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Posts Tagged ‘pecking orders

Masculine cultures are not about ‘guys’ – they are about force

Yesterday, I heard two female politicians bickering on BBC Radio 4 – talking over each other as the male moderator said amiably. A tedious, wearisome listen.

This ‘spectacle’ (what is the auditory equivalent?) neatly illustrates the point that masculine cultures are not to do with ‘guys’.  Masculine cultures are to do with the currency of force.

Britain’s masculine culture

Britain has long had a masculine culture.  Though smooth and very often, very witty, British culture is not so much controlled as controlling. When it is relaxed and funny, as it often is on BBC Radio 4, it is also complacent.   The funny people live in the certain knowledge that their status in the world is not being challenged, let alone threatened.

Watch how they react if they have to account for themselves! That is the test of a culture.  How do we respond to the huge variety of visions in the world – and our need to fit our visions into the visions of others?  What do we do when people long-ignored want room to pursue their visions?

Sadly, we often move to defend “our right” to live as a law unto ourselves.  We often demand that the newly-enfranchised make room for us, even though we have never made room for them, and certainly don’t intend to start now.

Britain’s masculine culture in the literature and film

The masculine culture of Britain is an old story and is often told in literature and film.   For utter complacency, read P.G. Woodehouse and the relationship between Bertie and his butler Jeeves.  For the ongoing struggle, read Rumpole stories and his manouvering around institutionalized class in the legal system.

And for an alternative to a ‘masculine culture’, find yourself a copy of Goodbye Mr Chips -the old musical or the modern version with Martin Clues – both are great.  Settle down for a charming 1.5 hours and the better possibilities a feminine culture.

I am so glad to be living in the 21st century!

What a relief!   Not least for guys who must be heartily sick of the pushing-and-shoving they have been required to endure.

In the 21st century, our currency will be less of force and more of visions.

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Sociologists sometimes write of a masculine culture. Hofstede writes of masculine and feminine cultures.

The ‘prep’ scene in Goodbye Mr Chips illustrates this point. A pupil slams down a books while Mr Chips’ back is turned. This pupil has already challenged Mr Chips successfully on two occasions: mimicking his walk behind his back and disrupting his class spectacularly.

At first, Mr Chips does not know who is making the noise. He cunningly uses the glass of a large picture as a mirror and calls on the boy without giving away how he knows who is the culprit. Then luck would have it that the boy’s name is “collie” and he is able to humiliate the boy by suggesting that is the name of a dog. And so it goes on.

This is a masculine culture. It is based on pecking order, domination and humiliation.

We aren’t being rude about guys. Why should you put up with it either? The story line in Goodbye Mr Chips is that guys were challenging this way of life in 1910, one hundred years ago.

The alternative

If you want the alternative, look at the scene where Mrs Chips challenges the headmaster. The challenge is based on reason, persuasion, and persistence. Not domination and subjugation. The headmaster deftly avoids the challenge. He rejects an unfamiliar idea, which would be alright in its own terms. He rejects it, though, to restore his domination. Later, in the dance scene, being a wise man, he concedes the validity of the new idea (and validates it by including it in the hierarchy!)

Does life has to be a series of battles? Can we not trade visions? Can we not have Eureka moments when we learn something unexpected? Can we not do the equivalent of come up to a crest of a hill and be amazed by the vista in from of us?

If the 21st century will be about anything, it will be about a currency of visions rather than the currency of force.


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