Wednesday 14 November 2018

Ian O'Doherty: Sometimes it's hard to be a man...

Ian O'Doherty

Ian O'Doherty

My name is Ian and I have a confession to make -- I'm a bloke. I know it's not big and it's not clever, and it's certainly not fashionable, but I enjoy blokey things -- drinking, football, gigs, hanging out with the lads, walking my dogs and generally being a bit of a man-child.

Yes, yes, I know -- being unashamedly male is not exactly seen as something to be proud of.

In fact, if anything, we have seen attempts to utterly emasculate the traditional notions of maleness and it's time we did something about it.

There is a subtle misandry at work in many elements of our society, and, even though it is often unwitting and subconscious, there is no denying its presence.

We see it, for example, in the debate about female representation in politics and in boardrooms.

We're in the state we're in, we are constantly told, because there were too many men in the upper echelons of power and this is what led to our ultimate downfall.

Sorry folks, you might be trying to sell that theory, but I for one ain't buying it.

We need more women politicians?

Well, I if was a facetious type -- which I am -- I could point out the bang-up job that was done by the Three Marys: Harney, Hanafin and Coughlan.

No, we are loftily informed, men are more likely to be corrupt and cut corners than the more diligent women.

Well, ladies and gentleman of the jury, please allow me to introduce you to Beverley Flynn, a true paragon of fiscal rectitude and playing by the rules.

And as for women politicians being more nurturing and caring, and less likely to get into a military conflict?

Well, I'm sure the families of the men who went down with the Belgrano will appreciate Margaret Thatcher's pacifist ideals.

And, obviously, when we're looking for a caring, earth-mother type of female politician, well, Angela Merkel immediately springs to mind, does she not?

Look, I know I'm using extreme examples, but this is born of an increasing sense of frustration at the way we are constantly being told that the whole mess we're in wasn't just the fault of the men involved (despite there being three extremely senior female Cabinet ministers), but of maleness itself; an inherently self-destructive and impulsive state of mind that needs to be kept in check by more emotionally attuned women.

In fact, according to the National Women's Council -- that fine body of cailini deas who never cease to give us a laugh -- they want: "Stronger, more participatory politics where different groups of women can collectively claim a place in political life and influence the distribution of resources."

They then witter away about striving for more equality for women in politics.

Why? Do women not have the vote? Are women not allowed to stand for election?

Because the last time I looked, there was perfect equality when it comes to voting, as long as you're over 18 and not in jail.

So if you choose not to engage in political life because, for instance, you have kids and want to spend more time at home with them, that is entirely your decision.

And, frankly, tough luck: you made your choices, now live by the consequences.

Anytime I say that in company, most of the women go apoplectic and any of the men there put their head in their hands and look at me pleadingly -- just stop and talk about something else. Anything else.

This is an argument where logic goes out the window and a sense of belligerent entitlement comes into play.

So, does that make me a sexist, misogynistic, inconsiderate jerk?

Well, according to many of the women I know and who have contacted this newspaper, it most certainly does.

But it's merely the logical, rational position to take. The male position.

After all, when you go for a job interview, you don't immediately start complaining about the long hours and whine that you will only be able to work at certain times because of the pressures of family.

And, let's be honest, running for election is the biggest job interview you can possibly apply for.

But rather than pointing out these truths as self-evident, this is seen as male bullying and oppression and wanting to keep women in their place.

It's not. It's a matter of fact that was born of direct thinking as opposed to wishful thinking; the realisation that things are as they are and not as we would like them to be.

Point this out? The chances are you'll be accused of hurting their feelings.

Ah yes, feelings -- the killer of every single argument, where debate goes out the window to be replaced by a soppy display of emotion and claims of hurt feelings and being offended.

When I go into work, I leave whatever 'feelings' I may have at the door. Nobody gives a toss about my problems because they all have enough, and I am happy to return the favour.

But in some circles, that is not seen as necessary stoicism in a time of crisis. No, it's emotional detachment.

Yet, if everyone in the office started banging on about what is going on at home, there would be no paper produced, just a lot of tears and hankies and meaningless drivel.

Does that make me sound cold?

Well, if that's the case then so be it, but I was brought up to believe that, as a rule of thumb, you try to keep your emotions to yourself and just get on with things.

That's not always the case, obviously -- after all, we're not Vulcans -- but the over-emoting that we see in modern culture frankly makes me sick to the stomach.

I know I'm not the only one who quickly grew increasingly irritated with the Fabrice Muamba blub-fest.

What happened to Fabrice was undeniably horrific and the idea that a young, professional, incredibly fit footballer could have such a massive heart attack certainly gave the rest of us lazy schlubs pause for thought.

After all, if it can happen to him, then it can truly happen to anyone.

But here's the thing that seems to have eluded some people: He. Did. Not. Die.

That, however, didn't stop the overtly maudlin and rather cynical displays of emotion where we were all expected to say prayers for his recovery, whether we knew the man or not.

It was almost as if the public needed its periodical Diana fix where they get to compete to show who cares the most.

We had our own Diana moment here when Gerry Ryan died, and the frenzy and over-reaction to this almost made me ashamed to be Irish.

I knew the man vaguely, having worked with him down the years and I occasionally socialised with him. But it wasn't a tragedy for me. It wasn't a tragedy for you.

It was a tragedy for his family and friends, of which he had many.

Perhaps the most bizarre moment in the whole farce came when a woman appeared on the news as she was signing Ryan's book of condolence in RTE.

She said with a weird sense of pride that she and her daughter had driven through the night from wherever they live in rural Ireland to pay their respects, and the mother gloated about how she had informed her daughter that they had lost a great friend.

I had never heard such a load of self-aggrandising bullshit in my life, and when I pointed out in my column the next day that the soppy bird was obviously raising an emotional cripple who would be incapable of dealing with any adversity, I was accused of ... you guessed it, lacking in empathy.

Well, yeah. So what?

Since when did trying to maintain a stiff upper lip become such a bad thing?

I very much doubt any man would drive through the night to bring his son to sign a book for a dead DJ.

I certainly know nobody who would be that daft, yet the number of women I spoke to about this thought it was a lovely gesture and that I was a bit of a monster.

And that's when it hit me: what used to be seen as admirable traits in a man have now become stigmatised to the extent that many blokes are utterly confused about how to act and what to say and, as a result, seem to spend half their time watching their tongue so they don't say the wrong thing and annoy someone.

This was perfectly illustrated in the truly daft 'Exploring Masculinity' schools programme a few years back. It made little effort to hide its agenda, which effectively boiled down to feminising young boys.

They had concerns, for instance, about sport becoming too competitive and that kids who weren't as good as the others would be left feeling isolated.

Well, that's the way the world works. If you're good enough, you're in. If not, you're out.

And if you feel this isolates you, then you need to grow a pair of balls and get over it.

It really is that simple.

Because competitive sport can make the man and most men are, let's be honest, hardwired to be competitive -- it's in our DNA from when we lived in caves and had a choice of being aggressive and competitive or simply die.

But the report also portrayed young men as potentially violent people who needed to be taught to restrain themselves.

And, of course, there is the particularly obnoxious argument that all men are potential rapists.

This really gets on my wick, because any decent man I know would quite happily put a bullet through the head of a rapist, yet we're all tarred with the same brush.

In fact, the one area in the battle between the sexes where men are treated most disgracefully is in the area of relationships.

How can anyone honestly say that having sex with a woman who is drunk is rape when two people have been on a night out together, get plastered and have sex?

Can the man not say he was equally seduced? No, no he can't.

Likewise, two underage kids get caught having sex -- the boy, even if he is the younger of the two, is the one who is in hot water and that just flies in the face of natural justice.

This does women no favours, either.

It infantilises them and instils a sense of ready-packaged victimhood which does their development no good.

I once joked in the column that I would never forget my wedding night and, thanks to the use of Rohypnol, my wife would never remember hers.

Cue all sorts of hysterical reaction from women's groups who claimed that I was glorifying date rape.

It was a monumentally stupid argument, and you know what? I think the people making the complaints probably thought that as well, but this was an opportunity to show how sensitive they were and how nasty I was.

That's why I'm really interested in the massive hypocrisy at work here. We are supposed to live in an age of equality, but really that's not the case, on a societal level at least.

Take the recent kerfuffle about the controversial ad for crisps that featured a series of well-endowed young women looking seductively into the camera.

This was sexist and demeaning, claimed the various women's groups -- all of whom are funded by male taxpayers as well as female taxpayers, lest we forget -- and could encourage rape.

It was complete hogwash, of course, but fitted into their rather barren ideology quite nicely, thank you very much.

Yet I remember one TV ad for a soft drink that saw a bunch of female office workers gather together every morning to look at some hunk who would take his T-shirt off for no apparent reason.

They would ogle him and make 'phwooar' noises, and if you're looking for a scene of objectification then that was, quite literally, the man for you.

Were there any complaints about that ad?

Well, not that I can remember, because I don't think most men gave a toss one way or the other.

I used to write a lot about comedy, and, while it has a reputation as a lads' game, there are some extremely funny women out there.

And there are also some really, really bad ones.

I gave one particularly rank female comedian a terrible review and she was livid.

I wrote such a bad review, she seethed one evening, because I was afraid of women in general and funny women in particular.

Her idiot mates stood there shaking their heads in agreement -- yeah, the nasty man, he don't like no funny women.

Actually, I pointed out the names of some of my favourite comedians -- Joan Rivers, Sarah Silverman, Kathy Griffin, etc -- and simply pointed that she was, well, just crap.

But no, the lady was not for turning. I was a sexist pig trying to stop women from getting into comedy.

Jo Brand has an interesting one-liner. She is asked what her ideal man is and she responds: "Dead."

It's not a bad line and certainly doesn't bother me, but can you imagine the reaction if Frankie Boyle or one of those guys came out and said they wanted women dead? Not only would their career be over, but the way England has gone now the cops would probably get involved.

There is also a massive sense of confusion for many men.

For years we were told that if we didn't openly weep at every little thing, then we were emotionally constipated monsters who needed to get in touch with our inner selves.

And when that happened, women discovered that they really didn't like it that much after all.

One of my female friends is single and she went on a date recently.

"How did it go," I asked her?

"Rubbish," she replied. "He was a complete drip, he kept talking about his feelings and how he had been really hurt by his ex- girlfriend."

So, say nothing and you're a callous brute; open up and you are, and I quote, a "drip".

Likewise, grooming products. We were all encouraged to be metrosexual men by women, who then decided that they didn't like having to share their bathroom cabinet of potions and lotions with their bloke's shaving balm and other stuff.

As a wise man once said: Chicks, man, they'll do your head in.

And then there is the current unemployment crisis.

Far more than the women I know, it seems men have been conditioned to define themselves by the job they do.

I like to think I'm not like that but, ultimately, I know am, as are the lads I hang out with.

It's part of the social environment we were brought up in, and no matter how stridently people may protest, the simple fact is that we still have that instinct to bring home the bacon, and when that is taken away, it can have a devastating effect on a man's sense of self-worth.

That is certainly the case with several people I know who have been let go in the past 18 months and who, despite all the evidence to the contrary, still feel that they are somehow culpable -- if they had worked longer hours, if they had only offered to take a pay cut, that sort of thing.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying women have it all their own way and we poor men are merely used as doorsteps, but there is a growing and worrying tendency to automatically blame men for all the problems of the world.

This is also coupled with a demand for a brand of 'equality' that merely means an automatic presumption of guilt when it comes to the man and an automatic presumption of victimhood for the woman.

Now, if you don't mind, I'm off the pub.

There's a match on I don't want to miss.

Laters.

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