Claire Black: Young women face the same problems as men

Claire Black

Claire Black

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DIANE Abbott MP, is a woman I have some trouble taking seriously since my retinas were scarred watching as she and Michael Portillo writhed together, OK sat, on the This Week sofa, and also that time she said private schools were bad before promptly sending her son to one.

But still, let’s not hold grudges. Abbott gave a speech last week in which she spoke about the “crisis of masculinity”. This has achieved several things. On the positive side, it has kicked off an interesting, although well-worn, discussion. (Remember Hanna Rosin’s The End Of Men last year? I hope not, it was dreadful.) On the negative side, it gave Abbott the opportunity to use the phrase “increasingly pornified”.

Abbott reckons a generation of men have been left “isolated and misdirected by a boundless consumer outlook, economic instability and whirlwind social change.” Awash on a sea of “viagra and Jack Daniel’s” they have become that dreadful phrase mentioned above.

Really? Is this true? Is British manhood “now shaped more by market expectations – often unachievable ones – than by fathers, family values, a sense of community spirit and perseverance”.

Well there may be some truth in that, but here, dear readers, is the nub of the rub with Abbot’s argument. It’s not that I am denying that men, particularly young men, face problems. It’s just that young women face some of the same problems too, as well as some of their very own. Don’t fret, men have their own ones too – let’s not make this a competition.

When viewed this way, the current predicament becomes less about a crisis of masculinity and more, well, just a crisis.

A further problem with Abbott’s position is that she falls back on stereotypes about what men – and inevitably women – were, are and can be. This does absolutely nothing to tackle the real difficulties they face.

Inequality sucks for everyone. The solution, however, does not lie in looking to the past, to some imagined golden age when men were men and women were even worse paid and even less respected in terms of their role in society. “Traditional masculinity” is no more appealing than “traditional femininity”. It is no less regressive or restrictive. What we need is a different, new, more progressive and satisfying idea of what boys and men can be.

MORE than a thousand people lost their lives in the Bangladesh garment factory disaster. And yet at least eight of the UK’s leading fashion retailers have failed to sign a legal initiative securing financial support to bolster both fire safety and building improvements in similar factories. Those who managed to sign up: H&M, Primark, Zara and M&S amongst others. Well done. Those who have, thus far, failed: Topshop, Next, Matalan, River Island, BHS and George at Asda, amongst others. Shameful.

I LOVE Berlin. It’s one of my favourite cities – the history, the bars, the culture, the, erm, 26,900ft pink Barbie house right next to Alexanderplatz, complete with fountain in the shape of enormous high-heeled (pink, natch) shoe. Oh, for the love of Christopher Isherwood, what’s going on? According to the man who set it up, “it’s just about having fun”. For the leader of the Occupy Barbie Dream House protest group, the pink palace sends out the “wrong message”. You might say. «

Twitter: @Scottiesays

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