A 21st century tale
By Eve’s Rib
2: BRAVE NEW WORLD
“I’d love to get out of it, Trig, but the problem is, the arguments are on her side. I’m at home all day and Gina works. I mean, why shouldn’t I do the housework?”
“Men are finished,” Trigger brooded. “We’re on the scrap-heap. Not long ago they were saying the future was female. Now the future’s bloody here.” He hung his long, scraggy head over his beer and revolved the glass in his large hand.
“You’re always going on about this, Trig...”
“Open your eyes, mate! They’re taking over. Well over half the MPs are women now and they say it’s going to be even more next election. A lot more. Look at the graduates — two thirds women. All the new doctors and lawyers and bosses — women. Your Gina’s a typical example. Women get promoted and men aren’t even considered. And it gets worse every year. We’re becoming the second sex, Leo! And it’s not us what’s hit worst, it’s the young lads. My Donny — my own son, Leo — is growing up thinking that girls are better than he is.”
Leo shook his head, gripping his pint. The Cock and Maid was another of his refuges. He knew it even down to the swirls on the worn red carpet. He liked it best now in its midday stillness, when the barman leaned lazily against the till, and the street was so quiet you could hear the birds chirping in the lindens outside.
“Last time Linda let me go round and visit,” Trigger went on, his voice dropping to new depths of gloominess, “my Donny was getting ready to go out with his girlfriend. And he comes downstairs and he’s got a dress on him. A fucking dress, and a pair of tights! I say to him, ‘What the bloody hell have you got on, son?’ He goes red, the poor sod, but Linda lays into me saying he can wear what he likes and how darling he looks. And then this girlfriend turns up, seventeen years old and bold as brass, saying she’s come to pick up our Donny. She’s on the doorstep in her shirt and pressed trousers with her car outside, picking him up. And he runs to her, never mind me, never mind his own dad. The world’s gone mad. Look — look at those two!”
A girl and boy were walking past the pub window. The girl was wearing a tight sweater and jeans; the boy was wearing a white halter top and a short corduroy skirt with buttons down the front. He was clinging to the girl’s arm, chattering into her ear while she listened with patient self-composure.
Then the door banged and a couple of blokes in denim jeans came in, roaring with laughter. They leaned on the bar and ordered a couple of beers. One of them discussing the football match that was showing silently on the sports screen mounted on the wall. Nothing really changed.
“Dresses for boys is a fad, mate,” said Leo, waving his hand. “You don’t reckon that boys are going to swish about in skirts all the time, do you? It’ll blow over. It’s just not such a taboo any more. Women are more equal nowadays.”
“More equal?” demanded Trigger. “They’re not equal, mate, they’ve bloody taken over. Take a look at the high street and you tell me how many girls you see in a dress, ‘cause it’s not them that’s wearing them now, it’s us. The only frocks that are coming out now are in the boys’ section!”
Poor old Trigger. Used to have a steady job in the car factory till they shut it down. Now he can’t see his own son unless his wife gives him permission, and money’s so short he’s had to sell his car, while his wife’s pulling in thirty-four thou a year. No wonder he’s bitter. He’s got a point, though. Everyone knows this is the ‘female century’. Nowadays there are more househusbands than housewives. Most women earn more than their husbands and expect more money for doing the same job. And every year it goes more and more in the females’ favour.
“You see matriarchists behind every bloody corner, you.”
“These are our sons, Leo, the men of the future, and the girls have got them by their balls. Their motherloving balls. You ain’t got any kids, Leo, so you don’t know, but our schools are a war zone. These modern girls aren’t like the ones we grew up with. These have been raised on so much Girl Power they’ll kick a boy in the bollocks just for bumping into them in the corridor. Shit, I’ve heard all about it. You get gangs of them who’ll push some poor lad into a corner of the yard and tell him to get his prick out for them to take a photo of, and if he doesn’t they bust his goolies for the fun of it. They’ve put boys in their place all right. Look at my Donny’s school. The sixth form president? A girl. The vice-president? Girl. Captain of the chess team, chief of the yearbook, editor of the school magazine? Girls, all fucking girls.”
“I’ve heard all this too, Trig, but you know how these things get sensationalised. Women are being emancipated. Of course they’re getting big jobs. We’re having to share power out. Men still have the balance of power, they say. Still run most businesses.”
“Only just. And what about in ten years? These fucking feminists have got their fingers round our nuts and they’re squeezing. What I’m saying, Leo, is that men have got to stand up for themselves. We have to organise for our rights, like women did last century, you know, the Suffra-wotsits. Otherwise we won’t be talking about women’s equality any more, it’ll be women’s domination, sunshine, and us poor bleeders’ll be keeping house and darning their socks like you’ve started doing.”
Leo shifted uncomfortably in his chair. “I’m not going to stop looking for work, whatever Gina says.”
“That’s my boy.”
“I mean, ColourPrint made me redundant eight months ago. One severance payment in November and I’ve earned nothing since. Gina’s the breadwinner now, and OK, the mortgage is safe — but it rubs me up the wrong way when I take money out the cash machine and I haven’t earned a penny of it.”
“Of course, mate.”
“I’m only thirty-one, but I’ve heard enough stories about men who can’t get a job. Take Gina’s brother, Trig. He’s nearly thirty and still living with his mother. I’ve never been idle like that. This last month or two I’ve hardly sent off any applications, to tell the truth. I’m like a lion in a cage in a zoo, lying about because he’s bored stiff. I should have tried harder. Gina might never have got so extreme if I’d pulled my weight a bit more.”
“So lay down the line, my son! Once you let them castrate you, you’ll never get your balls back.”
Leo didn’t answer. It was hard to explain to Trigger that there was no disputing with Gina when she had made a decision. She was assertive and self-confident, and Leo had always given in to her. That she was the dominant partner had long been silently taken for granted between them.
“It sounds to me like you and I are saying exactly the same thing,” said Trigger. He glanced around with his great bloodshot eyes. “If you’re interested, I’ll let you into a secret.” He took a piece of paper from his pocket and pushed it across the table. It was a printed flyer. “There’s a meeting down the community centre next month. Strictly for men. We’ve been organising on the internet and there’s a huge community of pissed-off blokes out there. If you want to turn the tide then show your face and be counted.”
Leo looked over the flyer. It had been produced by a group called Men Matter, a radical men’s rights group. He’d heard of them before: dressing up in superhero costumes and pulling off stunts like climbing up famous buildings and even abseiling into Parliament. “I’m surprised, Trig. You were never one to get involved in politics.”
“A lion in a cage. That’s good, Leo. Leo the lion, eh? Well I’m Trigger the — the —”
“You got it, mate. Trigger the Tiger. I’ve been through a lot of shit in my life, Leo, as you know better than anyone. I’ve been going down the AA. My son’s been taken off me. I’ve not worked for three years. I’ve not gone through so much shit just to get doors slammed in my face because I’ve got a dick between my legs, you understand me?”
“It’s a bit sad, though, isn’t it, a load of men moaning about being bossed about by their wives...”
“It ain’t fucking sad, mate — it’s the start of the fightback.” Trigger downed his pint in one swallow and sat back with a big grin. “Men are getting wise. I’d like to see the birds’ silly faces when they see us coming.”