A “GOOD bloke” – we’ve all met him. Maybe you’re him?
The salt-of-the-earth kind of man who is fair, funny, a bit of a larrikin, easy going but successful. A relatable “bloke”, liked by colleagues and mates, who would give you the shirt off his back.
It’s good to be a good bloke, don’t get me wrong. It’s a badge of honour that recognises men for being good and doing good deeds, but funnily enough I have never heard of a woman being called a “good sheila” in quite the same way.
There’s just not an equivalent title for women. I suppose being beautiful or nice can give women some extra social currency, but it’s not the same stamp of approval as being a “good bloke”. And being nice tends to be a double-edged sword.
My friend, who is cutting her corporate teeth in a New York posting at one of the Big Four accounting firms, has been told that she’s “too nice” by her male colleagues. It’s certainly not a compliment and my friend is certainly not a pushover. Women are expected to be nice but not “too” nice as they won’t be taken seriously.
But it’s when being a good bloke allows men to get a free pass on behaviour, actions and words towards women – that’s when being a good bloke just doesn’t cut it for me.
And I’m not just talking about the horrific acts of violence and abuse that are perpetrated where time and again the “good-bloke” defence comes up to support them and in some cases helps to get them off the hook. This is indeed a terrible reality.
The less extreme, more everyday examples have recently tested my definition of a good bloke. Can the criteria change as we grow older? For example, are you still a good bloke if you have always been such a fun friend to hang around when you were in your twenties, but in your thirties have proved to be an emotionally and responsibly absent husband and father? Do the good bloke’s fun, boys’ weekends away still seem like a great idea when his wife is stuck at home with two tiny children?
Recently, I kept standing up for a male friend, in disbelief that his good-bloke status was becoming shaky. I even caught myself say: “But he’s a good bloke”. Just the once. That was the moment I realised that I was using the very same “good-bloke” defence that I have found so appalling.
Time for a rethink on the good-bloke definition to include being a good partner and father as well, I think.