women their ability to admit weakness. I don't have a single male friend that I could talk to about emotional matters. I've never cried in front of a man, never talked to one about sexual problems. It must help to do those things. Men never say things like, 'You're looking great today, David.' Why don't I break the mould? It's a fear of losing respect, I suppose.
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