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: Business Analyst - 12 Month FTC - Entry Level

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Analyst is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Chefs - All Levels

£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To succeed, you will need to ha...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Engineer

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive & Customer Service - Call Centre Jobs!

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Day In a Page

Read Next
George Osborne appearing on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, 5 July 2015  

George Osborne says benefits should be capped at £20,000 to meet average earnings – but working families take home £31,500

Ellie Mae O'Hagan
The BBC has agreed to fund the £650m annual cost of providing free television licences for the over-75s  

Osborne’s assault on the BBC is doing Murdoch’s dirty work

James Cusick James Cusick
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy