Oh, the torture of being a man . . .: Are men really as bad as some women make them out to be? David Cohen asks seven of his gender what aspects of their maleness they most dislike. It irks me certain things are expected

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The Independent Online
DAVID ROBERTSON

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.

(Photograph omitted)

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