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: Sales Advisor - £35,000 OTE

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Advisor is required to ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor / Contact Centre Advisor

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As the UK's leading accident an...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Recruitment Genius: Web Hosting Support Agent

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the North West's leading web hosting pr...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

If teenagers were keen to vote, it could transform Britain

Peter Kellner
Crocuses bloom at The Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew  

From carpets of crocuses to cuckoos on the move, spring is truly springing

Michael McCarthy
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003