Thursday, 11 December 2008

What a shame...

'Of course, these days we give equal value to everybody, regardless of their gender,' said the speaker. And I thought: 'Hmm?'

Nothing, in my opinion, is better attuned to working out the truth of our popular credos than that handy piece of sociological equipment - the embarrassometer.

Imagine you're sitting at the dinner table with friends, mixed company and the cheerful conversation veers towards childhood memories.

(Tucked discretely behind your lapel is the highly sensitive antenna of your embarrassometer, connected wirelessly to a display on your wrist.)

After a while, Fiona says: 'I was a terrible tomboy when I was a girl. Climbing trees, digging tunnels, playing football and rugger with my brothers. I lived in jeans and T-shirts. I gave my mum a terrible time when she tried to get me into a dress.'

Quick. Check the display. Registering any embarrassment? Nope. Not a flicker. In fact the general feeling around the table, among both males and females, is that feisty Fiona is a bit of a good egg. Spirited and independent. Hurrah for her.

The Fred chips in: 'Snap! I was very similar, Fiona. While you wanted to do "boys' things", I was all out to be as much like a girl as possible. I was so easy when it came to birthday and Christmas presents - I'd simply ask for another Barbie. By the time I was ten I had seventeen Barbies and umpteen outfits for them. I'd spend hours dressing them and playing with them.'

Check the embarrassometer. What's the reading? Well, what do you think? Yes, totally off the scale.

Several guests are squirming silently and your host has just realised he needs to get back in the kitchen to check the next course....

Am I right? I think so.

I've heard dozens of women hark back to childhood in the manner of Fiona. I've yet to hear, in a similar situation, any man make an admission along the lines of Fred's.

I'm fascinated by the fact that while Fiona has a handy, affirmative label for her childhood self (tomboy), Fred has nothing.

Well, he does have some choices, but none that he'd want to adopt - 'cissy' and 'nancy boy' being the two that come most readily to mind. Shame words.

So, is that wee embarrassometer telling a deeply uncomfortable truth?

Here we are in the 21st century. But when push come to shove, we still value maleness more highly than we do its counterpart.

Or is the tomboy scrambling up the wrong tree?

1 comment:

Philippe de Paris said...

In similar vein, on the cover of women's magazines you only ever see women, and on the cover of men's magazines you only ever see - er, women.

(You may have gathered I've just registered so am accepted into the hallowed band of those permitted to comment)