Ged Gillmore is angry about the new frontier in the battle against sexism.
What is Your Son Learning About Being a Man?
I’m fed up with hearing otherwise serious people on otherwise serious media channels make negative generalisations about half the people on the planet. Next time you hear any public figures saying ‘Well, ha, men! What do you expect?’ or ‘It takes a woman to fix the mess men make’, imagine them switching the genders on that comment and consider the reaction they would get.
The worst place for this is advertising. I’ve lost count of the number of TV ads I’ve seen where men are portrayed as stupid. I call them ‘dumb dad-verts’, because mostly the idiot-schmuck is the father of the house. Presumably he can hold down a job and count to ten, but he doesn’t actually know how anything works and can barely struggle even to entertain the kids until – ta da! – mum makes it home, rolls her eyes, gives a knowing wink to the audience/children/female friend and saves Dad’s ass. It makes my blood boil. And yes, I do know the advertising industry’s negative stereotypes were pointed the other way for two hundred years, but how does that make it acceptable?
I went to a workplace diversity confrerence recently and was delighted to see on the stage advocates for all the under-represented groups in senior management. Women, gays, the disabled, non-whites, over 50’s – it was a great initiative to increase the representation of these groups in the upper echelons. But each delegate was speaking very much to their own audience, so I stuck up my hand and asked what advice the panellists had for the majority of the audience who were (as far as I could tell) white, hetero, able-bodied, under-50 men. I was expecting some advice on how to ensure we’re all equal now and a reminder of how we all benefit from a fairer workplace. Wrong. ‘You’ve had your time in the sun’ were the words used by the delegate representing the promotion of women into senior ranks (I kid you not, she really said this) and the other delegates made wishy washy noises around the same theme. It took the external diversity expert to bring sense to the proceedings. ‘Diversity is all about inclusion,’ she said, ‘not exclusion’.
The brand of feminism I was brought up to believe in was also about inclusion, about removing prejudices against women, about giving girls the confidence to believe they had as much right and as much chance of being an astronaut, president, business leader, or mechanic as anyone else. It was not about switching this prejudice and putting down boys instead. Because let’s be in no doubt about this. Every time someone on public media, or in an advert, a film or a joke, portrays men as stupid, somewhere some little boy is learning that this is true.
Men are equally to blame here.
Because when did it become cool to be dumb? To act as if we don’t ever have to grow up and take responsibility for things? To stop reading books and to take pride in our ignorance of anything other than sport or video games? Is this really what we should teach the next generation that men are best suited for? Man up, men. It’s not enough to tell your sons that women are smart, resourceful, capable and worthy of respect. You need to teach them men are too.
So, make a noise when anyone says anything different.
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Photo: Getty Images