19 September 2008

Behind Every Important Man

I've commented on the reversal of gender roles before; Women vs Men: The Worm that Turned, Men vs Women 1. It's one of those subjects that polarises opinion, because you're generally either one or the other2. And it's a subject that will never die, because no side can understand the other's point of view.

As I've said before, I think that women have always been in control, just in a different way to men. In ye olden days, men had committees and wrote bills and acts and went to war and had moustaches and let the women bring up their kids, in between doing tapestry and having dinner parties and stuff.

But I've always held great stock in the phrase "the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world"; that those who raise the next generation have the greatest influence on the future. From that point of view, then, it has traditionally been women who have held the only power truly worth having.

From my male perspective, I imagine that women - in some cases - are probably quite happy to let the men get all worked up about Clause 4b, subpara 13, and quite how they're going to get the Leicester bypass built, what with all the tree-huggers and the negative press they've been getting, and get on with doing something contructive like teaching little Jimmy his Ps and Qs and about how he should hold the door open for people. As Mr Carey says in Bruce Almighty: "Behind every important man is a woman rolling her eyes".

These days, however, we are all endlessly bombarded from all quarters with messages telling us how we should be, enforcing outdated stereotypes and sowing the seeds of new ones. The worst culprits are adverts for products that fall into the domestic field traditionally peopled by women.

Adverts for cleaning products invariably have some smart, modern - for which read sneaky and devious - women who tricks her barely cogent neanderthal husband - who she has inexplicably married - into using said product. He then proceeds to make a ham-fisted attempt at cleaning something, only to get covered in food / mud / water, at which point the woman - all pristine and twinkly - crosses her arms and rolls her eyes at the camera while neanderthal looks fat, hairy and clueless in the background.

I guess the hidden plus side for the man - and you've got to want to see it - is that he's managed to get - and stay - married to a smart, modern, pristine and twinkly woman who will, after he's made a horse's arse of the housework, pat him condescendingly on the head and do it herself, leaving him free to escape to the shed and do whatever advertising people think men do in sheds.

But I guess that there is no chance of ever reaching equilibrium. Society functions on change. If society wanted equilibrium, if it was in someones interest, we would get it. But we don't. So, oddly, society tends to oppose the ideals that individuals would cite as the necessities of a civilisation.

And, yes, I got all that from an advert for Toilet Duck.

1 I spy a constant. Evidently, my psyche is aware that there is a war on - and if there is, it's a cold one - even if outwardly I would like the sexes to be equal.
2 Excepting those that are both, or neither.

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