Tuesday, 13 July 2010
The new masculinity
They didn’t have to worry about money, careers, exams and the other burdens carried by the females, only about looking pretty. It was a very new way of behaving but also, provided one could accept one’s inferior status, a rather pleasurable one. And it was heightened by the satisfaction of knowing that one was free of responsibilities, that one would be protected by a strong woman.
By the second half of the 21st century a new generation of young people had polarised decisively. Girls all believed that dresses were strictly for boys and only ever wore bifurcated clothing. They were the dominant sex and they knew it, and they behaved accordingly, being firm, assertive, courageous and ambitious. Boys took it for granted that they belonged in skirts and gradually became shrinking violets quick to submit to a girl’s will. An entire generation of boys was growing up who had never worn a pair of trousers.
The most remarkable trend was probably the ‘pansy’ style for boys. This was a style of extreme ‘boyishness’, exemplified by ringlets, hairbows, full petticoats, handbags in the shapes of hearts, and the deliberate adoption of a coy facial expression and very cutesy, mincing behaviours. The lineage of this trend, which put prettiness on a pedestal, ran all the way back to chocolate-box Victorian girlhood, and was popular with boys who enjoyed the new male stereotype the most intensely.
Of course, the process was not simple. It did not take place at the same speed everywhere in the world. Only a minority of boys chose to become ‘pansies’. Plenty of senior female commentators disapproved of what had been done to boys, as in the famous 2037 article by Times editor Patricia Finch, written even before the phenomenon was fully developed, in which she bemoaned “the shallow, frilly-skirted and air-headed burdens on society that now pass for boys in this country.”
Men and women alike knew that men had once been considered uniquely able to rule, and this knowledge affected the male response to what was happening, adding an ingredient of resentment and humiliation to the mix that caused definite social problems. Precisely to what extent females would dominate males was a question that only history would answer.
But the basic order was very clear. Boys were the new girls. Femininity was the new masculinity. Trouser-wearing females went out to study and work while their dress-wearing males were kept at home. The sexes had swapped places.