Boys Are Better Than Gir-irls, Boy’s Are Better Than Gir-irls…

Another week another blog, and I’m still recycling (refiling) old ones to get them moved from A-B. This one was originally posted on my Moonfruit site on March 11, 2011, and is a bit of a rant at the content of the ‘Gender’ section of the course material on an OU literature course. To be fair, the course was getting on a bit, and even the tutor acknowledged that it ‘lacked subjectivity’, but that confession came too late and offered little comfort for myself and the vast majority of my fellow (male and female alike) students… Anyhoo, here, as Fred of the B-52’s might put it, it T.I. IS…



Some references in today’s blog won’t make sense to people who haven’t taken the OU A210 course ‘Approaching Literature’. Hopefully, that won’t matter too much…


Having fired off TMA05 I jumped straight back in yesterday to catch up on Chapter 2, Gender and Poetry, and I’ve got to say I’m getting really sick of these weak as water arguments being offered to prove that every single negative that arises in a woman’s life arises as a result of ‘Patriarchal Domination’.

If a bloke wrote a course book containing the kind of gend
er bias this course book containsbattle sexes it would cause outrage, especially if the arguments used to ‘back up’ the theorising had the  kind of holes in that we find here. Or am I being sexist, by expecting that ‘feminine logic’ should need to demonstrate the kind of logic that other kinds of logic are expected to demonstrate, or offer solid conclusions based on all the available evidence rather than wishy-washy ones based on cherry-picked examples of other equally flawed and subjective theoretical wool-gatherings? Probably… 

That’s not to say, of course, that us blerks haven’t got a lot to answer for in many respects, but where’s the objectivity in this course material? And where’s the acknowledgment of the very simple, down to earth (Venus and Mars, dog and cat) fact that men and women do differ in their psychological makeup, and that, unwelcome or not, men find, for equally valid reasons, aspects of women’s behaviour confusing and challenging too? 

Now, I’ve got my tongue quite a way into my cheek here (sort of) and I’m playing devil’s advocate to put the cat among the pigeons, but mexed mitaphors aside, I think there is some merit to the logic that follows, and I think, in the name of ‘balance’, it’s worthy of consideration.

Throughout the history of the written novel and the history of contemporary (as opposed to classical, rather than to suggest exclusively ‘modern’) poetry, women have been the largest producers and the largest consumers. Despite this, these areas continue to be ‘dominated’(I use the quotation marks to highlight the irony of a word that should be available to both sexes being hijacked to imply a pejorative, gender-specific value judgement when used in conjunction with the words…) by men. Now I may be wrong (I haven’t read all of it yet), but for all the theories put forward in the course materials there seems to be one possible explanation for this that hasn’t been given any consideration whatsoever: perhaps the reason men continue to be regarded as the best writers and the best poets is because they’re actually better at it?

Shocking as that conclusion might be, it would explain a great deal that none of the arguments put forward in ‘Literature and Gender’ seem able to explain, i.e., why, in fields where women greatly outnumber men both as producers AND consumers, do men win all the prizes?

And of course it’s not just in the world of publishing that we see this. The same pattern exists in almost every field where female consumers outnumber – or at the very least equal – the number of male consumers, and also notably within fields that often relate pretty much exclusively to female aesthetics and consumption. Top clothes designers – Men. Top hairdressers – Men. Top Interior designers – Men.  Top chefs – Men. I don’t know enough about shoes, handbags, jewellery etc to be able to say, but my guess would be – Men. Moving away from feminine objects of desire to ‘Art’ generally: Musical composition – Men; painting – Men; sculpture – Men; philosophy – Men. Then there’s the scholastic stuff like science and maths etc… Oh, men again!

And the answer can’t be as simple as men being bigger and stronger and ‘dominant’, because history and evolution have proven time and time again that brain is better than brawn, so after 200, 000 years or so of human evolution any initial bias based on the ability to throw a rock the furthest would probably have evened itself out by now. battle of the sexes

I think the reality is (and this would seem to be borne out by scholastic results, though of course there is a proven inherent bias in school teaching methods that favours the ‘female brain’ pathology) that in general terms women do have the edge on blokes, but they tend to be less represented at the kind of levels where the word ‘genius’ might be bandied about. In essence, women are very good at being quite good, and they’re quite good at being very good, but they’re just not as good as men at being exceptional.

To be honest, I’m not sure what that means in real terms – whether it is better to be a good all-rounder than an artisan, or a Jack-of-all-trades rather than a master of one. My instincts tell me that both have equally valuable things to bring to the table – if only they could stop arguing about it and trying to prove that what they’ve got is better, and that the only thing stopping them from achieving their full potential are the people on the other side of the table.

Talking of tables, though, if we’re sitting down to eat, who’s going to do the cooking? Do you fancy Jamie, Hugh or Gordon in the kitchen tonight, or Delia/Nigella? If you’re a laydee, and you’re preference was one of the first three you’ve just made my point for me.

Now, what music should we put on… …


See my tongue? See my cheek? Please don’t take the above too seriously – I am well aware that in some cultures patriarchal oppression/domination equals systematic abuse, and that’s no laughing matter. I do, however, think that western feminists appropriating the suffering of women oppressed by such regimes as a collective or shared experience and using it to justify their own failures or as a shitty stick with which to beat men generally equates to a further ‘wrong’. And as the good man (or woman) said; ‘Two wrongs don’t make a right’…



2 thoughts on “Boys Are Better Than Gir-irls, Boy’s Are Better Than Gir-irls…”

  1. Why Jamie, Hugh or Gordon….or Delia/Nigella? Why not, Jamie, Delia, Gordon, Hugh or Nigella? Do they have to be split into camps? Can we not select on an equal (which is what feminism is all about) footing?

    And I do believe there is an inherent patriarchal dominance in our society, borne from history, that will never disappear. People become top chefs, designers etc. because they are employed (or have been to get up the ladder) by others, usually men.

    From my experience, in most jobs, or even just in life (take going to the car mechanic), women have to earn the respect of others, men get it automatically, simply by gender. This is certainly true in teaching.

    So, to become good at being exceptional, I do think women have to climb of a mountain of innate discrimination to get to the same place and some women just don’t have the time or fight in them to do it.

    1. In the context of this bit of literary fluff the splitting into camps was a necessary device… Not one, of course, I would apply in real life… Which did you choose, by the way? – and I mean for cooking dinner, not for their ‘iconic’ status *whistle* .

      Yes, I do agree there is a DEGREE of history related patriarchal dominance. within our society, but I also think there are fundamental differences between men and women, in terms of brain physiology/psychology/chemistry etc, that make one sex (by and large – there are always exceptions) ‘better’ suited to some things than the other. Many women are happy to accommodate the stereotypes of ‘multi-tasker’ (now debunked, I hear) and/or ‘better communicator’ but are less willing to acknowledge that men might have the edge in anything else! I have some interesting theories on that ‘better communicator’ bit I will share sometime too…

      Anyhoo, coming back to the nature/nurture thing: humans seem to be the only creatures on the planet where the innate differences between the male and female of the species are swept aside in favour of a universal model. Nobody teaches (i.e.) a male lion to be a bit of a lazy so and so who occasionally does a bit of roaring and fighting or a lioness the role of ‘dinner-lady’ – they just naturally assume those roles as they grow out of adolescence and testosterone or oestrogen kicks in. Moving a bit closer to home, nobody teaches female chimpanzees to be submissive (and often very manipulative and unfaithful) members of the dominant male’s harem, nor that dominant male how to be a, erm, dominant male – it just happens! Flipping that over too, there are, in the animal kingdom, some male/female partnerships where the male appears the more nurturing (penguins and seahorses come to mind) and that again comes to them entirely naturally – the female doesn’t ‘train him up’ to be a good dad, and he doesn’t have to struggle to gain access to the kids from a mum who is perhaps quite protective of her maternal role!

      My own take is pretty much the one expressed above: I think men and women both have wonderful things to bring to the table, and the crying shame of it all is that we can’t meet in the middle more effectively, showing mutual respect and admiration for the skill sets of the other. It’s not a question of ‘better’ or ‘worse’ it is a question of ‘different’, and I think if we could acknowledge that simple fact without making silly, petty value judgements about the nature of the differences we would all be better off.


      PS: Sorry for the extra blog this week and the Desmond Morris lecture! 😉

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