Wednesday 17 July 2019

Liz Kearney: 'Men and boys are best just as they are'


Stills from the Gillette ad which, in the wake of the #MeToo movement, asks “is this the best men can get?”
Stills from the Gillette ad which, in the wake of the #MeToo movement, asks “is this the best men can get?”

Notebook: Liz Kearney

Just in case you were in any doubt, it truly is open season on men. You can slag them off as much as you want now, safe in the knowledge that they brought it all on themselves, what with their years of being in charge and never letting women do anything other than cook the dinner and have babies.

We've seen this to be true this week, in the aftermath of the Gillette ad controversy.

I don't have any issue with the ad, in which woke men deter their less-woke brethren from engaging in typically masculine behaviour, from brawling to barbecuing.

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But imagine the outcry if you made a similar ad about women, portraying them as little more than a set of stereotypes? I suspect that someone at Gillette would already have been sent packing, P45 in hand.

However, men are fair game, and men like Piers Morgan who have complained have simply been pilloried.

This past week, the American Psychological Association issued guidelines aimed at professionals working with troubled men and boys.

The psychologists identified a range of traditional masculine behaviours they believed could prove damaging, among them competitiveness, stoicism, and aggression. But what's easy to overlook is that some of those traits can be harnessed for good or for ill.

I've got sons and I love their boyishness. I like that they're messy, boisterous and competitive.

I like that they obsess over trucks, trains and dinosaurs and I like their taste for toilet humour. Many of those traits seem to me to be both gender-specific and, yes, entirely innate.

My instinct as a parent is to foster these traits in a positive way. Competition can be good when it spurs you on to better things, and when you learn how to lose well. Boisterousness can be harnessed towards productivity.

And, fundamentally, decency is decency, no matter what your gender.

If you teach your kids to be kind, you can only hope that in the end, that's what they'll be. But I also want them to speak up for themselves, even if they do end up sounding like Piers Morgan.


Gigs aren't the ticket for the middle-aged

How do you go to gigs as a middle-aged person? Is it really possible?

One of my favourite acts is playing in Dublin tonight, and there are still a few tickets left. I'm sorely tempted.

But it's midweek, it's mid-January, I'm knackered, and I fancy an early night. Besides, who will put the kids to bed?

"I will," says my husband. "You're over-thinking this. Just go."

But where will I park my car? What do you do with your coat at a gig? I can't remember. And what about my handbag? I could leave my handbag in the car, but then where would I put my keys? And I'll need to bring my phone, won't I?

If I go, I should get the cheaper standing tickets to save money? But my shoes pinch, and my knees hurt if I stand for too long, unless I can lean up against something, which I'm sure the person next to me wouldn't be OK with.

So maybe I should get a seated ticket? But it's unreserved seating, and I'll probably be late, because I'll be working late, and then the only remaining seats will be in the middle of a row, and I'll have to clamber over everyone to get there, which will be mortifying.

"You're over-thinking this," says a colleague, who happens to be going to the same gig. "Just go."

But the band themselves aren't on stage 'til 9pm, by which time I'm usually yawning on the couch and wondering if I should go to bed or go mad and stay up for the 'News at 10'.

Honestly, I think it's better for all concerned if I just go home. Rock and roll really is only for the kids.

Irish Independent

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