Old Attitudes Prevail
‘Men!’ That one word preceded by a deep sigh would sum up one elderly lady’s whole attitude towards the opposite sex. She was brought up in the old school where after the war (World War II) as a woman you married your soldier who became the provider and you spent the rest of your life at the kitchen sink, washing, cooking, cleaning and generally looking after your husband and the children, until they left home and it was just the two of you living together into your old age.
This particular lady, dutifully did all that. When she was younger, she went out to work and when she had time to herself, she would do needlework and lace, but the troubles started when the children had left and it was just the two of them at home full time. Either he would get in her way or he was so busy focused on what he was doing in his shed that he wouldn’t come in when his meal was ready. So her exclamation quoted above was one of exasperation.
For me, I was brought up with a slightly different attitude to men. As the youngest of three daughters and with a Catholic mother, there was always a fear of us girls ‘getting into trouble’, so I was brought up with the phrase ‘Men are only after one thing’, meaning the only reason they were interested in a girl was to have sex with her. So I was always wary around men.
This was re-enforced when many men I knew at the time were into pornographic magazines and films which prompted further derogatory comments from female colleagues that ‘A man’s brain is in his trousers’.
Now these are very judgmental comments and completely ignore the beauty and the tenderness that is in all men, something I have only truly come to notice in the last fifteen years.
Woman in a Man’s World
I was brought up in a Catholic convent and was good at science, with the result that I went on to study Electronic Engineering at University. It was 1968 and I was the only girl in a class of 72 men. I already had a boyfriend back home so sex wasn’t on the agenda and we all got on pretty well together. I was a woman in a man’s world.
Throughout my career, which varied across many different industries, most of the people in senior positions were men. That was normal for the time and still is to a certain extent. Women were seen as support workers and the men were the decision-makers. Generally speaking men were earning more than women too, which always seemed a little unfair.
Equality and The Glass Ceiling
Gradually through the 1970s women started exercising their equal rights and competing directly with the men for top positions and many women started their own companies. ‘Breaking through the Glass Ceiling’ was a phrase used to show that women could be company directors and serve their time in the board room. The easiest route for many women was through Human Resources (Personnel), because it was easy for women to demonstrate their caring for people skills.
Despite all the efforts to create equality in the workplace, average wages for men at the time of writing (2017) are still higher than for women and that is likely to be the norm for many years yet because there are still more men in senior positions than women. The UK Parliament is one example of men being the dominant population.
Women are now allowed into most jobs, including the armed forces. One particular industry that is still dominated by men is engineering. There are more women there now than back in the 1970s when I graduated, but the numbers are still low. One reason could be the competitive nature of so many engineering projects – building the fastest, longest, strongest, deepest, highest etc structures, whereas many women are more likely to be inspired by and interested in practical things that nurture and support people. The way the engineering industry is structured and publicised could be so male orientated that girls are put off. It also has a public image of being dirty, which is not so true these days as a lot of engineering work is done on computers.
There are now many STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) projects set up world-wide to encourage more girls to take engineering as a study and career option, but a lot of these are still based on competition.
My question is this: have we created structures in our society that are based on false premises? Do we assume a whole range of qualities apply to boys and then do our utmost to re-enforce them?
What are the natural, true qualities of a man?
Have we women been fed a lie? I think we have, because there are men around now who do not fit the image of super-strong alpha male. More men are actively being encouraged to explore their natural tenderness and to let go of the need to compete. Women are being encouraged also to let go of their hardness, which gives men the permission to be more tender.
I always love it when I see a photo of a father being tender with his new born child, it is so different from the old image of babies being ‘Woman’s Work’ and the fathers not getting involved until the boys are big enough to engage in ‘men’s activities’.
Suicide rates are increasing amongst men and perhaps it is time to look at why. This article on Real Men may offer some support.
These days it is not out of order for a true man to be tender and… here is a surprise, we women love it!