28 December 2006

British beefcake

Saw a programme on BBC2 last night called "British Beefcake". Actually the title was misleading, it should have been called "British Blokeyness". Former Daily Sport editor Tony Livesey mourned the loss of 70s bloke. I agreed with him when he was using Bobby Moore, George Best or Professionals Bodie and Doyle as role models, but was less convinced when he argued for the merits of 'ardness a la The Sweeney. I can't see why beating people up should be a valued element of masculinity.

There was a point here - although for ideological reasons it had to be dressed up as a defence of proletarianism. I.e. we blokes have been cowed into feeling it's morally unacceptable to behave in traditionally masculine ways.

Of course it's a bit more complicated than that. Fashions change; sometimes macho man makes a bit of a comeback (allegedly, for example, in the latest Bond movie). At the moment we've got a rather feeble backlash in the form of the Boy Books. And in some ways the dumbed down version of masculinity is all too evident in the way certain blokes behave after soccer matches, in the workplace, and at social events.

A certain in-yer-face brutishness has been rather fashionable for some time. And not just among women. But the more positive aspects of masculinity - responsibility, territoriality, individualism (the original version, not the dumbed down pseudo-individualism that passes for it these days) - appear to have lost their claim to legitimacy.

Germaine Greer was wheeled out several times during the programme to present the feminist perspective. At one point she commented with feeling on men's sense of despair about losing their purpose in life: "men are still grieving ... but it's not our fault". Yes it is your fault. Not women, that is. But it's at least partly the fault of Greer and people like her. How hypocritical to be in the vanguard of a culture change that involves denigrating the normal sources of male self-satisfaction, and later pretend to sympathise with the victims of the fallout.