Following on from Clare’s post about men revelling in a nostalgic brand of misogyny and homophobia, check out this report on how men will live in a world of “women ever more in the driving seat” – except not literally, as robots will take over the actual steering wheel.
If I tell you the first two headings in the report are Manxiety (“For men, the 21st century looks worryingly female”) and Womenomics (“There’s a one in three chance that your boss now is a woman.”), you can see the general tenor.
The report isn’t all bad – the general message is not to fight back against this change, but accept it and get on with riding your mountain bike through a big tube (see below) – but there’s certainly no acknowledgement that men are wildly privileged at the moment or have been in the past – it’s presented as an inevitable power play. Meanwhile, from the images used, the future also looks extremely white.
I couldn’t resist replicating this particular drawing of male-bonding in a future where: “Work and women will affect what sports we play. With more pressure from the ever-more powerful wife or girlfriend and an increasingly hectic and complex work schedule, games that require more time, organisation and people will suffer.”
The section on sport is particularly interesting – the report seems to buy into a gender-segregated (and yet entirely heterosexual) future, where men do sport and women do.. whatever… um, are they at the office? However, it presents stories like this in a neutral or positive light:
‘My father played football every Saturday or every Sunday – and often both – till he was 60,’ says 35-year-old IT consultant Rob Wallman. ‘But now I’ve got two daughters I don’t have time to play at the weekend. I fit in a five-a-side game on a Wednesday evening – as long as I’m not away with work and my wife’s happy to babysit.’
I know this is a report about men, but I think it still makes some worrying assumptions about what are “men’s” activities – for example, this sentence seems to imply that the only thing holding back driverless cars is men’s desire to drive – what about women who like driving!?
One of the major rationales putting the brakes on driverless cars is a belief that men really want to drive their cars.
So, women have increasing ‘power’ in this society; but it’s designed entirely around the needs of men. Right. Equally:
But if we are relying on a robot to drive – what will men do in the back seat.
This isn’t an issue for women?! Or is the implication that the loss of control of the vehicle affects women differently from men? – note the quote I used at the beginning, from elsewhere in the report, where Sure used the “driving seat” metaphor to describe women’s greater role in society.
The report is littered with tidbits like this, describing robots serving drinks in the pub:
Instead of ordering a drink from an attractive barmaid or burly landlord, a multi-sensored robot barman will calculate the optimum drink for your heath and happiness and offer to serve you that.
So… why does the robot have a gender? And why is it male?
Where women are mentioned, there’s plenty of irritating gender stereotyping:
More women in the workplace and increased pressure from globalisation will make it ever more challenging for men to succeed at work. The workplace will become less ‘left-’ and more ‘right-brain oriented’. That is, the traits that come naturally to men – such as logical, analytical and sequential thinking – are being superseded by those that come naturally to women, such as empathy, reasoning holistically, recognising patterns and interpreting emotions.
This report came out at the beginning of May, and I haven’t been able to track down any news stories based on it – but I can’t help but think that it was written with the intent of provoking an outraged response from the right-wing press. Too cynical? Perhaps. Anyway, it needs a bit more feminist analysis of masculinity, a bit less Tomorrow’s World.