Here’s a quick update from the gender frontline, so please pay attention.
You may have noticed that, alongside the protests about what women and men can still do separately (eg, swimming in Hampstead Ponds), there’s a growing list of things that men may no longer do at all, while women still can.
Yes, somewhat confusingly, there is now often one rule for Them and another rule for Us – although maybe we’re only half way through the recalibrations. Anyway, here’s the list of Yes We Cans (But No You Can’t), so far.
Or objectifying men. This one is in the news again because series four airs next month and Poldark is a seasonal reminder that, when it comes to ogling and objectifying the opposite sex, there’s now one rule for women (Go ahead! Rewind the scything scene!) and another for men (Eeew, creepy loser).
Poldarking – as openly leching after men’s physical attributes is now known – is nothing new but, with Poldark, it became something women do with pride, in men’s faces, in the knowledge that the male equivalent is now unacceptably unwoke and embarrassing.
Now, men can’t so much as pass comment on a particularly wenchy neckline without feeling like Benny Hill.
Meanwhile, Poldarking is considered to be as harmless and liberated as drunkenly manhandling male strippers. (Note: full disclosure, we have no idea how this unequal state of affairs came about; how eyeing-up waitresses in short skirts is worse than getting into a brawl with other female audience members while trying to remove a Chippendale’s g-string/cover his bum in baby oil).
Anyway, as things stand, I could lean out of a car and lick a young man’s naked torso on a zebra crossing (liberated fun), but a man risking a glance at a girl’s pert behind on a bicycle…? Totally different thing.
Very simple: women can and do, men who give it a shot are invariably ridiculed and lose our respect. Take Paul McCartney, the man who hadn’t put a foot wrong in 50 years, until he reached for the dark tint and was instantly rebranded as a bit of a tosser. Why hair dyeing should be the deal-breaker – unlike, say, tinted moisturiser, waxing or dating girls young enough to be your grand-daughter – is a mystery, but it is one of the We Can, You Can’ts.
Obviously, women do it all the time: admire a passer-by’s attractive hat, coo over babies, pause in the park to watch naked children play. Men can’t do any of this. They may acknowledge the cuteness of a stranger’s puppy, briefly – that’s it.
We can… because of our hormones. We can cry and rant and door slam to our heart’s content (not at work, mind you). But men can’t. A man who does that is aggressive, which is completely different to what we are occasionally, which is emotional and tired.
A man can’t call a woman “stupid”, say – certainly not in the workplace – although a woman might flick a V-sign at a man in the same work environment and be regarded as feisty.
Criticising domestic skills
Very important, this distinction: we can call out men whenever, but they cannot criticise our performance on the child-rearing or domestic competence front, under any circs. In all other areas, we are equally open to discussion of our failings and areas for potential improvement, even driving, but not these.
Weight is another one, to be fair. We can tell Them they need to lose a bit and cut out sugar and join a pilates class and drink less, but They can’t tell Us. Unthinkable. No one tells us to cut out anything.
If in doubt, for the time being it’s probably best to just assume that Yes We Can and You’re on the back foot until further notice.