Scots men retreat in gener
Men who traditionally have defined themselves as the breadwinner are being forced to find a new identity as female employment rises. Brian Donaldson goes in search of Iron Jock.
What to do if you are a bloke in these unforgiving times? Caught in a yawning chasm which has opened up between expectation and opportunity. male self- conﬁdence appears to be at its lowest ebb. In some quarters these feelings of doubt and futility have led to a feminist backlash against women who have become more culturally and economically active.
Channel 4's new four-part documentary series. Genderquake. looks at the social impact of shifts in gender roles and. in particular. how men have reacted to this fundamental tipping of the economic balance from men to women. With women taking up the lion’s share of new employment opportunities. the macho man may be either stone dead or poised to rise out of his lager-induced slumber with a reinvigorated vengeance.
According to Genderquuke‘s research. more women than men are expected to be in paid employment by the end of the century, while already the Equal Opportunities Commission is receiving more complaints from men about job discrimination in favour of women. than vice versa.
The New Man. if such a breed actually exists. appears to be alive and well in one granite comer of Glasgow from which the image of the chiselled hard man could very well have been hewn. The Drumchapel Men’s Health Project sought to provide an outlet for disaffected men beset by problems of bad housing and long-term unemployment. Around 75 per cent of the area’s menfolk are on beneﬁt. providing a fertile breeding ground for problems of alcoholism and depression.
Started in l992. the group offers men the chance to speak out about shared problems and emotions which might otherwise have remained bottled up. ‘It was time to get rid of all this embarrassment crap and macho stuff,‘ explains the group's co-ordinator and joint founder. Tommy Riley. ‘Men's health magazines have the odd interesting bit about testicular cancer but usually it‘sjust how often the boss has sex with his secretary, or how if you buy these wonderful clothes you‘ll be really healthy. If anybody was going to help us it was ourselves.‘
And that help meant courses in self-confidence building as well as helping adjust the lifestyle of
l- . ;
if ... g i ‘ U A a, ._ .
'If.‘ ‘ ~33».
some rather unfit members, such as the one whose typical daily intake had consisted of 70 cigarettes. pints of Guinness and a pair of pics. A few sessions of heavy-duty acupuncture soon put an end to that.
Naturally. there is some scepticism about the extent to which any change has really been made and whether the notion of males shedding their sexist skin is a transparent and ideologically-based one. ‘There probably isn't a major crisis in confidence of men in the l990s.‘ counters Eileen Turner. education research fellow at Stirling University and the co-author of Gender Agendas. a study which concluded that women‘s social position remains largely unchanged. ‘I think that it is purely a myth put about by the media to try to keep men in control.‘
Turner acknowledges the rise of an underclass of young males who are unqualified and unemployable but suggests the notion of hordes of men discussing their problems in between bouts of aromatheraphy is barely credible. ‘The new man is not all that much in evidence.‘ she adds.
If he was around at all. New Man would be unlikely to subscribe to the UK Men’s Movement. another reaction against women asserting their rights. The group's literature promises all men a safe haven from the excesses of feminism. which they believe has led
Baal Instincts: Billy crystal and huddle: saddle up tor some Vlllil West-ster male bondan II clty suction
to men facing workplace discrimination. The rather apocalyptic conclusion is that employers are steadfastly refusing to promote men for fear that they will be dragged through the courts by outraged feminists.
This is clearly the extreme end of any new awakening of male consciousness. But given Scotland‘s traditional reliance on manufacturing industries, working class men may have perhaps felt the shift towards female-oriented employment most acutely. ‘Feminists have appreciated the weight of macho tradition.’ according to Lindsay Paterson. professor of educational policy at Heriot-Watt University. ‘Many feminists would argue that they've had a steeper hill to climb. I think that‘s because of the dominant images of Scotland since the l960s as a romantic, male industrial worker.‘
So far the men's groups which sprung up in the United States to hug trees and each other as part of a reassertion of primal male identity are yet to arrive in Scotland. lron Jock has yet to rear his head, but as Genderquake producer Vicki Ban‘ass says: ‘For the first time ever men are finding out that maybe it’s a disadvantage having this gender and are being forced to think about their role.‘
Genderquake begins on Tue 9 July on Channel 4.
And ﬁnally . . . Tartan Army wins abroad as McGIue turns blue
were sixteen. Either that means boys were more coy about their first
me in speaking out against shows like this.‘ quoth Edinburgh city council’s
Out of the tragedy that was Scotland’s noble three-match struggle in Euro96. came the consolation prize. The tabloids were declaring the Tartan Army undoubtedly the best football fans in the world after outbreaks of good behaviour in Birmingham and London.
Only one thing was going to knock ' the footie drama off the front pages. and that was sex. The Edinburgh Healthcare NHS Trust obliged by publishing an in-depth survey of teenagers' sexual habits, with the news that a third of all girls had lost their virginity while under the age of consent. Proving that girls do indeed mature faster, only one in four boys admitted to having sex before they
fumblings behind the scenes. or a comparatively small number of young bucks are cutting a swathe through the female school population.
On a not disimilar theme. the Edinburgh Festival Fringe programme was launched with the usual ﬂurry of media coverage of shows containing sex, violence or strong language — or preferably all three. This year it was the Kama Sutra and chain-saw limbo dancing that caught their attention. though not, sadly, in the same show.
In charge of Eastern nookie is notorious veil-shedder Shakti, who managed to secure the first Moira Knox quote of what will no doubt be a long. hot-under-the-collar summer. ‘I would urge the silent majority to join
sun: tom dull Mam with the Km 8m
famed moral guardian. How a silent majority can speak out remains as mysterious as the Kama Sutra itself.
A fully paid-up member of the very vocal majority is Scot FM's deliberately controversial ‘shock jock’ Scottie McClue, who turned the airwaves blue by referring to the children of unmarried mothers - with impressive linguistic precision — as ‘bastards’. A three-grand fine followed swiftly from the Radio Authority, while the station’s management suspended its most popular presenter. Could it be that McClue's switch from a culty late- night slot to mid-morning primetirne is proving just a little too controversial? (Eddie Gibb)
The List 28 Jun-ll Jul 1996 5