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William Leith article in today's Times

(76 Posts)
RibenaBerry Sat 27-Nov-10 16:18:52

I can't link because of the paywall, but this article made me so f'ing mad. The old 'men are in crisis actually, it's not women who have difficulties' line.

And Mr Leith, just in case you google yourself and find this, the mouse in the Gruffalo is male. It says so in the Gruffalo's child. It's a story about two male characters - one smart, one stupid. It says nothing about the undermining of men in society hmm

peppapighastakenovermylife Sat 27-Nov-10 16:22:48

Um...I at least need more details please as I have no idea what you are saying grin

dittany Sat 27-Nov-10 16:25:06

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

WastingAway Sat 27-Nov-10 16:47:25

A mouse, being a wee timid beasty must represent 'the feminine' I guess.

RibenaBerry Sat 27-Nov-10 16:47:40

I can that can I?

"But it wasn’t just this one author. I wondered about Julia Donaldson, Britain’s favourite children’s writer. Donaldson wrote The Gruffalo. My son and I loved The Gruffalo. Let’s see: the Gruffalo is male. His main characteristic is that he’s an idiot. He’s the butt of the book’s jokes. He’s outsmarted by a mouse. We never find out if the mouse is male or female. It’s just a mouse. In another book, The Snail and the Whale, an adventurous young snail travels the world and saves a whale by being heroic and resourceful. The snail is female. In Tiddler, an adventurous young fish swims into unknown waters and gets caught up in a trawler net. The fish is a dreamer, a risk-taker. The fish is a fool. The fish is male.

I looked through all our books. The default male character was dumb. The default female character was smart. In Donaldson’s Giraffes Can’t Dance, Gerald the giraffe tries to dance and looks ridiculous. In The Selfish Crocodile, by Faustin Charles and Michael Terry, a nasty crocodile wants everything for himself, ruining the lives of all the other animals in the jungle. In Benedict Blathwayt’s The Runaway Train, a driver gets out of the train, forgetting to put the brake on, and it rolls off without him. A driverless train – what a powerful symbol of male inadequacy. And there I was, colluding with it. My son and I would sit on the sofa, day after day, laughing. Our laughter was directed at people who are selfish, gross or dumb – male people. Meanwhile, our admiration was directed at people who are smart, brave, and resourceful – female people.

Then it struck me that the men in our stories have been losing their authority for decades. And not just in children’s stories, but adult ones, too. Once upon a time, male movie stars were strong and decisive – think of John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Errol Flynn. Then there was a new, softer type – Cary Grant and James Stewart were strong, yes, but with a background of self-doubt. And then came Jack Lemmon, Dustin Hoffman, Woody Allen, Bill Murray, Michael Douglas, Kevin Spacey – bumbling, flawed anti-heroes. Now, when we think of a typical male role, we might conjure up Kevin Spacey’s character in American Beauty – the deadbeat dad, eclipsed professionally by his wife, dropping out, smoking dope in his garage. The character was called Lester Burnham. I laughed at him. And, in some strange, dark way I didn’t quite understand, I laughed with him, too.

For as long as I can remember, something has been happening to the way we portray men. It’s as if the culture at large has been trying to get our attention, trying to tell us this crucial thing, but we haven’t been listening. Consider adverts. In a survey of 1,000 TV commercials, the writer Frederic Hayward discovered that “One hundred per cent of the jerks singled out in male-female relationships were male”. Also, that “one hundred per cent of the ignorant ones were male. One hundred per cent of the ones who lost a contest were male. One hundred per cent of the ones who smelt bad were male. One hundred per cent of the ones who were put down without retribution were male. One hundred per cent of the objects of rejection were male. One hundred per cent of the objects of anger were male. One hundred per cent of the objects of violence were male.”

When people first began to talk about this male crisis, my reaction was very male. I wanted to deny it. Men couldn’t possibly be having a crisis, I figured, because men ruled the world. Men steered the ship. Men were the officer class. Who ran all the corporations? Men. Who made all the big decisions? With a very small number of exceptions, men. Who earned the most money? Who shouted the loudest? Men. And who suffered at the hands of sexism, the Beauty Myth, the pay gap, and the glass ceiling? Not men. Who was Smart, but made Foolish Choices? Who Ran With the Wolves? Not men. Men, I thought, didn’t have all these problems. They weren’t always being belittled and treated as sex objects. They didn’t need to run with the wolves. How could guys be having a crisis? Guys were… guys were, like, guys. That said it all, didn’t it? "

Well, here's a chunk all about how many are portrayed badly in children's books. I can't post all of it, but he then goes on to trot out all the stats about how women outperform men at school, women are better at softer skills which are in demand these days, etc, etc.

Just to take this section. Honestly, media and children's books treat men appallingly?

Oh god, domestic disaster with colouring pens. Back later...

TheCrackFox Sat 27-Nov-10 17:06:56

What a complete tool.

FWIW - I couldn't finish reading it - I got to the part about "Giraffes Can't Dance" and gave up. The reader wasn't invited to laugh at Gerald but to celebrate the fact that, once he got his nerve up, he could actually dance. That if someone really tried they could achieve whatever he/she wanted.

TondelayoSchwarzkopf Sat 27-Nov-10 17:15:13


I hate people who roll out the old 'men in ads are shown as stupid' line. So are women with their obsession with yoghurt and the feckin' 'here comes the girls' cockery but it's so indoctrinated into you that you can't see it!

Unprune Sat 27-Nov-10 17:16:26

He has a point about the adverts, but completely misses the motivation for those adverts, which is presumably to reinforce the idea that women should be in charge of the domestic arena (men being so 'unable to see dirt' and other clichés as well) - just using men as the conduit for the usual sexist shite where women end up doing the home work.

The stuff about books is drivel. The point about the old films with macho male leads is drivel, too, and he presumably hasn't actually watched a modern film in order to compare, because if he had, no sodding way would he contend that women had triumphed there in changing their portrayal.

I am actually glad there isn't more of that article on here.

TheCrackFox Sat 27-Nov-10 17:20:34

Thank goodness I haven't subscribed to Times online if this is the quality they are offering.

I have noticed that on car adverts that men are not portrayed as idiots. Only the cleaning/housework adverts like to show men as completely incapable so women can, you know, keep on doing the cleaning/housework.

Hmm, adverts for women tend to invite us to feel completely inadequate and neurotic.

TondelayoSchwarzkopf Sat 27-Nov-10 17:20:44

Also why is he talking about a film (^American Beauty^) that was made about ten years ago? Why not talk about the films made this year - I mean it's been a total dearth of masculinity hasn't it? Greenzone, Toy Story 3, Inception, Iron Man 2, The Expendables, Clash of the Titans...oh yes, Hit Girl in Kick Ass - that must prove these pesky women have gone too far.

It's just columnist journalism at its total laziest - a bunch of generalisms written off the top of the head to justify some with references that he's looked around the house to find (kids bedroom, dvd collection).

TheCrackFox Sat 27-Nov-10 17:24:33

The Bourne Identity Films really made men look like a bunch of incompetent idiots. hmm

sethstarkaddersmum Sat 27-Nov-10 17:28:37

'So are women with their obsession with yoghurt and the feckin' 'here comes the girls' cockery but it's so indoctrinated into you that you can't see it!'

yesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesye syesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesy esyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyes yesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesye syes.

I agree.

sethstarkaddersmum Sat 27-Nov-10 17:33:45

his kids clearly haven't got A Squash And A Squeeze by Donaldson and Scheffler, featuring a wise old man who sorts out the little old lady's problems.

There are so many books with clever male heroes, but the moment you start getting a few with female ones people start getting all upset.

and so many children's books feature an entirely male world (so of course the idiots are male) - Dr Seuss anyone?

DaisySteiner Sat 27-Nov-10 17:34:02

Why bother actually doing research when you can stay sitting in front of your computer spouting the first lot of crap that comes into your mind?

poppadave Sat 27-Nov-10 18:02:51

I came across this discussion because I Googled the article. Why are you being so dismissive of the points he's making? It's absolutely true that men are widely ridiculed in and by the media. Highly ironic that you're dismissing his views because he's 'a tool' :-)

dittany Sat 27-Nov-10 18:19:45

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

sethstarkaddersmum Sat 27-Nov-10 18:24:59

Poppadave - we're being so dismissive of his points because we keep finding factual errors in his arguments.

scottishmummy Sat 27-Nov-10 18:26:32

hes a bit of a chop isnt he.lame comparsions about gruffalo,what next rupert bear has been misrepresented.

aye rise up men ,take it no more all this "you go ahead and i'll follow after" encourages male passivity and female dominance

maybe he prefer it should be written get oot ma way woman,mans here now.follow me hen

chibi Sat 27-Nov-10 18:27:21

God children's culture is phenomenally malecentric

I nearly wept with joy watching tinkerbell and the great fairy rescue with dd as it was so rare to find a kids' film with female characters, being brave, leaders, showing initiative, being worthy of admiration, etc etc and having a healthy respect for the inner life of girls

never in my life did I think a Disney fairy flick would pass feminist muster but compared to many of the alternatives it was a revelation

In most media girls are disappeared, or ciphers, and there can't be too many and they can't make too much noise or...I don't know really,

poppadave Sat 27-Nov-10 18:44:00

@Dittany: not to argue with your point re the movies you cite, but they by no means are only about male heroes: for instance in Avatar, Neytiri and the Sigourney Weaver character are very strong female characters and in no way sidekicks (and the planet they're on has a female consciousness).

That aside, yes it's easy to find plenty of examples of male heroics - but equally possible to find plenty of instances where men are mocked, derided, or just made to look a bit ineffectual or wishy-washy. (Trouble is they are admittedly all pretty good TV)


The Office

Modern Family

Mad Men


I am not sure whether your example of Top Gear is really one which shows men in a positive light, though it is very funny.

And actually, Johnny Depp in the Pirates movies is a totally unheroic male lead!

sethstarkaddersmum Sat 27-Nov-10 18:49:39

But the wife in Outnumbered is just as bad as the husband!
The Office has positive and negative male and female characters (eg there is David Brent and Gareth but there is also Tim; there is Dawn but there is also that women who keeps going on about her pregnancy). The fact that the dreadful women tend to be pretty minor characters merely reflects the fact that like the vast majority of tv it is male dominated, ie most of the characters full stop are male.
(A less extreme version of my Dr Seuss example where all the bad characters are male because all the characters are male full stop.)

haven't seen Modern Family or much Mad Men.

dittany Sat 27-Nov-10 18:50:46

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

dittany Sat 27-Nov-10 18:53:37

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

dittany Sat 27-Nov-10 18:54:44

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Unprune Sat 27-Nov-10 18:54:55

I wonder if quite often men will respond to a female character who actually does something as a positive representation of women, whereas women have the bar set much much higher, or at least differently.

Of that list, I have only good knowledge of The Office. I have never seen that programme as having any particularly strong female characters. Everyone is downtrodden in one way or another. Dawn has that hideous boyfriend. The pregnant woman gets her comeuppance in a horrifically misogynistic scene.

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