PODIUM

Battle of the sexes recharged

George Jonas December 21 1981
PODIUM

Battle of the sexes recharged

George Jonas December 21 1981

Battle of the sexes recharged

PODIUM

George Jonas

Much has been written in recent years about our inexcusable habit of stereotyping women. I can easily understand why. Women are, indeed, often represented as wearing skirts, heedless of the fact that some of them wear trousers. In careless drawings, it is still customary to depict women with sizable mammary protuberances, though reality would frequently indicate this to be mere wishful thinking on the artist’s part. However, women are not the only victims of such stereotypical thinking. These are the laments of a stereotyped male. Yes, male, m-a-l-e. Sic. It’s not a typographical error. Remember us? We make up nearly 50 per cent of all humanity, short or tall, cute or blotchy, capable of pleasure, pain, amusement and anguish. We even share with women the capacity of being stereotyped— though you’d never think so, considering the kind of press we’ve been getting lately.

I’m not talking about minor matters. If you want to portray us on television as blathering idiots, sneaking out to play golf at the crack of dawn while the thunder from our leaky mufflers rattles the loose spots in our dentures, go right ahead. If you wish to represent us in sitcoms as creatures reduced to whimpering helplessness by the mechanical complexity of a hole in our socks, please yourself. We can take it. The bumbling male, the male-as-nothing-but-a-big-kid, has been with us since the days of commedia dell’arte.

I’m talking about a more recent kind of stereotyping. During the very years that women have been complaining most indignantly about being stereotyped, this new kind of male stereotyping has reached epic proportions. Consider the following examples:

She: (buttering her croissant) Boy, I saw you with that blonde at the movies. Well, talk about stacked. And that makeup! You can’t waste that kind of time when you’re struggling with your PhD. But you men are all the same, frightened of intelligent women.

Me: (lighting a cigarette) That’s us, all right.

Would you have the heart to tell her (a) that the blonde already has her PhD or (b) that the croissant she is buttering is her fourth? Or that females who come up with that line about men being frightened of intelligent women generally measure an IQ of 95 on days when they feel really rested?

Or what about men hating to work for women bosses? “Why would I hate it,” a friend of mine tells me, “when it really changes nothing? I used to have this lady working for me. We’d go out for business lunches sometimes, and naturally I’d pick up the cheque. Well, a year ago they appointed her divisional VP, so now I’m working for her. But we still go out for business lunches, and I still pick up the cheque.” Another friend tells me a different story about lunching with his boss. “When they appointed her,” he says, “she asked me to lunch, making a point about the fact that she was going to pay. When the cheque came, she fussed with it for a few minutes, figuring out where to sign her Chargex. Then she

decided to leave the tip in cash, except that she had no change. I offered to leave a tip, of course, but she said no. Did I have change for a twenty? I handed her the change and she left a fair enough tip.”

“So?”

“So, in all the fussing she forgot to give me my twenty. The entire meal cost only $18.”

Well, there you have it. And not only are men harboring such groundless resentments against the women they work for, but, much worse, liberated females are commonly said to reduce them to a state of physical impotence. The one thing we should be good for—and we’re no good even for that. The lady who last mentioned this to me at a dinner party tied it to another unfortunate tendency she had discovered in us.

“You rape,” she said to me accusingly.

“Pardon me?” said I, a little startled.

“First you go impotent when we want you,” she explained, “then when we don’t, you turn around and rape. Men! I can’t figure you out.”

We are an enigma, I suppose, if you put it this way. Perhaps the reason men and women find it so hard to figure out each other is that they both want fundamentally different things: the women want the men, and the men, the women. But this is known as a circular argument in philosophy. As a z sadly stereotyped male, my g only plea is for a little fairness. oTrue, once in a while we abuse g women, but most of the time ïwe get them stuff from Christian Dior. All this equality may make some of us impotent, but it still seems to have been since the days of the suffragettes that we have nearly doubled the population of the West. Admittedly, a few of us may lord it over women in the boardrooms of the nation. But all the vast majority of us do is to mine the nation’s coal, raise its chickens, collect its garbage, drive its buses and blow-dry its inhabitants’ hair.

We’re not such a bad lot, statistically speaking. For every child we fail to support, for instance, we pay the way of 99 to a degree in comparative literature, often against our better judgment. What’s more, we have never attempted to form Status-of-Men committees to outlaw all textbooks or commercials that depict us as being unable to warm up a TV dinner.

Because, in the end, what is wrong with stereotypes? People don’t take them literally, unless they are complete morons. We all know that stereotypes are not the whole truth. We all know that individuals, whatever group they belong to, are different from one another in much more important ways than those in which they are similar. A stereotype is just a convention, a bottom line, a shorthand acknowledgment of some common denominators. As such—like it or not—it is often accurate enough.

And now that I have got this off my chest, I think I’ll sneak out to play a few holes of golf with an extremely well-stacked blonde.

Georye Jonas is an author whose latest book is Final Decree.