In 1992 ITV brought “Men Behaving Badly” to our living rooms. It was a tongue in cheek, light hearted parody of male stereotypes that jumped on the band wagon of society laughing at the somewhat clumsy, unskilled, care-free behaviour of young men in 1990’s England – and which coincided with BBC2’s tongue in cheek light hearted parody of female stereotypes programme “Absolutely Fabulous”, which oddly enough depicted the somewhat clumsy, unskilled, care-free behaviour of two early middle aged women (including a mother) in 1990’s England – but which, it seems, society rather more embraced than laughed at!
Harmless “Men Behaving Badly” may have been, but here we are over two decades later and the media is bulging, perhaps more than ever, with stories about men behaving not just badly, but very badly.
Recently we have had the whole Harvey Weinstein and the #MeToo campaign resulting from the media exposing his behaviour towards women. This closely followed by the all male President’s Club annual charity dinner, which was exposed as a gaudy night out by an under cover female reporter posing as one of the “hostesses” who were employed for the night to be, well, “hostesses”.
This month‘s (Feb 2018) head line grabbing scandalous male behaviour seems to be the Oxfam charity employees who, allegedly, paid for the services of local prostitutes whilst abroad on official charity work for their organisation.
This “Oxfam” story has only been demoted from the front page in some local newspapers in the south of England by an even more outrageous headline stating that women can, in certain situations (i.e. when they are on a night out, surrounded by other powerful women and being “waited on” by ‘dressed to kill’ male “hosts’ – Chippendale types for those who remember) have a tendency to behave as sexual predators too – especially when working away from home, with an expense account!
Did you see this last story? No, of course you didn’t because I made it up.
I wonder though, what was your reaction to reading that last paragraph? Did you catch yourself thinking “What? Really? How outrageous to suggest women behave like that too”; or perhaps something more akin to “Yep, tell me something I didn’t know! Surprised to hear it was reported on the front pages though.” Or perhaps your reaction was something in between these two extremes?
I am not one of those men who deny responsibility for my own, or other mens’ behaviour – far from it; I don’t cry out “well she probably deserved it!” when I see reports of young women being sexually assaulted. I have in the past had personal experience of men behaving badly – often fuelled by alcohol – and for me it is completely irrelevant whether this unacceptable behaviour has sexual undertones and is directed toward women, or is violent and aggressive behaviour towards other men (because they are from a different “tribe” of some sort or an ‘other’), clearly none of it isokay. None of it.
I do however find myself asking some questions that seem rarely to be addressed by the media. Young, attractive women choosing of their own free will to take paid work that requires them to wear a revealing outfit, have a few ‘free’ drinks to “get in the mood”, parade on a stage in front of the audience and then act as table hostess at an all male evening dinner (all as reported by the press) might perhaps not be surprised to experience ‘male behaviour’ from the genuinely innocent and well intentioned humorous banter, through to the sexual predator – and vast minority – end of the spectrum, however unacceptable I, you or society views this behaviour to be.
Personally I do not find it possible to accept that men are inherently bad just because they have been born male. What I believe is that men need, more than ever, to stand up and shout out, really loud, that this debauchery, violent, scandalous, sexually predatory behaviour from an minority of men across all spectrums of society and ethnicity is totally unacceptable, and any man that participates in it, or condones it in others, is not a man like me, or any of the men I call friends. Let’s not lie down and condone the behaviour, but let us all – both men and women – challenge the media outrage that reports as though it were all men, not a tiny minority, that are behaving badly.
The views expressed by the writer are not necessarily the views of the Springboard Consultancy Ltd.