Oliver James: The hating game

There has surely never been a time in the history of the world when men and women have got on worse. The fact that we are 280 times more likely to be divorced than a century ago suggests gender rancour is plaguing our personal lives.

Of course, literature is littered with evidence that men and women have always been at war. But there has been a recent shift away from misogyny towards mysandry (man-hating).

From Chaucer in the 14th century (The Wife of Bath) to Shakespeare to Jacobean tragedy, men and women have defrauded and betrayed each other. But in the 19th century, the women started to fight back. Madame Bovary would have enjoyed Blind Date and the numerous other modern TV shows in which women are encouraged to be nakedly malicious in mocking the attempts of men to get them into bed.

In the past 30 years, the middle- and upmarket women authors have painted a bitter, discontented picture of heterosexual relationships, with men emerging, for the most part, as despicable. Fay Weldon, Joanna Trollope, Mary Wesley and the Americans Anne Tyler and Alison Lurie all spring to mind.

It is hard to recall one fictional couple that is contented, honest and lovingly portrayed by a modern female author. This is both cause and effect of modern rancour, mirroring social reality, but since women are the main readers of these books, also fuelling it.

Males are increasingly presented as disposable. In a BBC2 discussion in 1995, the likes of Germaine Greer, Janet Street-Porter and Suzanne Moore sneered at us. 'What is the point of this [male] sex except for impregnation?' asked Greer. Moore answered that she used to see DIY as one reason, but that since she had become wealthy enough to employ tradesmen, sex was now the only point (she had tried and rejected lesbianism).

The attitude displayed to men was patronising and contemptuous. We were children who did not want to grow up. Women were evolving at a much faster rate, we were being left behind and at best, to be pitied.

Nakedly sexist jokes against men are acceptable where the equivalent about women would cause outrage. Channel 4's grotesque The Girlie Show felt entitled to nominate a man as 'Wanker of the Week' - imagine the outcry if C4 had a programme called The Laddies Show which nominated a 'Fat Slag of the Week' (or suchlike).

The bestselling women's magazine That's Life has a regular item 'Rude Jokes of the Week', always attacking men. An example is, 'Q: Why is sex with Englishmen like a fight with Mike Tyson? A: It's all over in two minutes.'

Of course, misogyny is still to be found in countless 'sexist' films, TV dramas, novels (including several whole genres) and poisonous right-wing newspaper columns.

But with female commentaries becoming every bit as nasty, the need for a cease-fire in the battle of the sexes becomes ever more urgent. In particular, the gross distortion of feminism that such nastiness represents needs to be exposed.

· Next week: feminism and divorce.

Thanks to guardian.co.uk who have provided this article. View the original here.


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