Thursday, June 14, 2012
Does the male role need redefining?
I have never thought of what I should be as a man and have never tried to change myself in any way. I guess I was just born a traditional male and stayed that way. And despite occasional intellectual reservations, women respond well to that. Would I have been married 4 times otherwise? In my observation, even quite feminist women like a real, natural man. Instinct trumps theory every time -- JR
The mainstream media has portrayed men as animalistic buffoons for so long that we’re starting to believe our own bad publicity. But enough’s enough — it’s time to man up, gents.
In the 15 years that I have been a man — or at least tried to be — there have been many attempts to define modern masculinity: lads, new lads, metrosexuals, retrosexuals, heteropolitans, übersexuals, himbos and SPURMOs (a presumably deliberate but nevertheless unfortunate-sounding acronym that stands for Single Proud Unmarried Man Over Thirty). The marketers and pop sociologists keep shifting the goalposts of what we’re supposed to be aiming for.
I’ve got a new one. How about ‘men’? The unadorned masculine identifier, it stands for a) itself and b) no more of this bullshit. All too often — in sitcoms, in ads, in newspapers — men are portrayed pretty piss-poorly, if you ask me. And if you don’t ask me, I’ll tell you anyway, because I’ve had a gutful. The media loves nothing more than to talk us down with never-ending stories of men behaving badly. Stand-up comedians, the vast majority of whom are male, base entire routines on men losing the battle of the sexes.
But the joke is wearing a bit thin. We’re portrayed as victims — of our inflated egos, ineptitude and priapic urges. We’re presented as boorish, gonad-scratching Neanderthals who can’t multitask, cope with flat-pack furniture or dress ourselves properly. Women, meanwhile, are painted as glamorous, capable
go-getters who roll their eyes at silly menfolk before rolling up their sleeves because if they want the job done properly, they’re better off doing it themselves.
It isn’t easy to be a man in 2011. Back in granddad’s sepia-tinted day, the arrangement was simple: he was the breadwinner, patriarch, man of the house. End of. These days, it’s not so clear cut. Today’s man has to be everything to everyone while still being true to himself. He can no longer get by on just bringing home the bacon (which is a very good thing, by the way). He must be a good son, brother, mate, co-worker, lover, husband, father, provider, role model and citizen.
He’s not the man he used to be; he has to be much more than that. Easier said than done. Which is why the modern male experience is such a comedy of errors and confusion, leavened with the occasional epiphany.
In 2005 — several epochal portmanteau neologisms ago — leading advertising agency JWT (the people who claim to have coined the term ‘metrosexual’) produced a report portentously called ‘The Future of Men’, presumably so they could figure out how better to sell us stuff. Their survey of 4000 people in the US, the UK and Canada produced the following findings: many envisage a time in the future when men will be the weaker sex; women are becoming more like men; men are generally more confused and less sure of themselves; men respect women more than they used to; women don’t respect men as much as they once did; the 21st century will belong to women much more than men.
While that might sound scary, the facts all point to this being a good thing. In 2006, the OECD devised the Gender, Institutions and Development Database to measure the economic and political power of women in 162 countries. With few exceptions, it found that the greater the power of women, the greater the country’s economic success.
And so, though man has been the dominant sex since the dawn of humankind, for the first time in history, that’s changing. As Top Gear presenter and apotheosis of British laddism James May so delicately put it: “If you extrapolate all this, within my lifetime men will only be required to keep sperm at operating temperature and they will have no other functions.”
All this doesn’t mean that it suddenly sucks to be male. We’ve got to a make a choice: we either feel inadequate and give up or we respond by upping our game. Both sexes are still coming to terms with equality. Women have fought tooth and manicured nail to get where they are today and it’s made the world a better place. Now it’s our turn to respond proactively and positively. It’s time to reclaim some male pride and not be shy about it. As Heath Franklin’s Chopper Read might say: harden the fuck up, fellas.
It’s not about channelling your inner Don Draper and retreating into your man cave to pine for the good old days. It’s about embracing the challenges of being a man in 2012. Times are changing. We are on the cusp of what some twazzock from an advertising agency would call a ‘menaissance’.
If Darwin’s theory about the survival of the fittest still stands up, then we are the strongest, most competent and capable men ever to walk the earth. We’re certainly better informed and better groomed; more engaged and more emotionally intelligent. That’s not to say we won’t still forget birthdays, leave the toilet seat up or refuse to admit when we are hopelessly lost. But we are not the feckless fuckwits we’re so often made out to be.
It doesn’t matter what the marketing goons say or what ridiculous new label they try to pin on us. What truly makes a modern man is not what he wears, what beer he drinks or what car he drives. It’s how he behaves, how he treats others, the life he leads. It’s about the respect that he once took for granted, but now has to earn alongside his salary. The new masculinity isn’t a marketing buzzword; it’s simply about holding yourself to a higher standard. Be a better man.
Lazy and ineffective British civil servants face losing their jobs in sweeping reforms
Tens of thousands more civil servants face losing their jobs over the next three years under sweeping reforms which will see the size of Whitehall slashed by a quarter, ministers were told yesterday.
Underperforming bureaucrats will be sacked or go unreplaced when they retire under plans to reduce the number of civil servants to around 380,000 by 2015. This is down 25 per cent from the 500,000 employed when the Coalition took over in 2010.
Ministers were briefed at Cabinet yesterday on a civil service ‘action plan’, which will bring in tough rules to strengthen the management of Britain’s army of administrators.
A Whitehall source said the document will question the generous flexitime system, which allows civil servants to amass extra time off each month, and will raise the idea of reducing the number of ‘privilege days’, such as the Queen’s birthday, which officials take off on top of bank holidays.
The plan, expected to be unveiled next week, will also call for government policy-making to be contracted out to academics and think-tanks.
Other changes will improve the quality of decision making by officials, which ministers hope will improve the quality of government in general.
The Coalition has already reduced the size of the civil service to around 440,000 people and public sector unions will be incensed that ministers want to go even further.
But the Government will fight the risk of further industrial action by arguing the cuts are vital for reducing the deficit.
The Whitehall source said: ‘This is all about how we ensure we tackle poor performance where it happens and deal with it effectively. ‘It’s about how we can make the civil service more professional, do better with less, ensure everyone performs to a higher level, and deliver a better service all round.’
Cabinet ministers yesterday listened to a presentation on civil service reform by Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, and Sir Bob Kerslake, the head of the home civil service.
A spokesman for the Prime Minister said: ‘We have a civil service which is significantly smaller than in recent years, and there’s a need to address how it works and ensure it continues to provide the public services required.
‘It goes hand in hand with the reduction in staff that we have seen. The civil service is fit for purpose, but there is room for improvement.’
On Monday, Lord O’Donnell, the former Cabinet Secretary, called for major reforms to Whitehall including the sponsoring of some Treasury civil servants by the City.
The spokesman for the Prime Minister said there were as yet no plans to see this vision put into practice.
Apprenticeships go begging among lazy British youth
Valuable apprenticeships are going begging because teenagers are too obsessed with Facebook and computer games to learn a hands-on trade, a senior motor industry boss said yesterday.
Even some teachers are turning a generation of youngsters off the ‘joy’ of making and driving real cars - especially sporty ones, he added.
The warning came from Ansar Ali, chief executive of sports-car maker Caterham at a conference of more than 300 motor industry bosses at London’s Canary Wharf yesterday.
As the UK’s booming motor industry seeks to plug vital skills shortages, unmotivated teenagers are turning away from manufacturing jobs offering hands-on skills using real ‘nuts and bolts’. Instead they are in favour of the virtual attractions of ‘driving’ a screen car on a Playstation or over the internet, he said.
Mr Ali said: ‘‘The young generation who come in are not interested. They seem to get no joy from what they are doing. You would think people would have an interest in building real cars. But there’s a complete lack of engagement. We do struggle. Children today just don’t seem interested in sports cars. They’d rather be on Facebook . They are more hooked on computer games.’
He told the conference that he struggled to find young people to work at his company’s factory in Dartford, Kent, creating the hand-built two-seater sports cars despite an average salary of £17,000. And some schools are adding to the problem by demonising the motor car and the motor industry as something to be criticised rather than celebrated.
Motor manufacturers said the problem and skill shortage was most ‘challenging’ among the ‘less glamorous’ supplier and component companies.
And even BBC TV presenter Justin Webb, who was chairing the motor industry conference, admitted that sports cars are not seen as ‘cool’ among young people adding: ‘Cars at my children’s school are seen as a problem.’
Mr Ali, whose firm makes the back-to-basics two-seater ‘Seven’ sports car said that despite the recession he was struggling to find and retain motivated young employees.
The firm builds around 500 of the Seven sports cars a year, costing around £24,000 each, of which half go for export. They are available as completed cars, or in kit-form which enthusiasts can then assemble at home in their garages.
Later he told the Daily Mail that of his 106 employees about 30 work on assembling cars and about a dozen are in their late teens or early twenties.
Training is ‘on the job’ but turnover is high. Mr Ali said: ‘The younger generation seem to get no joy from driving, from building a car from scratch, or from meeting the customers. They are disengaged. I think it’s a cultural thing.
Their virtual world is more important than the real world. It’s a real challenge for the Government, the industry and the education system.’
He stressed: ‘We do have one or two outstanding individuals. But recently we offered people tickets and the chance to go at no charge to the F1 grand prix. Only one person went.’
NO homosexual marriage and civil unions also watered-down in the Australian State of Queensland
Under new conservative government
AFTER much speculation, Premier Campbell Newman has announced the Civil Partnerships Act recognising gay relationships will be retained in Queensland but couples will have to do without a "state-sanctioned declaration ceremony".
Mr Newman said the "amendments" to the act will provide certainty for couples who have entered into civil unions and bring Queensland into line with other states.
But he said what was most offensive about the legislation to Christian churches was that the provisions of the act sought to "emulate marriage".
"There were two ways people could go about registering a civil partnership. They could simply fill out some forms, submit them, then a partnership would be registered or alternatively there was a state sanctioned voluntary ceremony," Mr Newman said.
"That was the bit that, for people in Christian churches has been unacceptable to them because it sought to emulate marriage."
He said since the act's introduction, a total of 609 civil partnerships were registered of which just 21 had held declaration ceremonies.
"We made a commitment to Queenslanders we would revisit the Civil Partnership Act and my government feels making these changes is the best outcome for everyone and now it's time to move on," Mr Newman said.
The law will change to remove the option of a state-sanctioned ceremony, without removing the option of registration of the civil unions.
The changes were welcomed by both Christian lobby groups and gay rights activists.
Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays national spokeswoman Shelley Argent said the group had feared the laws would be repealed completely.
"He could have done much more damage than what he has done. And I think what he's tried to do, to be fair to Campbell Newman, he's tried to placate both sides," she said.
"It's not ideal but still it's much better than what we were expecting."
But Ms Argent said the decision to remove state-sanctioned ceremonies amid pressure from Christian groups was disappointing because the ceremonies were not religious.
"Removing the ceremony is disappointing but at least it's providing the protection that our lesbian daughters and gay sons need in these relationships," she said.
Ms Argent hoped the decision not to fully repeal civil unions was a "step forward" and would help put gay marriage on the federal agenda.
Australian Christian Lobby Queensland director Wendy Francis was "pleased" the decision pulled Queensland into line with other states. "They have reversed some hastily put through legislation," she said. "We now have what is equal to a relationship register so the parts of this legislation that had been mimicking marriage have been removed. For that I'm very grateful."
But Ms Francis said she would have preferred the laws be repealed completely. "I think the legislation itself is bad legislation so when you start tampering with bad legislation it's hard to start from a fresh point of view," she said.
Christian lobby groups have been vehemently opposed to the laws, labelling civil unions a stepping stone to gay marriage.
But gay rights activists have argued that the unions are necessary to ensure same-sex couples have equal legal rights.
Mr Newman hinted during the election campaign that the LNP would act if it won power. Former deputy premier Andrew Fraser introduced the legislation in what many saw as a blatant attempt to retain his marginal Mt Coot-tha seat.
As at May this year, 460 Queensland couples had entered into civil unions.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.