It’s that time of year when people get struck down with colds and flu viruses. Well, here in the northern hemisphere anyway – to be honest I don’t know if the same thing happens in the south or not.
In much the same way that we can predict wave after wave of low level illness in November, the same words and phrases come round too. One of my pet hates… man flu.
Used to refer to a man over-egging his illness, blowing a minor cold out of all proportion, man flu has become a two word put down, a latter-day four white feathers and a derisory way of comparing men’s frailty with women’s fortitude.
I don’t buy it. I don’t think it’s funny. Instead I think it stands in the way of sustainable, systemic gender equality. And while I can’t comment for you, I would rather live in a more equal society than continuing to enjoy a lot of unfunny banter.
Consider, if you will, a single male parent. A man bringing up his child or children alone, maybe because of the death, desertion or divorce of his female partner. Let’s assume that, like most single parents, he takes his responsibilities seriously.
If he gets a cold, do we think he succumbs to the stereotype of the man flu afflicted male, retiring to his sick bed and letting the world go on without his direct intervention..?
If there’s no one else around to help out with his familial duties the chances are he won’t. Unless he’s desperately ill.
So much for man flu. How could a man resist giving into man flu if he was ill?
I suspect I have just proved it doesn’t exist, thanks to the power of an anecdote.
Who does succumb then?
Single men? Men with no responsibilities? Men with partners who will look after them?
Well, if it’s the first two groups who cares? Whatever peace they make with their employers while off sick is their affair.
If the latter, maybe the fault (or do I mean cause) lies with the intervention of their – usually female – partner.
I find it hard to believe that in any household where the division of chores is more equal it is acceptable for one partner to flake out at the drop of a kleenex. More likely, surely, that there’s a desire not to let the side down, coupled with a recognition that everyone shoulders the burden that little bit more in the event of the other needing a bit of a breather for whatever reason.
We’ll never raise a more egalitarian male generation if we keep giving into lazy stereotypes and generalisations.
Equality, a bit like charity, begins at home.