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

Gender

Share
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

Opilio Recruitment: QA Automation Engineer

£30k - 38k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: An award-winning consume...

Opilio Recruitment: UX & Design Specialist

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Publishing Application Support Analyst

£30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...

Opilio Recruitment: Digital Marketing Manager

£35k - 45k per year + benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Our political system is fragmented, with disillusioned voters looking to the margins for satisfaction  

Politics of hope needed to avert flight to margins

Liam Fox
David Cameron delivers his speech on immigration at the JCB World Headquarters in Rocester, Staffordshire  

Cameron's speech was an attempt to kill immigration as an election issue

Andrew Grice
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game