Thursday 19 May 2011
Julie Burchill: Give me strong, silent, emotionally continent men over these hysterics
Other kids had the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen, but my daddy used to tell me fairy stories about the Soviet Union when I was a tot. One was that the metro was so clean you could eat your dinner off the floor ("Because it belongs to the people, like everything over there, they keep it like a palace!") and another one was that in Georgia, only women past the age of the menopause were in positions of power ("Because they're not slaves to their hormones, like men and young women are, so they can be trusted to make proper judgements").
This certainly made life interesting at school – when as a Mixed Infant I could be found arguing the merits of the Glorious Soviet Way with bemused teachers at the drop of The Cat In The Hat – but I'm not sure how true it was. Still, I found myself thinking wistfully of the mythical Georgian grannies of post-menopausal wisdom this week as the parade of Alpha-males-gone-wild cranked up a gear, hormones overflowing to flood-alert level.
Rich and/or powerful men hiding behind a judge's robes like a bunch of virgins having the vapours over their precious reputations – lest they too must wear the scarlet letter A, like their Jeanne d'Arc, St Andy of Marr! Politicians allegedly trying to get their wives to carry the can for their misdemeanours – a reversal of the old-school chivalry-mode of a man never divorcing his wife no matter what her transgressions, but rather giving her grounds to divorce him.
The terrible two(s) of the culinary arts, Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay, back on TV, the one boo-hooing if people won't do as he wants, the other screaming and screaming till he's sick like some testosterone-and-Botox-crazed Violet Elizabeth Bott. And the head of the IMF revealed as a man so much at the mercy of his humping hormones that he has allegedly thrown everything away for the chance of a fast, forced legover – what a slut!
It's not just the Big I Ams in the rarefied air of the top tax bracket who are coming over all emotional, either. Despite all the dismal bleating about the wonders of retail therapy from the glossies, men, it transpires, are the real impulse buyers, shelling out something like £70,000 over a lifetime on little treats to make them feel better when they just can't shake that pesky baby-food-weight. In reality shows such as Jersey Shore and The Only Way Is Essex, the flash prole boys spend easily as much time as the girls styling their hair, working on their tans and agonising over their relationships.
In the 19th century, stern patriarchs used to warn their daughters not to indulge in anything but the lightest of reading matter lest their fragile little brains overheat, but now teachers want to ditch the classics in favour of light writing bites because boys – bless! – are "intimidated" by big books. "Boys are not as good as girls at sitting and listening," explained the children's author Frank Cottrell Boyce. Well, maybe as they're meant to be at SCHOOL, and not at a ROLLER-DISCO, they might just be told to LIKE IT OR LUMP IT. Just a thought!
In the ultimate grotesque appropriation of the feminisation of feelings, even wife-killers are getting in on the caring, sharing act. When the feminists of the 1970s encouraged men to show their emotions, I bet they didn't foresee this can of slushy, mushy worms being opened. I've got to say, total feminist though I am, I am probably a bit of a rogue one in that I've never thought that men should be more like women but rather that it might be good for women to be a little more like (old-fashioned) men. I don't think being over-emotional is the best way to be – it distorts rather than expresses character – and it's a battle I've fought for a lot of my life, against my own tendency to fly off the handle: one of the very few things I despise about myself.
I've never suffered from PMT, but I do support the state of Israel, so I find I spend a lot of my time crying, lashing out violently and screeching "You don't understand!" at my husband. I do understand what sufferers go through. But I don't WANT to be like that, and I don't see why anyone else would think it was something to aim for. Come back, the strong and silent male stereotype – continent, stoic, buck-stopping – all is forgiven!
'Slut Walkers' – just after attention, or am I being jealous?
The last time young women stripped down to their scanties to show men who was boss, it was the Spice Girls. And anyone who can have nine beezer hit singles in the space of ONE YEAR (1996's "Wannabe" to 1997's "Stop"; they didn't get rubbish till "Viva Forever") can't be ALL wrong.
Yet, I've resisted writing much about the "Slut Walk" because, somewhat horrifically for someone in my profession, I CAN SEE BOTH SIDES. I can see why girls get a kick from getting their kit off and saying "Na, na, you can look but you can't touch".
But, on the other hand, I can see why the movingly named Exited Women (ex-prostitutes) find it distinctly creepy and Marie-Antoinetty to see middle-class girls dressing up as sex workers.
A part of me thinks that it's a bit sad and suck-uppy to label yourself a slut – like one of those desperate girls at school who sleep around to get the attention that would otherwise be denied them because of their lack of beauty or brains: never a good look, even in the first flush of fit youth.
I recently read that one third of young women feel sad after sex – freaks, why keep doing it then? I felt that way about the gym, so I stopped! – and this makes the name-claim somewhat pathetic.
But then ANOTHER part of me suspects I might be jealous because I no longer look good in lingerie. I give up! I HATE seeing both sides of the story!
When will Dublin say sorry for its Hitler condolence?
Watching coverage of the Queen laying a wreath in Dublin's Garden of Remembrance even I could not fail to be moved by this totally deserved tribute to the fallen.
However, an Irish journalist is saying: "If you take it out of the British/Irish context, did it matter that the German chancellor would go to Israel and kneel at the Holocaust memorial? Of course it matters that people do acknowledge in formal ways that these acts matter in history."
With such a sense of perspective and such a lack of rabble-rousing hyperbole from well-wishers, I'm sure this new Special Relationship will go from strength to strength.
Talking of Germany, maybe Dublin can acknowledge in a formal way that their government sent condolences to the Third Reich on hearing of Hitler's death?
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