I stepped out of a door just as she did, and walked in the same direction. She started walking faster. I was just behind her through the same thread of narrow back-streets. Something in her step showed measured alarm. A man was following her – purely by coincidence as it was my usual route to the station, but she could not know that. I dropped back as far as my frame allows (I am incapable of walking slowly).
As we both approached the main, crowded thoroughfare, she crossed the road and turned off and I could break away.
I have walked that route many times, so why was my progress defined by the fears of another?
If ever I comfort myself that men and women have reached equality, these little incidents come to mind. If a woman follows my way behind me it is of no import and I would not even notice, but if she is in front of me, she is alert to the position and feels a threat, even though there is none in reality, and I am alert to the impression it may give. A lamb may follow a wolf, but a wolf behind a lamb is very different. I am a man, the predator. I am taller, physically stronger, more naturally aggressive. I have never known what it is to live in fear of the step behind me.
There is no ‘#MeToo‘ movement for men, protesting against unwanted overtures from women – it can be brushed off as somewhat embarrassing, but not an invasive threat. It is not the same the other way round.
Today we plead for equality between the two sexes; I certainly do. However this disjunction is there, and in those societies which have achieved most equality, the behavioural difference between the sexes has increased.
From time to time things have stopped my comfortable ideas in my tracks. I can walk through dark alleys or parks at night and past huddles of boisterous youth with not a flicker, and often do. A woman would not. She should be able to – she should be able to walk in safety and assurance wherever she pleases – but it does not happen like that. I have seen a woman I had hardly noticed ahead of me in an alley flee in panic simply because a man was behind her, and that in the heart of a most respectable part of town. I want to say there is equality of opportunity, but I can walk where a woman will not.
I generalise too much and there will be many a woman who will tell me they have no fears walking in dark places, but if I have to generalise I will repeat my observations as the general rule.
I really wish it were not so – that all women could walk boldly anywhere without fear. Equality is real and must be fundamental to the relationship of one to the other, and differences across the population are far greater than the statistical differences between the average man and the average woman. That dark alley though looks different through different eyes.
What then is a man to do in his position? He could bundle up his physical strength and emotional detachment and abuse them to harm those weaker than himself, and the worst crime we know is for a man to abuse those under his protection – his wife or other woman, or children. There are instead duties which come with strength, and we all know them. This means living up to what is expected of a man (which may be why differences between the sexes increase when the outward signs decrease).
What a fearsome position it is though, living up to all those expectations, with unattainable role models around us and throughout our literature. The best will seek to emulate and be the best they can. Others, for there is a wide variety in humanity, feel they are incapable. Some may hide. Some may even pretend they are not men at all in order to escape those fearsome expectations, which I think is to misunderstand them. It is tough, and no man can be perfect. The effort though, that is the thing.
- Family, faith, flag, freedom
- Surrendering on the playing fields of Eton
- Liberals, conservatives and the Jordan Peterson thesis
- The Noble Savage, Caliban and Hobbes
- Caliban the wild man
- The grossest abuses of power
- By Jordan B Peterson:
- The Demon in Democracy: Totalitarian Temptations in Free Societies by Ryszard Legutko
- By Thomas Hobbes:
- By Anthony Burgess: