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Gender wasn't always on agenda.

Byline: @choochsdad MIKEMILLIGAN It's a funny old world

IN today's gender-fluid environment (givowwer, say the auld radgies our there - that sounds like the cause of a wet patch that neybody'll own up to) the distinction between the genders is challenged by many of today's millennial "snowflake" generation.

Even though I'm not up to speed on all the right-on modern vocabulary, I always will back any attempt to stamp out discrimination of any sort.

You'll find most decent folk round here have always been in favour of giving everyone a fair shot.

Yet, as I look back into to the mists of my 1970s' Gateshead childhood, I genuinely wonder what they'd make of things then. Without doubt, much was patently wrong in those days, and only the sort of wassock who thinks it's OK to hassle waitresses at some chinless do at the Dorchester would argue otherwise.

To start with, the names we gave the trades and service people who came round our estate usually had their gender tagged on the end. It was axiomatic. So, during any normal week you'd expect to see: the postman, the coal man, the electric man, the Rediffusion man, the gas man, the rag man, the insurance man, the rent man, the pop man, the tatie lads, the lollipop woman, the Avon woman and - if you were naughty - the school board man!

The inclusion of gender after the job was automatic and nobody questioned it - indeed, missing the "man" or "woman" out would be like calling your teacher by their first name or having a bus with only its number and ney destination on the front.

Anybody saying they'd just seen the rag person's horse galloping doon Dunston bank cos it had gotten oot would have been stared at like they'd crazily predicted that someday there'd be a Hilton Hotel on Bottle Bank or the Toon would be owned by a Cockney who sold sportswear to people who largely didn't do sports. Back then, the disbelief would stem from the superficial observational truism that everybody knew the rag man was obviously a man. It was a fact! So why not say man? If the rag man had been a lass, she would have been appropriately labelled as such and called the "rag lady".

You knew to pay, complain who things be the gadgie!

On reflection, the deeper socioeconomic and cultural reasons why there weren't any rag ladies in the first place were not being openly questioned by the people who lived in my world. They probably existed in Jesmond bedsits, but I didn't start meeting folk like that 'til I started sixth-form or university.

If David Attenborough had observed this 1970s world of "manmen", he'd notice a hierarchy existed based on the reaction they evoked upon we estate dwellers. At the pinnacle was the much-loved pop man, who, every Friday, pulled up in a flatbed lorry filled with crates of luridly coloured soft drinks by long-disappeared companies such as "Villa". These bottles contained more chemicals, artificial colours and additives than a tin of Dulux gloss - but we loved 'em. Cherry cream soda was my fave - it kept me hyperactively screaming the Star who who to to and put right - it'd same Trek theme for several hours! I could have made a killing selling it at raves 20 years later!

In the middle we had the coal man, the gas man and the electric man, who all predated the faceless utility giants we suffer now. It was beautiful simplicity; you knew who to pay, who to complain to and who would put things right - it'd be the same gadgie!

At the base of this man-person pyramid, however, had to be the rent man. He was in many ways like Dr Who, because whenever he appeared, we all hid behind our settee. I can still recall the effort in stifling our giggles as mam played this brill game of "hidey" with us.

All in all, I'm very proud of the advances in equality society has made since those not so glorious days. I wouldn't want to go back ... well maybe for half an hour every Friday so I could catch the pop man! |Mike is hosting his own comedy club evening at Whickham Glebe Sports Club on Saturday, February 24, featuring Radio Newcastle's Alfie Joey along with Cal Halbert, AKA "The Mimic Men" as seen on Britain's got Talent. Tickets available on the door or from the venue.

was a fact! So the rag she openly based on the upon At the much-who, "You knew who to pay, who to complain to and who would put things right - it'd be the same gadgie!
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jan 30, 2018
Words:776
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