Handbook

How can the Ofqual revival justify its anti-men manual?

You know what would be really useful right now? An anti-men dictionary. A lexicon of misandrist terms that would deepen low-level antagonisms between the sexes, stoke petty grudges, and above all create division. Because with all this tolerance, this harmony and this good will, we could be satisfied with it a little.

Fortunately, help is at hand. Ofqual – the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation – has designed an internal handbook for its staff which is filled with useful terms such as “hepeating”, which is the hot new offense in an office landscape already littered with minefields. “Hepeating” is “a situation where a man repeats a woman’s comments or ideas and then is praised for them as if they were his own”.

I haven’t picked up a copy of the 28-page book yet, but I guess it shows up in the “Don’ts if you want to avoid public eggs” section. This is sure to be one of the many listed male microaggressions plaguing the workplace right now. It doesn’t matter that no one goes to the workplace anymore. They’re all WFH (wandering and donut at home): as Boris Johnson puts it, spending “an awful lot of time making another cup of coffee” before “walking very slowly to the fridge” and “cutting off a little piece of cheese” . I know this is an accurate description because I have worked from home for years and as a result have caffeine levels in my blood that approach hospital level. I was also forced to ban cheese from the house.

Then again, at least men are less likely to nick our ideas at home. At least they aren’t constantly “manterrupting” us, “bropropriating” (a variant of “hepeating,” “where a man deliberately steals a woman’s thunder”), engaging in “manologues (“when a man speaks at length in meetings or on a panel, thus silencing female colleagues”) and “mansplaining” (“explaining something to a woman unnecessarily, in an authoritarian or condescending manner”). So perhaps the safest place for men is to stand in front of an open fridge, micro-aggressing a piece of Gruyere.

You will have noticed a trend here: this sly masculine prefix. Apparently “hepeating” was coined by friends of American astronomer and professor Nicole Gugliucci, whose definition tweeted in 2017 went viral. But the practice of turning portmanteau words into derogatory terms for types of men and masculine behaviors has been going on for decades.

The “mansplaining” all started in 2008, when part of an essay by American writer Rebecca Solnit titled “Men Explain Things to Me” appeared in the Los Angeles Times. In it, Solnit described the time a man explained a book to her without acknowledging that she had actually written it.

It must have been infuriating indeed. I have been ostracized, neglected and frequented by male co-workers and bosses throughout my working life.

I also had women do the same thing. And just for a second, imagine the fury if a glossary containing misogynistic words were sent to public servants – or any workplace. If women were asked to avoid ‘shenagging’, ‘hercomplaining’, ‘shebabbling’ (the female tendency to blaspheme again and again). If, like “mansplaining” in 2018, “herhysteria” was one of the new additions to the Oxford English Dictionary.

Ask any woman why calling us “hysterical” is punishable by death and she’ll tell you that in addition to discrediting our views and being a lazy stereotype, it’s also outrageously, grossly reductive. As opposed to “repeat”?

I realize that men have about 200,000 years of repairs to make, but will compiling a Dictionary of Misandry compensate us for past injustices and repair current cracks? Putting yourself in another’s shoes, regardless of gender, is always a good idea, and small slights can add up to big injustices, so it’s a good idea to bring them to this that time. Because there will be men (and women) who have a light bulb moment: “Actually, I do this. Maybe I won’t from now on. But when you assume that as a man you will be guilty of common male micro-crimes, you are only fostering acrimony where perhaps there was none before.

Men and women need each other, don’t they? And despite the current narrative, we still enjoy each other’s company? I mean we continue to befriend, fall in love and get married. But spend enough time with any other person and you’ll find some features annoying – because they’re “other”.

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that if we lock down and isolate ourselves, we don’t thrive: we waste away. And when a younger friend asked me the other day why I “keep talking about awakening”, I explained that beyond an attack on free speech, I saw it as a direct threat to human relationships – personal and professional.