Women are considered irredeemably evil if they buy the wrong brand of washing powder, leave their children in the care of others, or gain a few pounds. Men, on the other hand, are never irredeemable. Whatever they have done, other men will find it in their hearts to forgive. There's an aching in every man to forgive men - and to blame women. Thus, the judge in the case of an eight-year-old girl who'd been raped was able to conclude that she was "no angel" and therefore presumably deserved it.
This week a man who pulled a shot-gun on his ex-girlfriend for leaving him got off with 120 hours of community service. The judge said the incident "was out of character at a time when you were particularly vulnerable". Hold on. The guy with the gun was vulnerable? I would have said it was the woman the gun was pointing at. But what do I know? God, I hate myself.
Men have infinite pity for each other. Since most of their acts are inexplicable, they offer no explanation - other men will make one up on the spot to excuse them. Whatever happens after all, it was probably some woman's fault. What a peaceful place the earth would be without women. The whole planet would be covered in camaraderie; beer-swilling and squash-playing and forgiveness, every man entitled to a television, a plot of land and the benefit of the doubt. It's only women who mess this up. We are slime, slime.
Men like themselves so much they made God in their own image. Something more interesting like a dinosaur-god, bird-god or tree-god wouldn't do. It had to be a man. They could not imagine anything more perfect, more exemplary or more blameless than one of their own number. All the current major religions have a male god. This is better than any statistics on who does the housework. You don't ask God to make the beds!
Whatever they have done, and however unrehabilitated they are after their spells in prison, men have a right to their liberty. Myra Hindley will never get out - she's seen as the devil incarnate, because her crime was unusual in a woman. But men who do similar things are eventually released. We have grown used to the idea of living in a world in which such men are on the loose. We're hypnotised into believing this is unavoidable. When asked what she felt about her husband's crimes, the wife of a serial murderer replied, "Well, nobody's perfect".
The reason men are handled (by each other and everyone else) with kid gloves is that they're vicious when roused. They do not take kindly to criticism. They're liable to over-react. The big fuss some touchy men made this week was over Coventry's plan to introduce sexual equality training in nursery schools. Tories objected vehemently, saying, "It would be much better to allow children to form normal human relationships." Better for whom? They want children brought up au naturel: boys believing their role is to make the most noise, girls believing they can't get away with anything except the shy, sweet, silent act. Such a happy picture.
While the Tory councillors debate whether or not girls should be alerted to the repressive nature of sexual stereotypes, these same children can't walk to school because of paedophiles and dangerous drivers, or watch television without being bombarded with male cartoon heroes. This is the environment in which they're expected to form their normal relationships.
What harm can a little fantasy do, in which Jane saves neighbours from a fire and John learns to play the harp? Sometimes Jane and John could do things together, too, like flying planes or over-eating. Fighting their way home past gangs of murderesses, they are pleased to find their mother sprawled on the settee, having her feet massaged by one lover while another bakes cookies in the kitchen. Jane and John retreat upstairs to feed their female piranha fish. On the way they meet their father, a shuddering ball of self-hatred on the landing. Oh, what a wonderful world that would be.
Wallace Arnold is on holiday.Reuse content