Hero or Zero?
The premise of the BBC's latest reality TV programme, Bring Your Husband to Heel, is to train a group of men to become better partners using the same techniques as dog trainers...
On top of that, the BBC's Michael Buerk was recently quoted as saying "life is lived in accordance with women's rules" and men are now merely "sperm donors".
Is it fair to label men emotionally-stunted, lazy or just plain useless? Would it be fair to portray women in the same way? Are we in danger of belittling men? Has the battle for equality between the sexes become unbalanced?
Send us your comments on equality...
Bring Your Husband to Heel programme details
If..Women Ruled the World programme details
Baroness Greenfield: Are men surplus to requirements?
Madeline Bunting: The death of feminism?
Steve Jones on why society needs men
The e-mails published reflect the balance of opinion received.
To argue that men are being marginalized in our society is simply ridiculous, given that it is still men who wield most power in parliament, in our boardrooms, in the police, the military, our judicial system, our religious hierarchies, the media, advertising, etc. I don't like to see any group of people ridiculed or belittled. However, far more dangerous than the crass programme about "dog training" your husband is the insidious straitjacketing of people through the perpetual bandying about of the terms "masculine" and "feminine" (as opposed to male and female). They have assumed a pseudo-scientific status, as though it is a law of nature that the sexes should exhibit different and contrasting characteristics. And guess what? Those characteristics that involve strength, leadership and the exercise of power in the outside world are termed "masculine", whilst those to do with weakness, submission, vulnerability and personal service are termed "feminine". This largely unconscious social brainwashing still pervades our society and limits the internal freedom of both women and men to risk experimenting with new and perhaps more rewarding behaviours.
Jean Apps, East Grinstead, West Sussex
I am a young woman working in a male-dominated profession. There is little or no sense in men becoming emasculated in my workplace. Rather, it is the women who still have to fight in order to have their expertise and skills recognised as equal. It seems to me that Michael Buerk is basing his judgment on the media portrayal of the male/female balance. Whether this is an accurate reflection of society is questionable - I suspect that the reality, as so often, lies between the two extremes. By the way, I enjoy my job and would not dream of giving up work permanently to raise children.
Jeni Fulton, Cambridge
Yes, it's time for an approach that recognises the changes and progress society has made in the last 30 years. To make the next step we must recognise that women and men both have equality issues that need addressing.
Alex Grundy, London
Men are being portrayed on TV as lazy, fat and inept. Where are the hard working, caring fathers who would lay down their lives for their children? Programmes such as Bring your Husband to Heel are damaging the psyche of young men which endangers the emotional well being of future young men. These programmes will also harden the resolve of many people's sexist views.
The discussion with the man from Fathers for Justice and the feminist writer came across as the chattering classes talking amongst themselves. While thought-provoking and engaging it struck me as pretty trivial and a somewhat parochial middle-class issue when compared to the piece on teenage drug addicts the night before which was, in my view, as damning a judgement on Britain today as I have come across.
I agree with those that think traditional gender roles work best, and that the right way to go is to revalue those roles and give them the equal importance they deserve - because they really are equally important. I'm sure that a great many of the problems with youth in England today are due to inadequate family care from parents who simply don't have the time because they are both working.
Rita Kitto, Geneva, Switzerland
Women have always been treated unfairly in society, not receiving the same pay as men, constantly been seen as sex objects in advertising, not receiving justice in rape cases, and some have to deal with domestic violence. After women reach a certain age they're considered unattractive and rejected in society, whereas men are seen as improving with age. Men have it very easy, so they really shouldn't be complaining about equality; women should be the ones complaining!
Magda Jones, London
I believe in equality of the sexes. That is equality for both sexes. Why are men sexist for insulting women but it is not sexist the other way round?
Christopher Ward, Horsham
Not sure it's only the "sex war". The male role is to protect their family - taking this away and giving it to the police who then do not fulfil it (insufficient manpower and over liberal law) is very frustrating for the male. He's prohibited from doing a job he can do and which needs doing. Also mass immigration. It's men's job to defend territory from invasion, and again this has been thwarted in recent years.
Steve Bryan, Cambridge
Are men redundant? To find out, perhaps we should commission a programme called "when the men stopped composing, painting, writing, building, inventing, discovering..." and then see what we're left with? The world as it exists is almost entirely a male construct. Almost everything we touch has been created by a man, and the world as we know it would shut down if the male gender decided to take extended leave. Women now have the freedom to see if they can achieve the same level of creativity and excellence. Until they do, perhaps the reports or men's demise are a little premature?
I believe there is an increased burden of hormones being added to the environment that are altering our gender and attitudes. There does not seem to be any way of removing them once released as added, say, to water they are absorbed by plants and animals and presumably remain in dust? Regards from Mike (putting on weight nicely round my legs and "chest" after drinking a glass or two of hormone polluted water).
Mike Burberry, Oxford
I think that programmes such as "Bring Your Husbands to Heel" will largely be taken as a bit of a joke. I do feel, however, that in the case of soaps and TV dramas, there has recently emerged a trend of insidiously demonising men. We continually see and hear women vociferously berating husbands and boyfriends for their thoughtlessness or stupidity. Whether intentional or not, I feel that this kind of imbalance, in whatever form, can only have an adverse affect.
Paul Stone, Bexley, Kent
Having six sisters and being 23 years old, I am one of the men affected by the changes in attitude over the last few decades. There seems a general feeling that women are superior, displayed and endorsed in most areas of modern-day life. In particular the commercial world promotes this, continually putting men down as the butt of jokes in TV commercials and displaying a continual drive that women are always right. These may seem harmless examples and promote a sense of justice for women who remember the sexist and archaic attitudes of decades past, but for men my age who have known nothing but this kind of gender-bashing against them, we grow up believing what is promoted, and a sense of collective inferiority is inevitable. Women today need to note that men, particularly of my generation, have noticed the inequality of the past and have changed so as not to repeat those mistakes, however this is useless if many women decide to repeat such mistakes instead.
The differences between the sexes should be celebrated but traditional gender roles are there for a purpose. Traditionally, the man, as the main breadwinner, provides for the family. The woman has the different but equally important role of raising children and managing the home. This of course is seen as a huge generalisation in today's society. Many minority groups will throw up their arms on hearing this, citing numerous individual examples that do not conform. However, the fact is that behind closed doors, most of us, let's face it, agree with these traditional roles in principle. Not perfect, but the best we have. Unfortunately, the media cannot help themselves in challenging a perfectly good formula in search of a story. As such, we constantly hear about men becoming outpaced by women in all areas and rapidly losing their purpose - "only fit for sperm donation". For the modern day chav reared on reality TV shows, this new threat sounds real and exciting. The media, once again, set the agenda and tell us what we should think.
R Smith, London
If you look at dating websites, many women still want men who are tall and many women say they will not date a man shorter than them. "Must be tall because I'm tall and like to wear my heels," and "Must be taller than me in my heels". Many women are unable to think independently of their height and care about how they are seen by society. Many women choose men on how he will make her look when he is on her arm. When you challenge women on this, they say they want a man to make them feel feminine and protected. "Tall, dark and handsome," "a real man" and "I go for rugby players," is still common on websites. I read in the "Writers Bureau" romance chapter that Mills and Boon is still read by many women and the leading man is tall and slightly older than the woman, who is slim and pretty. This could be one reason why men have rebelled against feminism, because so many women are not feminists.
Sean Appleby, Reading
Equality? It never happened. The pendulum has swung the other way and now men are denigrated in the work place, in advertising, in drama and in law. This new sexism is not being questioned, in part I suspect because of guilt imposed on men from the previous situation. What is happening seems to be a vindictive revenge rather than a pursuit for genuine equality, and it doesn't even seem to be making women that much happier. Its time men woke up.
Davide Simonetti, London
I agree with Michael Buerk; men are not sure how they are meant to behave any more. At the end of the day I believe it is the children who will suffer the most. Schools have after school clubs from eight until six (these hours are the same as full-time adults working). Family life is becoming a thing of the past, it is sad and I know that some people don't have a choice but there is a feeling that women should be out working even when they have young children like myself. I get the question all the time, "when are you going to go back to work?" I have so much to do in the house and with the children, that question seems so ridiculous but that is now the society we live in.
Jane Graham, Epsom, Surrey
Are we fair to men? No, I don't think we are. It starts from a very young age because there are not enough male teachers to teach boys at school and provide good role models. Too many women teachers are nervous of boys. We lose out by ridiculing men - I feel really sorry for today's young women who seem to want to do it all themselves.
Gill Saunders, Cardiff
It's certainly important to get a sense of perspective: men still dominate at the top of British professions and Michael Buerk's objections seem overzealous on that basis. There is a double standard in public discourse, however, that undoubtedly falls heavily in favour of women. The point, perhaps, is that flippant jibes made about gender stereotypes are part and parcel of good humour - but only when it works both ways.
Men and women are equal and have different roles. Women are often belittled in encouraging them to dress inappropriately and are encouraged to abandon husband and children and work for long hours outside the home when this really is not the role of a wife and mother. If women say high costs force them to do this, perhaps instead of spending money on others looking after women's children, the government would be better served by giving tax credits for mothers to bring up their own children.
Ellen Quartey-Papafio, London
The feature on women and men was another example of the growing differences between the two sexes. Joan Smith could not seem to recognise that men have suffered and continue to suffer. She displayed a remarkable lack of empathy. It seems the sexes are swapping their roles, women are becoming harsher and men more balanced.
I feel men need a gender specific body akin to the Fawcett society to investigate and highlight their discrimination. Whilst current figures may show male dominance in more powerful jobs - this will gradually become historical. The past decade of male educational under-achievement surely highlights a significant issue for the future that needs to be tackled today?
Nicholas Burnett, London
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