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Column Why does our TV portray men as helpless fools? Come on…

The parade of hopeless males on our screens isn’t just unfair – it’s patronising women, writes comedian Eleanor Tiernan.

THE WOMEN’S MOVEMENT has loads left to do.

We never see a man being told off if his physical urges get in the way of his business decisions. Yet women are still routinely judged unstable if their emotions affect their judgement! There’s still plenty of ground to be covered, a balance between home and career to be struck, double standards in the workplace, language difficulties and sometimes men make fun of women for just… well… being women. That’s not nice.

It’s not what this piece is about though. This is a piece about sexism against men. Yes, it exists and yes, we should take it seriously. Maybe you think I am joking? I understand. It’s not something people write about often. But maybe that’s because what I am about to describe is a bit subtle or easy to miss.

It’s where you’ll be watching television and see an ad, maybe, where a woman is rolling her eyes up to heaven at how stupid her husband is; or how he never listens to her; or he won’t ask for directions. When you look at them closely, the vast majority of ads depicting heterosexual couples on TV seem to be trying to make the point that women are superior to men.

Oh look! He’s tried to put together some flatpack furniture without reading the instructions and my, what a mess he has made of it. What’s this? Two women, smothered with colds but unable to rest on their busy days meet in the street and drop into the conversation that both of their husbands are at home in bed sick. Those lazy husbands who go to bed if they are sick. The weaklings.

He’s so thick

Oh now look! It’s Christmas time and a lady is dropping hints to her husband about they present she would like, and he’s so thick he doesn’t get it. What an idiot he is! I used to like that Here Come The Girls tune too, before it became the nauseating anthem for materialism and superficiality. Here come the girls indeed! Where are the women?

It’s confusing. For so long women were thought of as second class citizens and in so many ways we still are being treated as such. But now we see company after company intent on asserting, through advertising or saccharine plotlines on TV shows, women’s status as the superior sex. Are they correct? Are women really always right and men wrong? Are we better than men? Perhaps for all of these years feminism has been setting its’ sights too low. For years women have been fighting for equality. Were we wrong? Should we have been fighting for superiority all along?

But we’re not… are we? Women are not superior to men. Women are equal to men. So why would advertisers relentlessly pitting the genders against each other if it’s not true?They must have our best interests at heart, mustn’t they? They wouldn’t do anything to hurt us… Or could the reason that so many companies target women in their advertising be that research shows that in the majority of households, the purchasing decisions are made by women? These companies believe that by elevating the status of women above men, we will be so flattered that we will rush out and buy their cleaning product or yoghurt or cereal?

How patronising is that? That is how little they think of women – we are so desperate for a compliment that when we get one, we’ll feel so indebted to the company who paid it that we’ll immediately rush out and buy our toiletries in their shop? Advertisers: listen very carefully. Women do not need you to confirm their intelligence for them. We already know we are intelligent. Please stop this immediately.

Love hurts

And worse, that we would delight in undermining men in the process. Many women have a justified anger with men. Some men are arseholes. But some women are arseholes too. Love is not for the faint-hearted. Those brave enough to play the game inevitably run the risk of having their hearts broken. In the straight world, men and women each wield a power over the other that makes us vulnerable. Naturally, we want to remove this power. But the result of this is a shutting down of our souls, the part of us that is spiritual. Pitting the genders against each other will not bring is closer to enlightenment.

Most men don’t seem to be too upset about this. There haven’t been any men’s rights marches yet. Is that surprising? It took woman thousands of years to ask for equality. Complaining takes courage and requires a dismissal of the person’s gender stereotype.

But if it’s a men’s issue, why should women care? Well, even if you don’t care for men’s sake, women should care for our own sake. Because every time an ad shows a woman undermining a man unfairly, an ugly superior judgmental tone is assigned to women that is unfair to us. It is sexism. We aren’t like that. We are as capable of acting like idiots as any man.

In the interest of feminism, why don’t we women take a stand against the advertising trend of portraying men as hapless and woman as condescending? Take note, advertisers: If you undermine men in your marketing, do not pretend to be doing it on my behalf. I will delete you from my shopping list with the ruthlessness of a cold-hearted Wall Street broker.

Eleanor Tiernan is a comedian. She will appear at the Vodafone Comedy Festival in Dublin’s Iveagh Gardens this Thursday, July 26 along with Foil, Arms & Hog and A Betrayal of Penguins, before performing in a run of solo shows at the Edinburgh Fringe.

You can follow Eleanor on Facebook or Twitter.

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