Why men are crap

Gordon Ramsay reckons women can't cook. Ad exec Neil French says they make rubbish employees. And Harvard president Larry Summers says genetic differences condemn the fairer sex to failure in science. Who the hell are they to talk? Here, leading female figures have their say on male failings - and they're not holding back...
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The Independent Online

AS BYATT
Author

I rather like men. I've always felt I am interested in people, and quite a lot of people are men. I find it quite hard to think of specific areas in which men obviously fall down.

One thing that women do better than men is that they tend to remember what you've just said to them. And girls seem to do quite a lot better at school. I put that down to the group culture. Boys tend to hang around trying to look as if they're not doing much work, and therefore probably don't do much work. And also women seem to have crept into the traditionally male areas of knifings and muggings. Women seem to be doing those things quite efficiently.

EMMA RICHARDS
Record- breaking round-the world yachtswoman

What are men crap at? Most things! But maybe that's not specific enough. So how about not being able to remember anything, not being good at attention to detail, and having an apparently genetic inability to do two things at once. Not that I'd want to fall into the trap of making sweeping generalisations, which on recent evidence seems to have been the case with a few other people. Speaking of which, some men are pretty good at talking about themselves, or in a derogatory way about other people, to generate publicity for themselves. Does that count as a strength?

SHIRLEY CONRAN
Superwoman

If women aren't any good in the kitchen, then men should get off their backsides and get in front of the stove. And if men think woman can't be tough bosses, they're going to get a shock; women can be just a cruel as men. The newspaper isn't big enough to publish all the reasons why men are crap.

The worst fault of men is their complacency - all their other faults stem from that. The current male identity-crisis has come about because men are finally waking up to the fact that they are not superior to women. Oh, and I wish they'd stop picking their toenails in bed, or in front of the TV.

JO BRAND
Comedian

In my experience, the main things that men are really terrible at doing are small domestic things. Things like wiping down a surface properly. I don't know what it is. Maybe they can't squeeze a cloth dry or something. But there's always a crusty ring of crumbs on the side of the surface when they've finished, which means you then have to do it all again.

And I think I know the reason why men can't multi-task, too. Multi-tasking for women means doing lots of things at the same time, all rather shoddily. So if you're trying to get the kids to school and write something and do the Hoovering all at the same time, the Hoovering will always be a slightly cursory job. You'll Hoover the areas that everyone's going to see, and that will be that.

I don't know a single woman who's ever used all those add-on jobs that you put on the end of the Hoover. But if you ask a man to Hoover, it will take him two days. He'll go into every area, he'll put all the furniture out in the garden. He will, in other words, do it properly. But it doesn't give much scope for doing everything else at the same time.

ANGELA HARTNETT
Chef and Gordon Ramsay protégé

Both men and women are pretty much equal in the kitchen. Men are physically stronger, which is helpful. But one area where women are better is temperament. We're definitely calmer and more patient and that helps. But that stuff that the guy said about women making weaker bosses is nonsense. He's just an arse. Gordon's comments were taken a little out of context - if he was really against having women in kitchens, would he have made me a partner in my own restaurant?

BARONESS JULIA NEUBERGER
Author, rabbi, social reformer

I love men, and on the whole they are good at things I'm bad at, like map-reading. But they tend to be bad at remembering to do things - their wakeful nights are not filled, as mine are, with lists in my head, or even worse, waking up and making a list. That need to make lists and then do everything on them seems to be a female trait. Perhaps men think the world will continue - or at least there will be meals at home - whether they make lists or not.

The last thing men are really bad at is shopping. The fact that they have been told that there is a really good shop nearby where you can get what is needed seems not to sink in. They still come back saying they were unable to buy the strainer, funnel and pie dish that you desperately needed, and think they have done very well by trying and struggling through the crowded streets. In my book, trying at shopping is not good enough. You also need to succeed.

ELEANOR ANGEL
Women of the Year chairperson

Men don't listen and they can't multi-task, two things that are important to be able to do. They just focus on whatever they are doing at that moment and it is as if nothing else is happening in the world. That's really why they don't listen, and is also why they can't multi-task.

Women juggle lots of things - at home, at work, wherever. But men don't seem to be able to. I think it all comes down to conversation. Listen to two women having a conversation and they will jump between subjects easily and the conversation will dot about. But men have a one-track mind, so to speak. They talk about one thing at a time. And that's especially true when it comes to sport.

JENNY COLGAN
Novelist

I like men very much. They're funny, straightforward and good at sums. On the other hand, there are some areas of life where they are complete and utter uncontainably useless arses. There's the dancing thing, and the, " Oh, sorry, we've been going out for 19 years and you thought we were serious? " thing, and the Saudi Arabian mullah thing, but by far the most irritating is the totally shit car thing.

Men who love cars are boring. Jeremy Clarkson is a terrible advert for this, in that he himself clearly isn't boring, but he serves as the inspiration to millions of fat shouty men without an ounce of his wit, giving them carte blanche to bore on endlessly. Talking a lot about your car makes you a brain-dead idiot, with the aesthetic sensibilities of a flea. Bringing up your car as a way of finding out the financial status of the man you are talking to is pre-pubescent penis pulling. Buying a brightly coloured expensive sports model shows you up to be a complete and utter desperate arse, as, by the way, does the teenage Russian ho in the passenger seat.

Oh, and by the way, boys - of course we don't cook (or eat) ever since you decided that you could only find us sexually attractive if we had the body of a 12-year-old boy who's had an accident with two grapefruits and a staple gun. Thanks for that.

DEBRA SEARLE
Solo transatlantic rower and presenter

Men can be too vulnerable in certain situations. In 2002, I set out on a double-handed rowing challenge to cross the Atlantic with a guy who, sadly, developed an uncontrollable fear of the ocean. [Debra Searle's now ex-husband, Andrew, bailed out near the start, leaving her to do the trip solo, in three-and-a-half months.] Women are proving themselves more and more in all walks of life - it's about individuals, not gender.

LUCY PORTER
Comedian

I have never had a decent cup of tea or coffee made by a man. That's their big downfall. I think that women are also better with a certain type of veiled itchiness. Men are often a bit straightforward. That advertising executive who made those comments about women bosses - a woman would never have been that tactless. We would have said something far more veiled and dressed it up as a compliment.

It's only taken us a few decades of being treated as intellectual equals for us to break the glass ceiling and outperform men at every educational level, but you'd never find us so tactless as to say it.

And finally, and importantly, women have more scruples, which means that we're probably worse at advertising but better people in general.

JOANNA BRISCOE
Novelist

I wouldn't want to slag men off in general. I wouldn't want to descend to their level.

LISA GEE
Author of Friends: Men and Women on the Same Planet

Men are crap at pigtails, bunches and plaits. They are much gentler than women when it comes to brushing little girls' hair, but I always have to step in and take over when it comes to tying my daughter's hair back. They don't dare yank. And they're not so good at calming the children at bedtime - it's much more exciting to stir them up and play around.

LIONEL SHRIVER
Author of We need to Talk About Kevin and Orange Prize winner

Men have grown more feminised, and we don't like it. We don't want it. There's no pleasing women. When men behave like aggressive arseholes who insist on having everything their own way, we get put out. When they get soft and sensitive and only what to know what you want... that's creepy. When there's a mouse in this house, there is no question whose job it is to kill it. I still have an appreciation for a man who's decisive, who fights his corner and exhibits a certain strength and leadership - even if I have to fight against it.

PENNY LANCASTER
Model and Rod Stewart's fiancee

Men seem to have more of a single-minded attitude towards life. They find their goal - the bread-winner, or a single career - and just stick to it, whereas women are more able to apply themselves to many different things simultaneously and to be creative with their time. This is why we are capable of being more successful in many professions.

MARY KILLEN
Journalist

I once had a weekly column in The Times, just holding forth. One week, I wrote a piece about my husband Giles and what a hypochondriac he was. It triggered a giant mailbag of comments from women whose husbands were, they said, like mine in this. I was "poached" by The Sunday Telegraph on the strength of this article. They wanted me to write a weekly column for them, to be called "Family Life". There was one condition - that I write about Giles and how annoying he was each week.

Giles was only too happy to be the focus of these attacks, often jotting down notes about annoying things he had done to help me as I composed. He said he welcomed any attention, even negative attention. Whether it was losing his car keys or wallet, or being negative about having to go out to dinner, complaining bitterly all the way there, then sailing in to be the life and soul - whatever he did, there would be a mailbag from other women saying: "My husband is exactly the same." Blurting out secrets, complaining about traffic jams, being queeny in the kitchen: from my postbag, I see that men seem hard-wired to have these defects.

SARAH BEENY
TV presenter

The difficulty is finding something men are good at! Cooking, maybe, but at least when women cook, the kitchen looks something like it did when it started. When men cook they use every saucepan and dish and make the place look like a bomb has gone off. It takes months to clear up and they require months of praise just for cooking.

Also, men aren't able to go to the shops. You can have no loo paper, no milk and no teabags in the house, but if a man goes out for a newspaper, that's what he's going to buy. He'll then go back to the shops if he needs milk and teabags and he won't go out for loo paper until he needs the loo. They just can't compute large amounts of material at the same time. And the last thing men are really bad at is keeping their one black sock out of a white wash.

SHELLEY SILAS
Playwright

The main problem I have with men is that they need enormous looking-after, in all sorts of ways. From having a cold and thinking they are dying, to their retarded punctuation (and I mean retarded), to the inability to offer you a cup of tea if you pop in - or maybe it's because they don't know where the kettle is. Don't get me wrong; I love men (even though I am married to a woman), but give me a woman any day for organisation, getting things done and not procrastinating in the toilet with an entire magazine rack. When it comes to being generous about the work of a woman, or even acknowledging that work - they just can't do it. This, for me, is about the worst it gets. In my experience, men are generally bad at being altruistic to women, particularly if you happen to be working in the same field.

REBECCA LOOS
TV personality

I love cooking, it's one of my favourite pastimes, but I don't make a big deal about it. On the rare occasions that men do cook, they make such a massive deal about it, like they deserve a medal or something. And they make a real mess in the kitchen, too.

Another thing that really annoys me is that men are completely blind! You'll be having your dinner and he gets up to get something and you're, like, "Can you bring the salt, babe," and you know it's right there on the side in front of the kettle but he just can't see it so you have to get up anyway. They can't see things that are right in front of their faces. Men are also crap because they don't realise that women are just totally romantic and all they'd have to do to get exactly what they wanted would be to treat us like princesses the whole time. But then, what would we have to talk about?

CARRIE GRANT
Voice coach, Fame Academy

The major difference between men and women is this: women have far better role models. If you look at magazines, there are a lot of women out there who can help other women. Women are well defined, and that's because we've had to fight tooth and nail for everything we've got.

If you look at men, what have they got? Nuts, Loaded and FHM. Those magazines don't contain good role models for men. It's indicative of the fact that men have lost their way in how to define themselves.

PETRONELLA WYATT
Deputy editor, The Spectator

Men don't know how to make intelligent but light conversation, which makes them total bores to talk to most of the time. They're crap at smoking, they always look like idiots when they smoke a cigarette. And they're crap dancers - as soon as they get on to the dancefloor, they look like apes.

They're really crap with anything technical, especially mobile phones - no man knows how to use his mobile properly. I am forever having to help them out with their texting. And DVD players, too - men are crap at working DVD players, changing light bulbs and a lot of other menial household chores.

Interviews by Ed Caesar, Helen Brown, Sarah Harris, Kate Wiggans, Nick Harris

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