I often wonder if things might have been different had women, not men, controlled the world agenda throughout history. Us men have certainly made a mess of things, or so it appears on the surface. It is claimed women prioritise social interaction and are less task oriented, that’s a generality but my friendships can show this. Would we have been more in tune with each other, empathetic, more flexible, perhaps even more aware of sustainability, protecting rather than exploiting our environments? Or would women like Margaret Thatcher have controlled us, or are these strong female personalities the product of a male dominated world?
From the first, us men were programmed to hunt, which required disciplined focus, abnegation of discomfort and pain, strength, qualities we admire in athletes and soldiers, but which engender competition. Which encourages exploitation, of others, of animals, of natural resources. Dubious? Then look at what’s happened and where we are.
But then how about this. I’m sitting in an ancient High Street coaching inn in a lively little English market town stuffed with ancient buildings. I am surrounded by tables filled with women, twenty three individuals within three metres of me, so close I can’t help but hear what they are talking about. The same things keep rising and fading within each group - fashion, makeup, items in their homes, children, food. I do hear a youngish group of four mention plastic waste, global warming and Trump’s impending visit to the UK, but they flit back and forth to those same topics the others are engaged in. Oh, and snippets about hot relationships dominate the flitting chatter.
As I go to the bar for more coffee, I hear a table of five men talking about sport. on my return they’re discussing war. The next time I pass, it’s cars. I know, it sounds a set-up, but that’s the truth. Near the toilets, three men talk about a holiday destination in great detail. Whilst all the women drink various hot drinks, it is 11am after all, all the men drink beer.
Besides every female table shopping bags reflect the names of shops I can see through the dripping window. Whereas the men, including me, are dressed vaguely OK in slightly crumpled clothes which are not new or fashionable, every woman in this huge, bustling space, even those beyond the immediate groups, is better dressed. Their clothes, coats and shoes are new and fashion trendy, oh, apart from that cool woman on her own reading a novel, hers are vintage charity-shop clothes.
Many years ago as student of geography I was asked to look into High Street business location theory and undertake on-the-ground research. Surprising myself, I discovered that the theory proved correct - the most successful shops were and still are placed where women prefer to walk. Women, I discovered, are the shoppers. My wife and most of our female friends enjoy shopping, whereas most of my men friends, including me, are disinterested in shops. I wear things till they fall apart. My shoes, over fifteen years old, are polished, my five year old jersey is clean though thinning at the elbows, my trousers are on the edge at six years and my scratched shoulder bag dating from about 2002 is still going strong. Though I do have this four year old iPad I’m writing on.
It made me ask if businesses exploit women through clever advertising and enticing shop-fronts or if it is responding to a desire to accumulate inherent in women’s characters, because they naturally want cosy, comfortable homes in which to nurture children? I also wondered if women feel empowered by shopping because men have left them little psychological space?
In my own life, I have spent years trying to redress this by encouraging my wife to control events and situations as much as she wants, for she habitually let’s me drive events and without thinking us men tend to take over, be it in conversation, activities or life directions. Would our little world have been less materialistic had I dominated? Perhaps, but then I am rather spartan and whereas we now need a huge lorry to move our possessions, before our marriage my entire world fitted into my small van.
The perfect human, in my view, would be half woman, part man, an empathetic creature who consumed little because they realised that satisfaction arises more from relationships than buying lovely stuff, pursuing huge projects or dominating others. Such a person would feel at home in their skin, be content to exist, marvel at life as it is, and not wish to ‘improve their world’ too much. A shift form consumer economics to sustainability is needed for us to move forwards as a civilisation, and such change is urgently needed.