Gender, personal observations

At some point in the 80's on entering the office of the Youth Centre where I was employed at the time, I noticed a new poster had appeared on the wall. The inscription on the poster read, 'Women need men like fish need bikes.' I was somewhat taken aback, but at that time feminism was pretty much the exclusive domain of woman so it was nigh on impossible to engage in any dialogue about the poster. I was, as a man, grappling with the issues that feminism was raising, so, to me, it felt like frontier territory and I said and did nothing. It would be very easy, with hindsight, to consider this poster as simply offensive and for a time I certainly did. 

I discussed in the section on psychology that today psychology is still a very new discipline, one in which we have barely scratched the surface. Women gained the vote on February 6, 1918, before which women were merely chattels with no rights. They could not open a bank account nor inherit or hold money in their own right. Whilst women gaining the vote was an historic occasion, it would be naive to think that attitudes towards women experienced a similar breakthrough. Less than 100 years on, Victorian and unjust treatment and attitudes towards women persist with frustrating resilience. Men and male attitudes still dominate the world, power still lies overwhelmingly in the hands of men, who are, in the main, reluctant in the extreme to relinquish that power and control.

In the sixties when I went to senior school, girls did domestic science and needlework, boys did woodwork and metalwork. Girls were trained for the home, boys for work. I relate elsewhere how I became a house parent and of beating the walls in frustration because I simply had no clue how to do it. I was neither raised nor educated to look after a home, nor to be the primary carer of our child. Quite simply, for a long time I battled with raging resentment and anger. I asked my wife on one occasion how the hell I was supposed to know what food to buy. Her response was that I should look in the cupboards and replace anything that was missing. She was not being facetious. What she revealed was the incredible inventory she carried in her head of all that is necessary to run and maintain a home, of which I was entirely ignorant and she simply didn't know that I didn't know. She took her ability for granted, I guess she thought if it was obvious to her, it was just obvious, I in my turn, having never given the whole complex process a second thought, entirely took my wife and her ability for granted. 

I have lived on my own now for some twenty five years and am still disorganized, and regard shopping, cooking, dusting, vacuuming, cleaning, washing up, laundry and all the rest as necessary evils that I endure with only occasional pleasure at a job well done. What is it with dust anyway, it's not welcome. Can't it take a hint?

Being around young people today, very little has changed, same attitudes, same stereotypes, same issues, Many of my male friends and acquaintances if asked to have the children for a while or an evening do so begrudgingly and resentfully. Is this just how men and women are socialized or is something deeper going on here? Ken Robinson in his excellent talk 'Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity' (13:39 minutes into the talk) mentions the corpus callosum which joins the two hemispheres of the brain and which is thicker in women than in men and he suggests this may well be why women can juggle many tasks with ease whilst men do not seem able to employ the same ability. This is certainly true of my own experience, whatever task I am engaged in I am surrounded by a kind of psychic 'Do not disturb' sign. If I am forced to deal with something else I have to abandon whatever I was doing in order to focus on the new task.

Women also seem to have a similar ability in expressing themselves which appears to come quite naturally to them in the main. As a Community and Youth Worker and Counsellor I attended some courses but mostly practiced extensively and diligently to learn to express my thoughts and feelings. Whilst it now comes easily to me and I am comfortable discussing complex thoughts, ideas and feelings in great depth and express myself with ease, it did not come easily and took years to develop. My guess is that I was training a part of my brain to embrace higher forms of expression because being male I do not think my corpus callosum took it upon itself to expand in order to facilitate these skills.

We have come through (I hope) a period when it was fair game to knock men in ways that would now be quite unacceptable for men to express about women. It seems a tragedy to me that many women adopted this hitherto male practice of gender knocking, just as it seems a tragedy that many young women have adopted the laddish behavior of drunkenness and rowdiness that young lads so readily indulge. This is not progress, it's pandering to a lowest common denominator of behavior that benefits no one. My personal epiphany came when driving behind a woman and read the following sign in her rear window, 'I believe in good men, dragons, fairies and other mythical creatures,' 

Let businesses, bankers, politicians and despots compete, but we are better than this. As the old saying goes, 'United we stand, divided we fall.' It is a damnably slow and difficult process, but that is no reason not to try. Whatever businesses, bankers, politicians and despots get up to, there are a whole lot more of us than them and a good start might be to stop deferring to them. In the digital age and with the use of the Internet, we, the people, have incredible power at our disposal, I am exercising that power right now through this web site. That power is available to each and every one of us. Through it we can hold our so called leaders to account, we can challenge the appalling and despicable greed of the banks who have taken our money and left us to refill the pot they have emptied. I am tired of hearing of the debt that 'we' are passing on to our children. The banks should stop their obscene bonuses and repay their debts to us, the tax payers, just as they insist we repay our debts and mortgages to them. 

It is unacceptable that our children inherit debts caused by banking malfeasance, greed, stupidity and arrogance. I do not think a similar group of women bankers would have caused such a crisis, it was caused by arrogant men who think they are untouchable, with appalling attitudes and complete disdain for ordinary people. I think we have all been extraordinarily tolerant and patient with government expenses and the banking melt down. These are not honorable people and they have lost this writers respect and trust. I want a better future and I certainly do not want to see my children inheriting a debt that was none of our making. Nor do I want to see the use of violence as protest, destroying the infrastructure that we depend on is just the same old tiresome macho model. We are creative people and are perfectly capable of finding creative solutions to these problems.

2011 Keith Lindsay-Cameron.