Male monkeys

Share
Related Topics
I'm thinking of going up to the Bell Hotel in Driffield next week to attend the Bishop of Hull's all-male evening. Traditionalists should not worry, this is not an exercise in converting chaps to gay Anglicanism; the Right Reverend James Jones simply wants to talk to us about the crisis of masculinity. The vicar of Driffield has said of the bishop that he "thinks men should be men, so he wants to inspire them".

Good. I for one could do with some inspiration. Whole weeks sometimes pass when I completely forget what sex I am. Instead of being masterful, ruling my life (and my family) with a rugged confidence, and making careful preparations for Euro 96, I find myself looking at the aftershaves in Boots, or softly crying in my study over man's inhumanity to animals.

But why am I like this? Who is to blame? The bishop has been careful not to condemn anybody in particular but has wondered aloud whether rather more men see themselves in the hen-pecked wimps of Coronation Street than in the manly ideal portrayed by Rudyard Kipling in his poem If. Coronation Street, the bishop says, suggests that it is "the women who run the show". The implication is clear. Had Kipling scripted the Street, things would have been very different.

The American chronicler of the masculine crisis, Robert Bly (he of Iron John fame), has a similar analysis to that of the Rt Rev Jones, though he can afford to lay blame where it ought to lie. Men are suffering because of (a) the popular media, where they are portrayed as useless, weak, pathetic and posturing, and (b) feminism (or women), which has thrown out the intuitive male baby with the bathwater of machismo.

Bly's famous corrective to these influences was for men to get together in wigwams in the countryside, beat drums, howl away their pain and rediscover their fathers. I am rather hoping that something similar (though adapted for less extreme British sensibilities) will take place at The Bell. I have always wanted to give a bishop a bear-hug. And instead of howling, we can just have a little shout.

But once we've finished our embrace, what I really want to say to the bishop is that men do not get their notions of masculinity from soap operas. Most of us don't watch 'em. Nor can the crisis really be pinned on other sections of the media. Today I bought the launch edition of GQ Active ("Health, fitness & sport for men") because it advertised a feature entitled "Male Insecurity: Conquer Your Fears Now". Inside, these fears were ranked in order of importance. Were they: "the agonising dilemmas of fatherhood", or "how can one be sensitive and decisive?". Nope. At number nine was "baldness", and number one was ... yes, you've got it, penis size. So if GQ is any guide Driffield's night air will be filled with the noise of zippers being unfastened and men requesting episcopal reassurance on their dimensions. Will the bishop tell each one that, in the eyes of God, all members are equal?

Theodore Zeldin points out, in An Intimate History of Humanity, that crises of masculinity recur constantly throughout the ages. The romanticism of the mid-19th century created one, when marriage as a contract (often entered into without prior inspection) was replaced with the love match. All of a sudden men found themselves open to scrutiny as objects of affection, rather than as random prizes in life's tombola. A period of adjustment was required, as chaps opted for pale and interesting over rich and big bollocked.

So we men are always in trouble. But should we be so concerned? If we judge by our counterparts in the animal kingdom, the answer is probably not. Zeldin cites the case of baboons which, generations of naturalists believed, lived in patriarchal societies. The males were loud, aggressive and had wonderful blue-and-red bottoms. Closer attention to the baboon tribes, however, showed that the females actually took all the important decisions about where they were to live, what they ate and whom they fought. In return, all the gals demanded was a terrific, many-hued bum. So relax, your reverence, all we need is a pot of paint. We'd look the part - and that's what counts.

React Now

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

SQL Developer (TSQL, SSRS, SSAS) Fund Manager - London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Harrington Starr: SQL Developer (TSQL, S...

Software Developer (JavaScript, TDD, Jasmine, Angular.JS)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Software Developer (JavaScript, TDD, Jasmine, An...

Front-End UI/UX Developer (HTML5, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, Ang

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Front-End UI/U...

C#.NET Server Side Developer (C#, XML, WCF, Unit Testing,SQL)

£30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C#.NET ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letters: The West flounders in the Middle East morass

Independent Voices
David Tennant as Hamlet  

To vote no or not to vote no, that is the question... Although do celebrities really have the answer?

David Lister
All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition