Tough guy fantasies

October 9, 1998

Kingsley Browne ("Glass ceiling, biological floor", THES, October 2) is absolutely correct in saying that there is no "reason" to suppose that women in the past were less enthusiastic about chaps who were successful with bows and arrows than we are supposed to be about dominant, aggressive and competitive men in suits.

There is very little reason in his argument, but rather much nostalgic affection for simple models of social explanation and a never-never land of tough guys with spears.

One of the extraordinary aspects of United States culture is that a nation that gained coherence and identity via the ideas of the European Enlightenment should endlessly want to abandon this history and account for its and its citizens' behaviour in terms of hunting and gathering. Browne, like so many of his compatriots, cannot understand cultural and social diversity and difference.

His account of the social world has the same simplicity as the novels of Barbara Cartland. In this interpretation women are "pre-disposed" to refuse to compete with tall (white) men in expensive tailoring. Apparently corporate cultures of masculinity and conformity have nothing to do with women's exclusion, any more than the absence of childcare or real choices about values and commitments are significant. Browne's book is a useful contribution to material about male fantasy and needs to be read as such.

Mary Evans

Professor of women's studies University of Kent, Canterbury

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