the other night me and special k got into one of those arguments. You know, the ones about gender that neither of you can win, that hit a deep, defensive, emotional vein that almost has nothing to do with you at all. I pointed out that the statistics about what women earn and the kinds of positions they hold in organisations is mirrored in miniature in his shop. He quoted “What are little girls made of? Sugar and spice and all things nice. What are little boys made of? Frogs and snails and puppy-dogs tails” at me.
It didn’t seem to be going anywhere very good, and it seemed to be going there very fast. And then I realised there was something I’d never told him.
“You know what I love about romance novels?” I said. “Yes, they’re about women and what women can do, and want for themselves. But they absolutely adore men. They fight for what men can expect, who they can be without reprimand. You’ll often see a heroine manipulating her way around a hero, until the hero says Look at what you’re doing. That’s not okay.”
He was surprised. It brought the “discussion” to a friendly close.
There is a fine line here, between a father-figure man who is reprimanding a woman for acting outside of her role, and one human being calling another to account. But of course there’s a line. This is how real human relationships operate as well – in a series of contexts that we are reinventing all the time.