My personal story
I: The opinion that you voice now, that you welcome women in sport and that you think they also deserve a place at the top, do you think it is shared by most men in professional high level sports?
R: No, I don't think it is shared generally. I think what is happening, a phenomenon that's happening in Ireland particularly, and I'm not sure because I haven't looked at the rest of Europe, but certainly in Ireland we have a massive divorce and separation rate now, and certainly, and opinion in Ireland is that for most of the men who either become divorced or separated, the legal system in Ireland is very, very strongly in favour, perhaps from a 95% to 5% in favour, that's the perception of men.
I: In favour of women?
R: Yes, in favour of women, you know, in the last 20 to 25 years that has led to, I suppose, a distancing in attitudes of men towards women in Ireland.
I: And in what way it is advantageous towards women?
R: Well, it is not so much that it is... it's a huge advantage, but basically, a men's home - there is a term in Ireland and England and the English speaking countries: 'A man's home is his castle', and I think that stems from the very depths of being a man. Going back to Neanderthal times and indeed the first Homo sapiens were the breadwinner, the provider, and that has been - certainly in Ireland - in the last 10 to 15 years that has been challenged hugely. Many, many men and women have become separated and divorced and, as I said, in a huge percentage of cases the women have ended up with the family home. There would be a typical picture, a virtual picture painted of a guy having to go off and living in flimsy little bedsit and yet he has to put up with that and yet provide for work and still pay the mortgage and the kids maintenance, run the car and try to live a life in a flimsy little bedsit. So that is a picture that is actually painted and the actual, the noticeable emancipation of women over the years has caused in my opinion...
I: Increasing tension...
R: It's caused increasing tension and I think I probably would have witnessed in a couple of scenarios where woman had become over-confident while the emancipation has been a very, very welcome thing. From a male perspective, there are quite a number of males who quite enjoy the equality issue. But I think there is slight leaning now towards an over confidence in women and leading to a more demanding set of, I suppose, procedures or standards from the man. You know, there's many, many guys in the last three to five years in Ireland who have lost their jobs and have lost their dignity and have lost their home through separation. Many, many stories will arise in social conversation about: 'God, I was ok - and this would be a typical statement - I was ok when I was earning the money, and I was working till 8 o'clock at night during the Celtic Tiger (Irish economic boom period) and the boom and I was bringing in all this money, and as soon as I lost my job or I went back to normal time and I could only bring X amount of Euro's in whereas before I had been bringing in double that. And that's where the problem started. When the money went scarce, the love went out the window', that kind of attitude. And I think that is a key issue, particularly in Ireland now and in England it would be pretty much the same because we would have very, very similar mind sets. And I think that is an issue that has to be dealt with societally because the guy, from a men's perspective, the men have to get back to some semblance of: 'Hang on, I'm the power base here, I have strength, I have my male strength and I need to preserve that.' And I think that is important too.
I: So, the economic crisis in Ireland is related to an identity crisis of masculinity because both at the same time there is also a relationship crisis going on with women emancipating.
R: Yes, which is a very interesting sociological thing to try and extract all of those elements. And there is a body of opinion growing in Ireland and in England too, where the separation of family has taken place and the male figure is removed from the male child and women now - certainly now Ireland and it is evidenced right across Ireland - where the role of the male has disappeared, leading to many, many young male children perhaps not getting that balanced input of male and female in their growing process. Particularly in their difficult teenage years. And the formative years, maybe between 9 and 12 years old.
I: So, a lack of male role models.
R: Yes, a lack of male role models. So what you have then is a greater dependency in the likes of school teachers to teach school children a whole set of skill sets that are not available through the normal male-female relationship in the home and also where it is very, very evident: there is an increasing amount of subliminal pressure coming on male coaches in sporting environment where the child kind of - through the absence of a father - or, you know, and they don't see them that much, they only see them once or twice a week, where the coach becomes the central father figure, the male figure. And I think that's throwing up a certain mind set in children and it would be my humble opinion - and I must stress that it is a humble opinion from myself - that I feel that there is a scenario developing in Ireland - I don't know about Europe - but it would probably be in England as well, whereby you'd have a situation whereby peer pressure is gaining, the gang mentality is gaining in popularity. You know, where there is the lack of the father figure in the family unit.
I: So they take peer group members as role models.
R: Yeah and the peer group becomes the dominant factor in the relationship. That's where they will look to the group for guidance and if the group is of a particular mind-set where they want to be anti-social or whatever they want to be. And you have to earn your stripes and, you know, and it is there in young girls as well and you see this herd mentality gathering around Ireland where groups of maybe up to 6 or 8 or 10 young females and groups of males. That's their controlling, that's what they look to. And when you get that peer pressure, it tends to be in defiance of authority figures, the authority figures, the police, the family home, the educational system, you know, and I wonder about these things and I say: 'Why can't they be pro the family in its current existence, why can't they be pro the educational system? 'And say: 'God, isn't it great that we have education?'
I: Look at the opportunities!
R: Yes, when they look at the authoritative policemen that they say: 'God, isn't it great that these guys are there to protect us and look after us! And we're able to hang around the street corner and feel safe! You know, from being attacked by another group.' Again, that's just me throwing a completely different slant on things, sociologically in terms of what... and that stems purely from the change in the position of the male, particularly in Ireland and England. And I don't know what it’s like throughout Europe.
I: Thank you.
Gender did matter