I am fed up with the daily undermining of male strength and the pretence we are made to buy into that men and women are the same, when they are not.
Last week’s news that Glasgow’s predominantly female workforce had taken to the streets in pursuit of their ‘gender equality’ rights stuck in my craw. I don’t deny they are low paid, but that which should have been their point was not.
Following in the footsteps of Birmingham dinner ladies’ demands for equal pay (with the bin men) , and Tesco shelf stackers’ complaint that cold-store workers were paid more, Glasgow’s council workers have joined in this national equal pay pursuit. What they seem to want is the same pay that the 10 per cent of the jobs, which either they don’t want to do or are not fit for (amongst which is refuse collection), command.
Once again, their demand is based on a lie that there is no difference in strength and risk between the jobs that are predominantly male and those that are predominantly female. In a word, on the idea that there is no inherent value in male strength or masculinity.
This was on my mind as I negotiated my way around some roadworks on Saturday. It was two blokes I saw heaving away the earth and hard core down there in the dirt and water with shovel and spade. Yes, blokes who were men. So was the guy on the pneumatic drill. A man. Oh yes, and the bin collectors who cheerily greeted me the day before were, guess what, men. In all my years I have yet to say ‘Hi, how are you and thank you’ to a bin lady. Don’t tell me there’s a ‘closed bin shop’ and women can’t apply.
As for the heroes who descend into the London sewers to hack congealed and concretised fat from the tunnel walls with heavy pickaxes to keep the system flowing for the rest of us, against a stench and conditions which make a 20-minute shift tough to survive, well, you can guess, they too are men. As are the high-rise window cleaners. As are the majority employed in many higher-risk, physically dangerous and demanding jobs.
Then, on Sunday, seeing on TV the boys rescued from the Thai caves watching Manchester United play at Old Trafford was another reminder of the uniqueness and value of male strength, courage, and ability to survive extremity. Where the hell would we be without it? The rescue team were all men – to a man – including one who lost his life.
Yet we live a parity lie inflicted on us by a politically correct establishment.
Today you have to be a veritable superhero to have your masculinity recognised, let alone lauded or praised. That seems to be the only context in which masculinity is acknowledged.
Ordinary soldiers are soon forgotten or found cast on society’s trash heap, or worse.
It’s the Invictus Games or nothing – you have to survive, incapacitated in multiple ways, and prove an astonishing strength of mind and body all over again. That is not to diminish these quite extraordinary men or Prince Harry’s extraordinary efforts.
From the commonplace (the men over a lifetime who’ve helped heave my bag up on to the luggage rack, the three who hauled me and my broken ankle off a hillside precipice and who, in a myriad ways, have given me the benefit of their strength) to the sheer heroic, male strength is more than an attribute. It is a value.
Perhaps its total devaluation is the very reason why no man leapt to the defence of the Ryanair lady.
It’s time to call off the war on men and dispatch the hideous and despicable theory of toxic masculinity back to where it belongs. It’s time, too, to end that other lie – that women as a sex have the same attributes.
Compete for combat roles if they wish – I am all for equal opportunity. But let’s be honest that women don’t meet the extraordinary physical requirements demanded for them, and this difference is one of physical, not gender, inequality. Least of all should the Defence Secretary and the Army bosses be under any illusion about the liability they may pose. A 2015 study found that women in a unit created to assess female combat performance were significantly injured twice as often as men, were less accurate with infantry weapons and not as good at removing wounded troops from the battlefield.
There are some things that women are not up for, or up to, and it’s not just refuse collection. The first woman to start training as an infantry person withdrew from the 18-week course after two weeks because it was too physically demanding.
Not that this stopped Gavin Williamson, the Defence Secretary, from announcing his vision of armed forces ‘where every single role will be open to women’ or his senior officers’ expectation of seeing women applying for roles with the SAS and other special forces units, helped perhaps by the ‘updated from last year gender-neutral physical fitness tests’.
This is a time of crisis in Army recruitment. Why aren’t they seeking men fitted for the tasks? Does the high command really think a women’s army will protect us if it comes to a ground war?
When the rest of society is made to believe that masculinity has no value and refuses to acknowledge or value basic male virtues, perhaps it’s no wonder that veterans come to feel so worthless and desperate.