• Men and boats

    (Photo by Howard Roark)

    Sailing big yachts around the marinas of the world is almost exclusively the preserve of couples of a certain age. And captaining that yacht is – according to my eagle-eyed research – entirely the preserve of the man.

    It’s the end of another yachting season where I live in Malmö’s Dockan marina. That means a marina that lies dormant half the year has been full of yachts with Danish, German, Dutch and Polish flags.

    The economics and time constraints of this hobby mean that you appear to have to be a 50+ couple to even contemplate it. Almost every boat has aboard a man and a woman enjoying their silver age upon the high seas.

    Ahoy there, captain!

    And as they glide into the marina, without fail it will be the woman that stands at the bow, rope in hand, ready to leap nimbly to dockside like a good first mate and secure the yacht. At the wheel will be the captain. The male captain.

    We all know about male drivers – the propensity of husbands to drive the car. This is the almost unspoken collusion whereby the role of driver and passenger become cemented in a marriage. But this stereotype is no longer an absolute in the automobile.

    Yet in yachting, which is, after all, a higher end of the market, with much bigger, shinier and more expensive vehicles involved, the need/desire/inevitability of the man holding the helm appears unshakable.

    I’m still waiting eagerly for the first time I see a man clutching that bow rope, his wife eyeing the horizon with a steady eye as she nudges the ship’s wheel to port. Still waiting… here’s hoping…

    On the subject of men and women, have you heard about ‘mansplaining’? Let me mansplain…

  • I can explain everything

    (Photo by Dainis Graveris)

    This week, I came across the term ‘mansplaining’ – a great word for that tendency of men to explain things to women, including what women think. 

    An article in Prospect magazine cited Rebecca Solnit as having popularised the term in a 2008 essay about a man she met at a party in Aspen who explained her own book on the Victorian photographer Eadweard Muybridge to her. 

    The notion immediately brought to mind the brilliant ‘Amazing Invisible Woman’ sketch in The Fast Show in which a woman suggests a solution to a practical problem to a group of men (often involving cars or directions). She’s met by silence. Then one of the men repeats her advice word-for-word, and is heard!

    Early years learning

    This tendency isn’t simply the preserve of adult males. We start ‘em young. On repeated viewing of the Netflix series If I were an Animal (a generally brilliant programme, I hasten to add) with my five-year-old son, I began to notice a pattern. 

    The narrators are two children, a slightly older boy and a slightly younger girl, interacting as a brother and sister. They talk about the animals’ lives rather like young David Attenboroughs. But I began to notice that the boy almost always provided the information. 

    The girl would give each animal a name, say ‘awwwh, isn’t she cute?’ a lot, and generally gush and giggle at their antics. She would also ask lots of helpful questions: ‘Why is that snow leopard digging a hole, Tim?’ To which her brother would provide the insightful science. ‘Well, Emma…’

    After reading the Prospect article on Rebecca Solnit, I realised this innocent little dialogue has a name: mansplaining. 

    While we’re talking about little boys, turns out Boys Don’t Like Flowers