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

Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher We have a fantastic special n...

Tradewind Recruitment: History Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an 11-18 all ability co-educat...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Recruitment Genius: Transport Administrator / Planner

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

If I were Prime Minister: Every privatised corner of the NHS would be taken back into public ownership

Philip Pullman
 

Errors & Omissions: Magna Carta, sexing bishops and ministerial aides

John Rentoul
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee