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Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Who talks about sad men?

Reading a few biographies lately, I was struck by a recurrent theme. Fathers are nearly always described as remote, cold, unhappy, shouty.

In Lynn Barber's much trumpeted read, her father gets little compassion but is berated for drinking, shouting and rudeness. Barber doesn't attempt to analyse why this was the case and is equally scatching about her "sour, bitter" mother.

TV presenter Fiona Phillips talks of a happy childhood but her relationship with her father was also challenging. He was detached and remote.

Then recently, Liz Hodginson asked why are men over 60 so boring, with nothing to talk about?

I wonder what would have happened if a man had dared write that about women over 60. There is a lot of reverse discrimination nowadays which seems perfectly acceptable. TV ads can happily poke fun at men for being inept round the house. Feminists write endlessly about the lot of women, and it's a "lot" which has changed beyond recognition in the last 100 years.

Looking back, I wonder if the unhappy fathers of biographies were tired of being the breadwinner; of having to perform routinely dull 9 to 5 jobs to ensure their families were fed? There was little opportunity in the 60s for breaking out of the mould. Generally only the priveleged were well educated.

Did the grind of a dull job and the retirement with little to offer except a nagging wife and a shed lead to the "boring men" that Hodginson talks about?

My own father fizzed and enthralled as a younger man, a Royal Marine with the charisma to host events and chair local community meetings. But after leaving the services at 37, he gradually lost his joie de vivre as he took on a succession of jobs he didn't enjoy. His health began to deteriorate and he became a classically grumpy old man.  We knew so little about him. He rarely talked about himself or his past.

Younger men today, we read, don't have it any easier. Their role has been changed, probably against their will, as women were liberated from being housewives or typists. They have to compete for the best jobs against women as well as men, and some companies impose numbers on how many men can be hired in order to hire more women, regardless of who's best for the job.

From a young age boys constantly hear how inferior they are to girls. It was apparent in the TV programme "Gareth Malone's extraordinary school for boys" where the boys could scarcely concentrate and were largely incapable of reading, let alone debating with girls of the same age.

Allowing boys to hide behind Wiis and other gadgets clearly doesn't help their interpersonal skills. The nanny state of compensation culture doesn't allow them to burn off energy and parents get castigated for letting their children walk or cycle to school on their own, even if it's only a short distance.

If all this was happening to women, and women were so unhappy, there would be a huge inquest. But who feels sad about the men?


Anonymous said...

I enjoyed Gareth Malone, but not as much as his previous series which all focused on building community and confidence through music. I was actually amazed that some of the parents had (presumably) allowed their offspring to be shown 'in the real'. I would be mortified if one of my sons had acted the way some of these boys did......though I have a horrible suspicion one of them might not have been that different in the past!!! Seems to me all the 'sad men' are writing their own books, I'm not too sorry for them!

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Maggie May said...

I do think that men often get a rough deal in a marriage today and modern women are not to be trifled with.

As I had a cool and distant father, I can relate to Fiona Phillips.
However some men are wonderful fathers & show far more love to their children that the mothers do (sometimes........)
It is all a matter of perspective and I suppose each one should be taken on his own merit.
Maggie X

Nuts in May