Paxo and Rooney's Rutters' Club

Share
If I were in a mood to be thankful for small mercies, I might take some comfort from the fact that it cuts across age and class boundaries - macho behaviour, that is, which is making a spectacular comeback. Football fans have just been treated to another bout of appalling conduct from Wayne Rooney, during a bad-tempered match between his club, Manchester United, and Arsenal at Highbury on Tuesday, while the Chancellor of Oxford University, Lord Patten, worries that public school "yobs" are deterring bright pupils from comprehensive schools. And it's no good looking to politicians to give a lead, because only last month blokeish MPs forced through a partial return to late-night sittings so they can spend their evenings at Westminster instead of - God forbid! - going to the theatre or spending time with family and friends.

You don't have to be an admirer of that largely mythical creature, the new man, to be irritated by all this macho strutting. At least Patten had the courage to condemn "a bunch of young yobs with more money than sense" in a speech on Thursday - perhaps he was thinking of the notorious Bullingdon Club, whose members trashed a pub last year - and to suggest that "able sixth-formers in Yorkshire comprehensives" might be put off applying to Oxford by their antics. But the Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, seems to have a problem when it comes to judging the behaviour of his thuggish young star, arguing that it would be wrong to take the fire out of Rooney, whatever that means. The player has been ominously described as "a spark looking for a tinder box" after persistently fouling opponents, but Ferguson appears to believe that swearing, taunting opposing fans and even physical aggression are integral to Rooney's on- pitch performance.

There is a boys-will-be-boys assumption here, as though young men cannot help but respond to high levels of testosterone until they emerge from what Lord Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts, memorably described in one of his books as "the rutting season". (Baden-Powell's advice on getting through this difficult stage included avoiding constipation and prostitutes, a piece of guidance Rooney might be well advised to heed.) Sadly, evidence for the proposition that men grow out of macho behaviour is scant, as attested by the latest spat involving the pugnacious Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman.

Paxman, who is 54 if he is a day, has been sending out jokes about dumb blondes to a BBC mailing list, drawing scornful remarks from the programme's political editor, Martha Kearney. She also cited Paxman's introduction to an item on whether women make good scientists, in which he apparently said: "And now our science editor, Susan Watts, has put down her knitting to give us this report."

It has to be said that Paxman has form: a few years ago, when he happened to be presenting Radio 4's Start the Week on International Women's Day, he remarked that the programme was marking the event by not having any female guests in the studio. He thinks this kind of public-school humour is funny, but he is also very sensitive to criticism; when I speculated in this column about his problem with women, he fired off a furious letter to the then editor, denouncing me as a "humourless harridan" ( The Boy's Bumper Book of Sexist Insults, 1965 edition).

There even seems to be a sense around that there is something natural, if not actually admirable, about men behaving blokeishly - and a corresponding tendency to dismiss anyone who doesn't as a wimp. That was certainly the case in the run-up to the vote on working hours at the House of Commons, when MPs who unaccountably failed to appreciate the joys of late nights in the Strangers' Bar were made to feel like Chardonnay-sipping dilettantes. It cannot be long before style pieces start appearing in magazines, assuring us that macho is the new sensitive. It isn't, but it looks as though the rutting season may be rather extended this year.

React Now

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

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Middleweight

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's fastest growing full s...

Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

£35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

Recruitment Genius: Commercial Engineer

£30000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Estimating, preparation of tech...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will work as part of a smal...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron has reiterated his pre-election promise to radically improve the NHS  

How can we save the NHS? Rediscover the stiff upper lip

Jeremy Laurance
 

Thanks to Harriet Harman, Labour is holding its own against the Tory legislative assault

Isabel Hardman
Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor