Within reason and despite my age, I like to think of myself as a tolerant, liberal (with a small ‘L’) and equality-conscious individual in this modern world of same-sex marriages and let-it-all hang-out, in-your-face openness about areas of human life that hitherto – for thousands of years – have been left relatively unflaunted.
However, when it comes to some of these issues, e.g. in this instance those relating to gender equality, I do harbour (albeit, I have to confess, rarely-expressed) reservations about some of the themes and arguments regularly expounded by some of the more strident lady commentators in organs such as The Guardian and – dare I say it – even the National Rust.
We are told that the world of politics would be improved by being ‘feminised’ – i.e. less testosterone-generated macho strutting and aggression, more of a caring, concerned ‘inclusive’ approach to the major issues of state – and all sorts of positive-discrimination measures designed to make the House of Commons more female friendly.
I have to admit that I am not in favour of ‘quotas’ of any description – ‘appointments exclusively upon merit only please’ is my watchword and instinct.
With many of these well-meaning feminist arguments, it seems to me that what some of these highly-intelligent, elitist, noisy ladies are demanding is steeped in personal self-interest. They clamour for workplace rights that meant little or nothing to the 80% plus of British women who are in work, or would like to work – most of whom are just as interested in their families, fashion and other traditionally female interests and pastimes as they are in advancing to the top of the business or employment ladder. I’d even go so far as to suggest that a proportion of them are made to feel guilty and/or ‘letting the side down’ regarding their lack of career ambition by the ‘strident campaigner’ brigade.
Recently I was made aware of a situation that – to me – demonstrates the gap between what the chattering female middle classes often demand of the world and the fundamental realities of female psychology.
As it happens, last night I dined at a well-known London club with the son of one of my father’s (now deceased) oldest friends. We hadn’t seen each other for a long while and, despite the fact that I did not reach home afterwards until nearly 11.30pm, well past my normal bedtime, it was a rewarding and enjoyable meet that I was glad to have attended.
My companion for the evening was/is a clinical psychiatric doctor – well, that’s how I’d describe him anyway – who works in a leading secure residential establishment that deals with people with serious mental issues. Some of them have been convicted of crimes. Some of them have been ‘sectioned’ against their will. All of them have behavioural problems and some of them are potentially – or actually – violent.
My fellow diner had arrived late for our meal and in apologising, without giving away any trade secrets, he explained that he had endured a ‘tough day at the office’ involving incidents of violence – or attempted violence – with more than two of the male inmates he had been required to deal with and/or assess. In doing so, he gave details of the heavy security arrangements in the establishment – including double lockable doors everywhere, the second of which by design cannot be opened until the first is locked behind you (i.e. effectively in this case making a ‘no man’s land’ between each two wards), and so on.
After giving me as much of a report of the course of his working day as he felt was appropriate, in a throwaway line before we moved on to other topics he said “… The good thing about today is that at least I wasn’t working on the women’s unit …”.
I asked for further and better particulars.
The gist of his reply was that, in the ‘pack mentality’ of secure units and difficult inmates such as these, the men’s inter-relations were relatively simple and transparent.
To a degree, especially when new inmates first arrived, there was always the potential for conflict as the inmates vied to establish their position in the pack hierarchy. However, once that was achieved, the men basically got on with living together and instances of fights and similar problems were relatively rare (allowing for the occasional flashpoint).
“Why was this?” I asked.
The answer came back that it was a well-known fact that women incarcerated together were instinctively more aggressive towards both each other and everyone else they came into contact with than men were – and also more scheming, more manipulative, more contrary, more inconsistent, more Machiavellian, more vindictive and generally more unpleasant.
It occurred to me overnight that this revelation was something that perhaps some of our Hampstead set, equal-opportunities-obsessed lady journalists ought to bear in mind occasionally.