Belfast Telegraph

Fionola Meredith: Piers Morgan is wrong, real men carry their babies on their chests with no sense of shame

Presenter peddles a toxic and demeaning myth of masculinity with his jibe at 007 actor Craig, says Fionola Meredith

Who knows what goes on inside TV presenter Piers Morgan's brain? It sounds like it's still the Boy's Own annual from 1955 in there, and not in a good way.

Morgan made headlines this week when he tweeted a picture of James Bond actor Daniel Craig carrying his infant daughter in a baby sling. "Oh 007, not you as well," Morgan moaned, adding the weird hashtags #papoose and #emasculatedBond.

Right, so Morgan's idea of a real man is the entirely fictional sort, swashbuckling all over the place in a well-fitted tuxedo, blitzing baddies with crafty gadgets and guns, then forcefully romancing the ladies into his bed by nightfall.

That's what an authentic male looks like to him it seems.

It definitely can't be a dazed and exhausted-looking dad - Craig is 50 after all, which is old enough to be dealing with the chaotic joys of life with a newborn - wearing glasses and a baseball cap, with his baby strapped to his chest.

No, he's not a proper man. Can't be, according to Morgan's rules. Some emasculating woman, no doubt his wife, must have robbed Craig of his essential manliness by insisting he wears what Morgan, off on some dodgy Native American riff, bizarrely calls a "papoose".

Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of James Bond. I've been reading Ian Fleming's original novels from the 1950s and 1960s over the last few months and they are superbly entertaining. Bond himself is a joy: gruff, heroic, cruel, repressed, endlessly resourceful and, of course, hilariously irresistible to women.

But he's not exactly a role model for the ideal male.

You could dismiss Morgan's ridiculous tweet, and the infuriated reaction to it, as so much celebrity fluff, a wind-up, a row over nothing.

But I think it's worth examining a little more closely, because it reveals a pernicious, old-fashioned belief that lingers in the murkier corners of the public mind: that a father who takes an active role in caring for his own children is less of a man. That he's somehow pathetic, a bit of a joke.

Why? Because he's doing women's work, of course. Next thing he'll be in his pinny in the kitchen cooking up some butterfly cakes for tea.

This is outrageously unfair. It's demeaning to women, because it implies that traditional 'women's work', such as child-rearing, is of inherently less value than any job a man might do. And it's demeaning to men too, because it implies that they are effeminate, unmanly, simply for doing one of the most natural, most important and most rewarding things in the world - being a parent to your offspring.

Regarding parenting as the prime preserve of the mother, her own private domain in which the father can, at best, play a pathetically inept, subsidiary and very unmacho role, is supposed to be one of those ideas that we have consigned to history.

We're so enlightened and gender-aware and open-minded now, aren't we? But like many toxic notions which have apparently been binned, it has a nasty way of hanging around, and holding people back.

The thing I liked most about the Daniel Craig picture was the large, protective hand he laid on the back of his newborn daughter as she slept in her sling. That's a father's hand. It says she's safe, she's secure, nothing can harm her.

This is why witnessing babies carried by their fathers is such a beautiful sight. It's the contrast in size between the big, strapping dads and the tiny, defenceless infants.

Morgan's jibe at Craig is simply another version of the toxic old adage that real men don't cry, that to show emotion is to be like a woman, and thus to show weakness.

The daftest quip of all, which thankfully seems to have at last died out, is that real men don't eat quiche. Presumably because the baked egg tart was regarded as lady-food, a bit like salad, and proper blokes should be devouring steaks so bloody that they're practically still mooing. These absurd scripts do nothing but hold men back. They sell them the myth that to be authentically male they should be repressed and macho and emotionally disconnected. And it's not great for women either, because who wants a partner, or a father for their children, who acts like that?

Carrying your child strapped to your chest is an act of love and pride, not something to be ashamed of, whatever Piers Morgan thinks. Leave him to his sneers and his sad James Bond fantasies.

Belfast Telegraph

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