The idea men are somehow the enemy of women is preposterous
Men would provide protection against the vicissitudes of fortune and the world at large while the woman would honour her end of what was effectively a bargain, running the home properly, organising a social life, and popping out two, three or four babies. This was an improvement on the number of kids her grandmothers had had to deliver, for, in the early years of the 20th century, most women produced between six and 10 children. But 30 years after the end of the Second World War, the existence of antibiotics, contraception and the incipient feminist movement meant the world had started to change in significant ways.
People nowadays don’t seem to appreciate the extent to which Sir Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin liberated the world, and not only from disease, but also the strictures of personal conduct which fear of disease created. We now live in a world where everyone feels free to touch, stroke, hug, kiss, and do far more, without worry we will catch an unseen disease that could kill within 48 hours. Yet, prior to the existence of antibiotics, such diseases as diphtheria and tuberculosis were so prevalent, people simply did not even touch, much less kiss or affectionately stroke one another, except in the most intimate terms. Lust had to be particularly overpowering to trump one’s fear of being infected by one of the many diseases which lurked everywhere. Although Fleming discovered penicillin in 1928, it was not until 1942, during the Second World War, that the drug was used generally to treat infections. Even then, the polio epidemics of the 1950s created such panic in the population, people refrained from kissing or touching until that disease was virtually eradicated. This was quickly followed by the advent of the Pill, which led on to the Sexual Revolution, which in turn led on to Feminism. Women’s Lib liberated more than just women. It not only gave us the sisterhood and choices, but it also opened-up life for men in ways which no-one could have envisaged 40 years ago. Then, no man changed nappies. Involvement with children was limited, and God forbid a man should do anything more than take out the garbage or change a light bulb. One or two men enjoyed barbecuing for their families on picnics, but culinary activities were otherwise left to wives when cooks were not employed in the family home.
As more and more activities gradually became liberated of their gender-specific overtones, both men and women became free to indulge their natural inclinations. The result has been that men now display a previously unknown propensity for nappy-changing and child-minding, while women are acknowledged to be capable of driving a taxi or a bus. What I find interesting is that, with few exceptions, men have not become more feminine in their demeanour, nor women more masculine, as they have demonstrated an ability to perform in activities that were once the province of the opposite sex.
Fatherhood has been a role which has benefited from gender neutralisation. Fathers can, and do, change nappies. They cook for and play with them in a way the 1970s male would have regarded as inconceivable. In the process, many a man has proven he is a better parent than many a woman. The instinct to parent and to nurture has been exposed as something which some men have, and some women don’t, proving the maternal instinct does not exist as a force of nature with women alone.
Despite the freedom of choice which now prevails for both men and women, the male of the species has been given a rather rough ride in recent years. As the mother of two sons, this is a concern to me, because I see that men are handicapped in a way they never used to be. Men are often given a bum rap. Often, their good intentions are misrepresented, their normal behaviour regarded with a suspicion it should not warrant, their well being perverted to no useful purpose. If they are considerate enough to offer a pregnant woman a seat on the tube, they are as liable to be abused as thanked by the silly, perverse, fashionable automatons who do not have the heart or the intelligence to appreciate decency over ill-conceived, politically correct prejudice. They are in greater danger of being charged with crimes and tried for normal activities than their female counterpart, whose conduct is afforded a degree of flexibility which theirs is not.
There seem to be only two categories of human being who can be mocked, reviled, and denigrated without condemnation by the oracles of political correctness, and those are the male sex and the aristocracy. This is actually not as surprising as it may appear to be, for, until the end of the Second World War, the male sex and the aristocracy held the traditional reins of power in their hands. It is inevitable, when power transfers from one segment of society to another, for there to be time-lag, during which those who have acquired power continue to act as if they are as disempowered as they used to be, while fearing those who once possessed the power they now lack.
This phenomenon gives rise to a wealth of prejudice and inappropriate hostility, with both men and the aristocracy being treated as if they are threats to the welfare of segments of the population they did indeed threaten when they had power, but which they have not threatened for years, and indeed would not be able to threaten even if they wanted to, for feminism and egalitarianism have so changed the landscape of society these movements are now the entrenched powers which threaten the rights and privileges of individuals who fall outside the scope of their protectionist stances.
Yes, some men used to take advantage of some women. Yes, men used to have the decks stacked in their favour. But that was then. Now, men are in danger of becoming the victimised sex. They deserve the break we women have got. Egalitarianism, after all, should apply across sexual as well as class lines. Men should therefore be accorded the respect that being members of the masculine gender deserve, just as how women should be accorded the respect that being members of the feminine gender warrant. The idea men are somehow the enemy of women is preposterous. They are our complements. And, as such, they should be complimented and not be disparaged as if they are relicts of a past which no longer exists. ■