The TV host’s comments about Daniel Craig were pathetic – but they show that the world still polices what it means to be a man, says Stylist’s editor-at-large Alix Walker.
According to Piers Morgan, men should not wear their babies in a baby carrier. In his mind (a place I’d happily never enter – so dark and Daily Mail), a man who chooses to actually carry his own child in a device designed for this very purpose is being “emasculated”. His latest attack is on Daniel Craig, tweeting “007… Oh not you as well?!!! #papoose #emasculatedBond”, alongside a picture of Craig carrying his newborn daughter in a baby carrier.
Obviously this is a purposely antagonistic comment from a man whose job is to rile people up; to say the unsayable; to play devil’s advocate; to be politically incorrect about everything and everyone in the hope that he’ll grab column inches and therefore keep a job. It’s “banter”, of the sort beloved of a certain type of man: those who boast about “never changing a nappy” and “staying away from the business end” during the birth of their children, all the while grilling hunks of meat on a giant BBQ that they had to ask their wives to light.
Reassuringly, thousands of men have replied with pictures of themselves carrying a child in a baby carrier to illustrate they don’t feel remotely “emasculated” by transporting or comforting or caring for their child in a more convenient way, possibly because they have many things to with their hands as parents.
High profile men such as actor Chris Evans have made their feelings on his sexist comments known, too. The star of Captain America: The First Avenger tweeted: “You really have to be so uncertain of your own masculinity to concern yourself with how another man carries his child. Any man who wastes time quantifying masculinity is terrified on the inside.”
So, what does it matter? Piers may have been put in his place on this one (not that it’ll bother him) but these silly, tongue-in-cheek attacks on masculinity do matter. The throwaway “man up” when someone behaves in a way that’s not perceived as masculine, the banter about real men and drinking ability or sporting ability or BBQ-ing ability, the little digs in the pub all contribute to a world where men’s “masculinity” is questioned every day.
Parenting in particular is loaded with this kind of thing. People still use the godawful term “daddy daycare” when a man is looking after his OWN CHILD, as though we’ll feel more comfortable with it if we view it as a jaunty day out – complete with daft name – rather than a full time role. But, of course, it’s everywhere.
Do you think taking out the rubbish is a man’s job? Do you turn to him to lift the heavy box? Should he know how to fix the dishwasher? Provide? You might not think so, at least not consciously, but society still does and tells him so every day. And many men think they should too. There are so many subtle undercurrents of what constitutes being masculine – strong, capable with hands, able to fix – and they are still there, whether we like it or not.
And it’s those little digs, the throwaway comments that we should laugh off – this is just Piers Morgan, after all – that linger when a man is considering whether to ask his boss for extended paternity leave (his absolute right), or to open up about his feelings or to say he’s struggling with mental health. Is it masculine to be vulnerable? Is it masculine to be a carer? Is it masculine to wear a baby carrier and look after your child?
So I feel sorry for men, for teenage boys and my five-year-old son who wore a pink T-shirt to school and got told by his friend that “boys don’t wear pink”. Of course women still have the far bigger fight when it comes to breaking down gender stereotypes. But it’s worth remembering that men are fighting them too.
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