The women are taking over

Quick, everybody run. The women are taking over. Where can we go that is safe? I know, to the hills. Women can’t climb hills, can they? They can? Where will this equality madness end? I know, we’ll hide in a jar with a stiff lid.

Then again, if all the men do that, how will we get out? Damn it, we’ve played right into their hands.

One of the interesting facts about the equality battle (and considering the attitudes held by the more extremist members of both sides, ‘battle’ would seem to be the appropriate word) is that those for and against equality for women often end up using the same arguments.

Again, the women are taking over

There’s an interesting (and by interesting, I mean bloody annoying) thing that both feminists (read: some feminists) and misogynists like to do whenever a woman shows the slightest bit of promise in an area that is, at the present and/or historically, male dominated. It’s to loudly and proudly declare ‘The women are taking over’ or ‘See women can do this too, the time of men is limited’.

It’s funny how that sentiment is used as both a pro and a con of women being empowered. But it’s a stupid attitude that doesn’t really help.

I’ll give you an example.

Men aren’t funny anymore

Rather ironically, this was the premise of a recent article I read in one of those newspaper supplement magazines the other day. It’s ironic because the article (written by a man) was meant to be a ‘Yay for women’ piece about the fact that comediennes are now beginning to get access to the high profile success their male counterparts have had since whenever one male caveman first hit the other in a face with a custard pie. Yet instead, it spent most of the time talking about male comics.

The premise was thus; comediennes such as Sarah Millican and Miranda (both hilariously funny, clever and talented women, in my opinion) are becoming very popular, with Miranda soon to be the first comedienne to play the O2 arena.

Except that the article wasn’t 2,000 words on why this is a good thing, and what it shows. It didn’t celebrate the fact that women are finally being given the opportunity to prove that society doesn’t have a problem on the whole with women being funny, and that we are happy to flock in droves to see comediennes, just as we are with comedians. Nope, the article had to take the supposedly empowering angle of ‘The women are taking over’, based on the fact that men are no longer funny.

There are three reasons why this article was, to use the correct Latin, pissing annoying.

It really doesn’t help anything

The article’s claim that men are no longer funny centred upon the assertion that all man-humour is toilet humour, and most of it is about our genitals. The idea of a man who doesn’t spend all day cupping himself is as fantastical as Gandalf handing out dragon eggs from the back of his hippogriff. Except that Gandalf, as a man, would also be cupping himself, so he’d have to bring a woman along to hand out the eggs for him.

It’s ironic that, considering one of the main battles faced by feminism is the fact that perceptions of women are shaped a lot of the time by unjust and untrue stereotypes, that certain feminists seem to operate on the basis that all male stereotypes actually are true. Stereotypes and ill-informed gender perceptions are what got us all in this mess in the first place. As a tactic for solving the problems of gender equality, it’s akin to being trapped in a burning wooden house and deciding to set fire to the wall in an attempt to burn yourself a hole through which to escape.

It’s obviously not true

The article used three examples, one of which was Ben Elton’s allegedly awful new sitcom as an example of how men have fallen from grace as far as comedy is concerned. I can’t remember the other two, but they certainly weren’t examples of comedians in their prime. In fact, while mentioning popular comedienne Sarah Millican, you’d think the article would have mentioned some of the male stand ups working the circuit, such as Michael McIntyre, Eddie Izzard, Rhod Gilbert, Bill Bailey, Jimmy Carr and Dara O’ Briain.

I’m not going to bother doing an exhaustive list because there’s no point. Everyone has male comedians that they like. Saying men aren’t funny is so obviously untrue (rather like saying women aren’t funny), the writer may as well have said ‘Nobody’s driving cars anymore’.

It’s incredibly patronising

Even an article about how women are breaking the glass ceiling ended up being about men’s failure rather than women’s success. The article was meant to be saying ‘Look, see, women can be as funny (or more so) than men, they’ve just been held back by negative gender perceptions and misogyny in general’, but instead its main message was ‘See, now that men are crap, women can have a go!’

Sarah Millican (or insert the name of a comedienne you like, if you don’t like her) is no less funny as a woman because Rhod Gilbert (again, insert own comedian here) is a funny man. We don’t need to devalue Rhod Gilbert in order to make Sarah Millican better; she’s arrived on the scene, made a name for herself, and is now doing better than a lot of the male comics who turned up at the same time. Not because she’s a woman, just because she’s funny. Funny enough to break through the barriers.

The women aren’t taking over

It seems that every time one woman becomes successful in a male dominated field, the women are taking over. It’s used both as a hysterical cry for help by those who don’t like or value women, and simultaneously as a rousing battle cry by those on their side: look how far we’ve come, we’re taking over.

I can’t stand either of those attitudes. There are several books on the market at the moment, not to mention plenty of articles, about how women can do everything, and so men aren’t needed any more. Our time is up, etc etc. I can’t see the point in these. All they do is reinforce what the people who hold those views already think, and justify the fears of all the men who don’t want equality because they are secretly terrified that a woman will replace them. Society still holds masculinity up as an ideal that all men should strive for; being usurped by a woman is perceived (even by plenty of women, it must be said) to be incredibly emasculating. A book telling these types of men, who we really need to win around, that they are useless, isn’t going to help.

It’s patronising and it’s rubbish. The women aren’t taking over, they’re not going to, and society/the species/people in general needs both genders in order to function properly. We each balance out the flaws in the other.

Most women just want to be able to feel safe, not feel like their gender is a burden, be able to make their own choices, and get the same opportunities as men. They don’t want to rule the world, they just want to be.

If a woman gets a successful job, telling her ‘Well done, you’re leading the exodus’ is pointless. You might as well give her a reassuring slap on the ass and pin her CV to the fridge so everyone can see that you’re proud of it.


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