Love women? It's impossible to do anything else without suffering the consequences. Women are like the countryside or the climate; they are the environment that men live in. Onassis said: "If women didn't exist, all the money in the world would have no meaning." That's a thought for Valentine's Day. And yet, I am not infrequently accused of having a stripe of misogyny running through my most intimate relationship. It may be true. Likening women to the climate is probably dehumanising, or objectifying or diminishing. Even I can see that's not good. And when Norm in Cheers said, "Women! You can't live with them, pass the nuts", that made me laugh too much; I recognise that.
And I do habitually notice and then note down those habits that seem to be peculiar to women. I file it with pleasure when I see a woman pushing her baby's pram out into the road without looking for traffic: "GET OUT OF MY WAY. I'M A MOTHER!"
There are other things no doubt which, on reflection, we won't go into here. Misogyny is a great crime, I agree. And there's no female equivalent. Those female comedians who say terrible things about men and everyone laughs – there's no point in likening it to racism. It may be right but it's irrelevant. Men are still expiating 5,000 years of oppression, and no doubt we'll still be trying to do so for some years yet.
So we annoy each other. At some point we'll stop putting such energy into it. I don't think about it so much these days. Age helps. The hormones have got thinner. And I find I've started to circle round a proposition that gets more powerful as time goes on.
I have started to think that women may actually be the superior sex. This is a great break from my stance in younger years. But it may be the case that women are the senior sex. And not in a rhetorical or political way but in reality – "Are you saying I look old?"...
Time was I assumed men and women were equal. Different but equal. Separate but dependent. Two moons in opposite orbits, as D H Lawrence said. But ideas change as stray facts attach themselves to our minds. There's an awful lot of rubbish in our heads – I'm speaking for myself, of course.
I once interviewed Matt Ridley about his interesting book Nature via Nurture. I was trying to make the case that we had apes inside us, along with everything else in our evolutionary history. I wanted to create a superhero who could access his DNA and climb up and down his evolutionary tree at will. Matt Ridley is a proper scientist, and he started looking at me with a certain fixity and I only realised later what he must have been thinking. Nonetheless, he told me a number of things which I've mangled into my own mish-mash of gender-related propositions. So, on the understanding that this will have no shred of scientific validity – though it may by coincidence be true – here's my case for the superiority of the female sex.
First: the original living creature, before sexual reproduction, that was the default model of life. It was essentially female. It didn't need sex to reproduce. It may have been a bit boring and it didn't have the wherewithal to change much, but it had everything it needed. Maleness was a mutation that swam off into the soup and spent the rest of time trying to get back to its origins.
Things became more interesting – or more unpredictable. A dazzling cabaret of new creatures passed across the stage as mutations multiplied. It couldn't have happened without males, but it went the way females chose.
Incidentally, because maleness was a variation from the original it was inherently unstable. This has a fact attached to it: by some estimates, males produce five times the random mutations that females do. We certainly go wrong more often, and not just because we drive golf buggies into sand traps. We generate mutations much more than females do – but that doesn't mean evolution is a male thing.
Very much the opposite, in fact. Evolution is guided by the female. Under sexual selection, it is the females who do the selecting. They select males for certain desirable characteristics. Females look at males with certain differences from the norm and think, "Ooh, that extra height he's got would help my little ones get the berries off the higher branches." This drives evolution incomparably faster than random mutation.
Here's an evolutionary anecdote. Each of its parts may or may not be true and the sequence they make may or may not have the significance I make out of it, but see what you think.
Brain pans were bigger back in early Cro-Magnon days. Around 14,000BC, heads started getting smaller. In an astonishingly small period of a few thousand years, brain pans lost 20 per cent of their size. That seems impossible until you remember how quickly you can increase height in a species of dog by selective breeding.
Was it a coincidence that around that time, humans had started congregating in larger groups? Humanity was becoming more social. Women liked these settlements. (Being more communicative they liked to have more opportunities for communication.) And as a result, they actively selected men with smaller heads. Why so? Smaller-headed men were generally less trouble. Wild creatures have larger heads than their domestic counterparts; smaller heads were a sign of domestication. Smaller-headed men fitted into society better; women liked society; they chose men who'd fit in.
If there's any truth in that, it shows the awesome power that the female principle has. As soon as we started living in these larger settlements, there was very much more selection available. It was like a supermarket there in the first townships; no wonder evolution put on a millennial spurt.
So, whatever the social circumstances of today, the underlying reality may be of a universal matriarchy. And that would be a thought on which to end, and to wish us all a happy Valentine's Day.
But then, while we're up there in the clouds of non-scientific speculation, it might also be the case that sexual selection is an experiment that may not work. It does produce some perverse results – the peacock's tail being just one. What if our civilisation with its doctors, lawyers and bankers that women want to marry so much – what if all that is a large, vainglorious peacock's tail?
We'd be in very serious trouble. And when we found out – too late – then the proper misogynists would be back at the top of the stand-up bill.Reuse content