Building new men

Builders' wolf whistling is something that should be taken very seriously - after all, how else will women know whether they're looking good?

Ray Crowley

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Topics Politics

You’ve heard of ‘new man’ – now we have ‘new builder’.

This week, building firm Amec introduced a dress code for its workers, in an attempt to do away with visible beer bellies and butt-cleavages – so even in the summer months, poor brickies will have to wear long-sleeved tops and trousers. Even worse, they will be reprimanded for naughty behaviour such as wolf whistling – what a bummer.

Builders’ wolf whistling is something that should be taken very seriously – after all, how will women know whether they’re looking good without the ‘builders’ response’ to go by? When I was at school there was a road that was always lined with scaffolding, and we girls knew that if you didn’t get at least two whistles on the way to school you should probably go home and change. A friend once noticed that she was getting an unusually high number of approving whistles, and realised it was because she had forgotten to put her skirt on. The builders’ response saved her from the embarrassment of arriving at school half-dressed.

As a young woman who sometimes has to walk past building sites, I don’t feel I need to be protected from construction workers. For God’s sake, I was a builder once (though not topless, I hasten to add), and it was hard graft – and it would probably have been harder graft if I had been told what I should wear and how I should behave, as if I were some kind of public eyesore.

It is not just builders who are being encouraged to be less blokey. Also this week, teenage lads were applauded for getting in touch with their feelings by writing to online agony aunts (when they should have been doing things like playing football) – with both BBC Online and the Channel 4 website congratulating themselves for the high number of young men who had emailed their youth counsellors. BBC Online even wheeled in Britney Spears to answer kids’ queries and make ‘agony a bit more current and relevant’.

Why can’t they leave teenage boys (and girls) alone to pick their acne, and stop expecting them to be life-threateningly miserable and angst-ridden all the time? Before long, instead of being the odd one out in class because you like Korn while all your friends like Eminem, you’ll be an outcast because all your mates are in counselling and you aren’t.

As for the agony phenomenon, I remember me and my girly mates reading problem pages in maths lessons for a bit of a giggle (who could ever forget J17’s ‘I rub myself with my teddybear’ letter?) – and then writing some in on behalf of our enemies: ‘Dear Aunty Blah, I just can’t help it, I am so annoying and sad, all my friends hate me, and I am very ugly – what can I do?’. Why should boys take problem pages seriously? Us girls never did.

So either blokes lead a normal life by going to the pub, liking sport and disliking housework (like many women do), and are labelled sexist pigs – or they cover their hairy arse-cracks and ask ‘dear Agony Uncle, will it make me go blind?’, and are labelled ‘new men’. I know which I’d rather hang out with.

Read on:

Top men and bad lads, by Brendan O’Neill

Men will be…boys, by Jennie Bristow

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Topics Politics

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