Amy Jenkins: Now men know what being treated as a 'minority' feels like


Related Topics

Is it the end of men? An article in this month's Atlantic magazine thinks it might be.

Figures out in the US show that women have become the majority of the workforce over there for the first time. Of the 15 job categories projected to grow the most in the next 10 years, all but two are occupied primarily by women. More women than men are gaining degrees and, in China, women own more than 40 per cent of private business.

No wonder, then, that cosmetics companies have got on to selling men moisturiser (they're going to need it) and advertisers are busy objectifying them in underwear commercials. What's the next logical step? You guessed it. Their very own minority radio show. Men's Hour With Tim Samuels will be brought to us on a Sunday evening by Radio 5 Live. The programme will be delving into "uncharted emotional territory for men". There will be a shrink on hand in case any of the celebrity guests break down while talking frankly about male identity issues. (They hope for Jamie Oliver and José Mourinho.) There will be jokey slots like Questions You Dare Not Ask Your Doctor and Thought For The Gay. There will also be a token woman who will be apologising for "feminist cant", such as Marilyn French saying that all men are rapists.

Judging from online comments – and I know you should never judge anything from online comments, but here I go – there's a danger that men will feel patronised by this kind of targeted programming. To that I say – welcome to being a "minority". Feminists have long cursed the way women's interests have been routinely regarded as minority ones (despite our numbers) and hived off into the ghetto of a women's page or a Woman's Hour on the radio.

But what these gender-ised pages and hours really represent is a chance to talk about sexual roles. On the one hand, you've got the experience of men and women as members of the human race – and on the other, the experience of men and women living out the tight gender roles that society ascribes to them.

If a Men's Hour spends time addressing the particular challenges of being a son, a husband and a father in 2010, then it'll make for good listening. Indeed, the BBC press release says the show will be less about "leering at ladies and more about maintaining monogamy". I'd love to hear a man talking honestly about pressure to be a "lad" and the difficulties of staying faithful in our sex-for-sale society – where soft porn is the standard on MTV, current women's fashion is to dress like a prostitute, and we're all meant to be having it all and having it large simultaneously.

And then there's "the end of men" to contend with. A World Cup-themed ad is doing the rounds at the moment for the alcopop WKD. It shows a slob of a man sitting in front of the footie and reluctantly asking his slaving wife if she needs help in the kitchen. She says "yes", so he shouts to his mum to go do it. His mum is then revealed to be about 90 and to be outside washing down his white van in a vigorous lather of suds.

The advert has attracted some attention as being demeaning to women but, in fact, the women come out of it very well. The man comes out appallingly. He may be cutely "wicked", but he is also lazy, uncaring, unprincipled, mean, a slave driver, a slob, badly dressed, overweight, useless... Yes, it's a sexist ad, but it's sexist about men, too.

Also note that the press release for the new Men's Hour describes their foray into men's emotions as "uncharted". Of course, this isn't strictly true, but the fact that they use the word "uncharted" at all speaks volumes. There's simply not enough out there about men's feelings. Men are not as circumscribed by gender rules and expectations as women, but they are circumscribed nonetheless.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Pensions Administrator

£23000 - £26000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: I am currently recruiting level 3 n...

Are you a Teacher interested in Special Needs?

£110 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Are you a qualified Teacher w...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Photo issued by Flinders University of an artist's impression of a Microbrachius dicki mating scene  

One look at us Scots is enough to show how it was our fishy ancestors who invented sex

Donald MacInnes
Oscar Pistorius is led out of court in Pretoria. Pistorius received a five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide by judge Thokozile Masipais for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp  

Oscar Pistorius sentence: Judge Masipa might have shown mercy, but she has delivered perfect justice

Chris Maume
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album