Sexism and other things – Is it time to give heterosexual man a break?
Is heterosexual man being subjected to an unfairly rough ride?
So Andy Gray and Richard Keys were caught off screen with their pants down sharing a bit of banter about the virtues of women and the offside rule. Let’s face it; this is the oldest joke in football and hardly worth the breath wasted on it. They also suggested that the rookie football referee who was subject to their quip was rather attractive which again is hardly a crime. Of course, I suspect based on other rumours; there is more to this story than just this single incident and their microphone’s being left on were maybe not so ‘accidental’.
Football in England is a man’s world by and large. It is a game historically played by men and followed by men. It has been a bastion of male Dom where testosterone fuelled debate over 4-4-2, 4-3-3 and diamond midfield formations could be discussed at length exclusive of female infiltration. It was a license to wallow in superior knowledge of something deemed of no concern to women for whom the majority had little interest anyway. It was a private space where men could talk openly about the higher gender without recourse under the guise of ‘it’s just man’s talk’.
In today’s world there seem to be very few sacred places left for men to simply be men. I accept a television studio is hardly the place to deploy male banter, particularly when the main subject of their quip is a woman who is already facing intense pressure to perform under the scrutiny of a suspicious male audience. I certainly believe their comments were stupid and immature. It might be suggested that by holding their conversation between themselves was to signify these were their true opinions rather than a mischievous joke shared with all around them. Their dismissive attitude towards football club director Karen Brady’s claim of sexism in the game was also comical in its irony based on the context of their previous comments. Nonetheless, we are talking about an older generation of man, an ex-pro and his adoring side-kick, who grew up in a time where airing such views of a woman’s football knowledge or their sexual attributes were of lesser significance. It would probably have been expected that a woman taking up a prominent position in a male dominated world would simply have to tolerate everything that comes with it and eventually surrender to a male stance on life.
Times have moved on and in the ruthless world of TV with a growing genderless football audience and production team, I suspect the removal of these two outdated stalwarts of football commentary was an opportunity that could not be overlooked. Additionally there are thousands of women across the globe that now play football and see it simply as a game with no gender attachment. As a lover of the game, I am overjoyed at the interest being taken by women and have watched, supported and admired the skills of the ladies game at club and international level. Yet, due to the same gender differences that dictate separate sex codes in other sports, the men’s game remains the dominant mode. As such, the historical attitudes and sense of male ownership largely persist, despite the growing involvement of women and this leaves a grey and treacherous area for the male majority that is clearly illustrated by the Gray/Keys scenario. It also highlights for me a general plight that the heterosexual male face in today’s gender sensitive environment of modern democracy.
The confusion between what was and what is now acceptable is a challenge from every conceivable angle for heterosexual man. Race, culture, gender, sexual orientation you name it and you will find that a minefield exists in terms of the right things to say and the correct behaviour to present. The reality is that the heterosexual male did not impose their inherent attitudes on the World; life itself dictated how they should be. Their physical make up and role as fertilisers in the natural process of reproduction are the basic fundamentals of their existence. By contrast, a woman as the bearer of children and the provider of their early nutrition assumed a nurturing role in this natural order. As such, its consequence was that man became the desirer and woman the desired. Has this changed?
I appreciate that thousand's of years of inbred culture based on the suggested 'natural order' has created extremes where many women became shackled to a submissive inhumane existence and that change was inevitable to eradicate such inequalities. It goes without question that gender should have no influence on opportunity in life. Then there is the case of homosexual man. Until fairly recently in our history, the concept of intimate male relationships were seen as ungodly, unnatural and simply unacceptable. In fact, it was and still remains in many places a taboo subject. With the realisation for the ignorant masses that being homosexual is not a personal choice but a natural creation has led a to whole ongoing education aimed at their integration into the social norm. Once again, this is an inevitable change in our evolution. However, With both women and homosexual men assuming the position of the previously downtrodden, the heterosexual male has become the common foe who must be reined in at all cost for the greater good. With this sea-change of opinion, heterosexual man has become somewhat persecuted in the downward spiral from their supposed lofty position, despite having naturally inherited whatever status it is that they find themselves. The expectation of being hunter, gatherer, protector and chaser of the opposite sex seems no longer appropriate and they are faced with the dilemma of deciphering their actual role and purpose in the views of modern society. Any wrong word or action has the potential to be discriminatory, overly aggressive, sexist or homophobic. Having the carpet so unceremoniously swept from under their feet and having the goal posts of right and wrong moved constantly, the heterosexual male remains burdened by their natural instinct embedded since time's beginnings which has them stumbling awkwardly and clumsily over the uneven mire that constitutes current Western ethics.
Is it appropriate to wolf-whistle an attractive woman, make cheeky suggestive comments or express honest opinion of differences in gender or sexual orientation? Is it wrong to be over-masculine, 'chat up' women without their prior consent or to be uncomfortable with homosexuality? The fact is that heterosexual man is expected to respect and adhere to changes that are alien to them in a relatively minuscule fraction of time, in terms of the whole evolution of their dominant position. As each party seeks to advance their own cause, right and wrong, appropriate and inappropriate can be one thing today and another tomorrow. Further confusion prevails when despite the restrictions imposed on them, women and non-heterosexual males seem to have an open license to mock, tease and criticise at will. Is there a contradiction that they should be able to ‘take on the chin’ like a man?
Heterosexual men have mother's, girlfriends, wives and daughters which in most cases they love and cherish. In many relationships historically, the wives have worn the pants so to speak and the men have contributed equally in terms of the time spent bringing up their children. Most heterosexual father's would wish for their daughters to enjoy the best opportunities life has to offer, unhindered by prejudice or glass ceilings. However, the heterosexual boy, whose gender is still perceived as holding an unfair advantage faces the dilemma of treading cautiously and carefully through their lives. The age old advice of being the bread winner and protector no longer seems to stand firm and may even be regarded as an attempt to perpetuate their more favourable status.
The ongoing dilution of gender differences and tempering of heterosexual masculinity may pave the way for women and homosexual men to assume a more prominent status in life but also leaves many innocent men with poor esteem and low expectations. While some feminists and gay rights activists might see this as a form of retribution, it only serves to build resent and drive more negative masculine behaviours. It is not surprising that so many disaffected young males are at the lower end of the academic scale, demonstrate negative behaviours and seek sanctuary in street gangs where heterosexual masculinity re-manifests itself in a horrendously dark manner. Is it no longer appropriate and even presumptuous for men to strive for the position of bread winner or protector? Is the tradition of marriage and being family head old fashioned and outdated? Is the expectation of chasing the opposite sexinappropriate and if so, then what is heterosexual man's role? Are they expected to simply strive for an existence of independent, genderless virtual anonymity?
Most heterosexual males are not Neanderthal-type, domineering bigots and because a few portray such behaviour, not all should be tarred by the same brush. Homophobia and sexism like racism are borne of ignorance where education rather than penalty achieves a more effective impact. A tolerant society where everyone has the same opportunities without prejudice is the dream of the majority and all genders are subject to the same old-school male dominated powers that rule this planet. It just seems that in the quest for change to be effected, the everyday heterosexual man is indiscriminately subject to stern, swift punishment for any erroneous action or failure to embrace the new world order with immediate effect.
Is it time to give heterosexual man a break?