Emasculated?

Circumstances conspired so I ended up doing an afternoon ride. I go better in the mornings but so it goes. At least I had a decent, dry and warm afternoon for it. One should be thankful – it’ll rain again tonight and tomorrow.

It’s easy to forget just how much traffic the school run generates.  A loop taking in Woodley, Twyford, Wargrave and Henley at school chucking-out time reminded me forcefully enough. Of course, that’s absolutely nothing new.  What did strike me was the number of men doing the driving: I’d make a small wager that it was more than it would have been, say, two years ago.

Photo: A young Horse Chestnut

A young Horse Chestnut, near Shiplake Cross

If I’m right then I’d guess it’s because men are finding it harder to get jobs in this recession. Men ‘normally’ want ‘proper’ jobs – full time, a proper salary or wage and so on.  Women, for better or worse, are more readily pigeon holed into part time posts with less remuneration. As a result they’re often easier to sack – sorry, ‘downsize’ – but they’re also easier to re-employ.  If you like, many women are in a sort of flexible fringe which can expand or contract easily. So-called ‘male’ jobs or ‘proper’ jobs may be cut less willingly by employers, but once they’re cut they stay cut until there’s a very, very real need again.  There’s nothing about the economy that’s on a firm footing and we’d be fools to pretend otherwise.

I don’t know how that might feel if you’re a bloke on the school run – all other things being equal. If you’re managing to make ends meet and your partner’s out to work, you could feel liberated … or emasculated. It could be very hard to break out of the traditional way of thinking about yourself, your household budget, your role in the domestic set-up. It could be necessary. It might not be a bad thing – one day.  There’s nothing inherently right about traditions.

If any of all that is accurate, then if society wants to play a positive role it should be helping people adjust – men and women and children too. National and local government, charities and other not-for-profits, churches and media channels and any other organisation with a stake in society – they should all be working to help people adjust to changing roles.

Just writing that – and hopefully just reading that – brings home how little positivism there is in society. Society’s voices are largely carping, criticising, point-scoring, bemoaning … If you have something to moan about, do something about it – even if it’s only pointing up the need.