Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Male interests

Angela of Angie's Aspirations related the other day how she employed a clever bit of subterfuge to buy an item of model railway signalling from a specialist shop that wouldn't normally be patronised by a woman. It worked brilliantly. Her post was significant enough to feature on T-Central. Quite an honour.

This entire subject area seems under-discussed, so here's my own contribution.

Hobbies and interests that developed in the 'old era' are to be not lightly thrown aside once the female life is adopted. If you honestly have a deep interest in such things as classic muscle cars, diesel engine maintenance, boat-building, creative welding, speedway racing, boxing, shark fishing, stamp collecting, and, yes, railway modelling, then why on earth should you give it up? At least, why should you give it up just because it's generally considered 'ungirly' or 'unwomanly'?

You might with good reason have to stop because it's physically beyond you, but then some hands-on hobbies and interests can still be watched as a spectator, even if you aren't actually an active participator.

All this said, you don't want to send out the wrong messages. It's all very well to point at, say, Vicki Butler-Henderson ( on Channel Five's Fifth Gear and say, there's a lovely girl who likes to drive insanely fast in insanely powerful supercars, and yet she looks fabulous in a miniskirt. If you have the same skills, background, personality, physique and allure, well go ahead by all means; but if you're a dumpy middle-aged mumsy type, I'd be cautious. When your femininity is a trifle wobbly, not 100% established, it might be wise not to attract attention, raise eyebrows, and invite close scrutiny. Unless of course you don't give a damn, in which case, all power to you.

I don't consider that I have any especially eyebrow-raising hobbies and interests. But looking around my study/library/computer room (it's technically my second bedroom) I have to admit that it's stuffed full of books and other things that aren't especially girly.

Some items are of course. The paintings hung up in here depict wildlife subjects - birds and animals - that a woman might go for. And Mum's sewing machine catches the eye. Then there are books on cooking, clothes, gardening, home hints, medical matters, personal safety and knitting. And there are books on calligraphy, shorthand, archaeology, ancient history, architecture, astronomy and several dictionaries and other reference works that a woman of education might possess. And in my lounge is a small library of books on art.

Ah, but what about all those books on railways, clocks and watches, technical aspects of photography, war, espionage, codes and cyphers, crime, business ventures, tales of the sea, ships, cars, caravans, cameras and computers? And while women may like travel books, and books on foreign cultures and languages, my bookshelves are groaning rather too heavily with them. And, most incongruous of all, is my vast collection of maps. I've specialised in collecting Ordnance Survey maps of Great Britain since a child, and have by now amassed a most impressive number,  in various scales, of most parts of the country, going back into the 1800s. Naturally there are also Irish maps and maps from Europe and elsewhere in the world. It all screams 'male hobby', but there is no way I'm going to hide it all up in the attic, or throw it all away, just to prove that I'm a girl.

One hobby, the main one, is not to be seen at all. All my photos are on the PC, or my laptop, or on various portable hard drives. They are not up on my walls. Even the cameras are out of sight. There's a fancy photo printer and a fancy photo scanner, but you'd not necessarily guess from these that I take 1,000 shots a month and devote a big chunk of my time to shooting, editing, processing, publishing and viewing all those pictures.

Photography is one of those borderline interests for women. Plenty carry a good camera and like to get great shots. But not many women can or want to spend as much time as I do on the results. And while there are women at local photo clubs, and women who have turned professional as (say) wedding photographers, they are heavily outnumbered by men. When a fine sunset looms on the Sussex coast, you'll always see a few girls turn out, but the heavy metal SLRs and the tripods and the equipment-rich backbacks are all toted by a herd of men, who doubtless secure absolutely fine shots, technically brilliant, but not necessarily any better in real-life terms than the pictures snapped by the girls. At least girls can be there, and use their cameras, and not feel out of place.

Mind you, I find that (to my own amusement) I really do like to play up to the general male mega-seriousness at such photo events, as if I'm a rank amateur who can barely do more than press the shutter button. The smallness of my camera helps. They see me take it out of my handbag ('Typical woman!'). I make sure to keep a finger over the red 'Leica' badge, so they don't see that ('Huh! It's just a little point-and-shoot camera, not a proper one'). I get a few shots in with a nonchalant casualness ('She hasn't a clue about composition and careful exposure'). Then I touch up my lipstick, and wander down to the shoreline, behaving in a frivolous, let's-play-with-the-seaweed-and-nice-bits-of-driftwood sort of way that must cause disdainful smiles to writhe on their manly lips. I just take care not to be in their field of view, so that their shots aren't spoiled by an unwanted lay figure.

Oh, I like being a woman so much!


  1. Well now... tricky one, pet.

    A couple of months ago I wandered into a Warrington gun shop to examine and purchase a new air rifle for close-range rabbit and rat work.

    The shop-keeper immediately assumed that I was buying the rifle for my son or husband as a gift, and also assumed that I would have little or no knowledge of such things.

    I thoroughly enjoyed myself demonstrating that my knowledge and experience was at least the equal of his own.

    In the end we were chatting and exchanging stories as equals, and now he treats me as an old hand whenever I pop back in to buy stuff.

    I can't see the need for subterfuge. I spent almost all of my life pretending to be somebody I was not, so why on earth I would choose to go back to that habit is beyond me. :-)



  2. Why indeed pretend to be a silly ignorant girly when you are an expert?

    But if you're not quite an expert, I for one wouldn't care to pit my feeble knowledge against a man's. He might resent it and feel second-rate, and that cannot be. Imagine the chaos that would follow if it were ever proved that men aren't top dog in all things. They'd collapse mentally, become docile, and do little more than tend their vegetable patches and be useful around the home.


  3. "He might resent it and feel second-rate, and that cannot be. "

    So? :-)

    I have no objections to making men feel second-rate. Most of them are anyway. ;-)


  4. Come now, Chrissie, there must surely be some men who are godlike in their wisdom, perception, understanding, loftiness of outlook, breadth of vision, gentleness, kindness and ability to put the welfare of others first.

    Surely there are. There must be. We women can't be the only ones with such attributes.


  5. Never met one yet....

    After all, Gil Grissom, Philip Marlow and Rick Castle are all fictional characters. :-(

  6. Reading through this post I began to wonder why a woman would be interested in the so called many male-orientated hobbies mentioned. As a child, that is as a girl in essence, none of these things held any interest whatsoever. I had (and still do) an interest in a subject that wasn't gender orientated, Astronomy. My other interests were to do with girly things which I am assuming reflected the real me and not the male cover version. Does that mean that anyone who has an interest in 'male' hobbies cannot have a 100% female brain? No offence intended.

    Shirley Anne xxx

  7. No offence taken! But is there such a thing as a 100% female brain? How could that be judged? Why is 100% important? Why is an interest in clocks or cars or cyphers intrinsically unfeminine?

    How do girls end up as doctors and engineers and soldiers?

    In any case, male conditioning when young leaves its lifelong mark. In my case, I had no opportunities to embrace a girl's interests, so I got interested in some of the stuff accessible to boys.


  8. One of my girl friends, mid eighties acting thirty and one of the very few who wear skirts was conscripted into the BSA rifle factory down south in Birmingham during the second world war and retains an interest in guns. A male friend of hers was showing off the pest control gun he had bought for use in his large garden and she asked if she could have a go. Quickly working out the error in the sights she put in a few bull in the target and handed it back with a few comments. Te gun has never been mentioned or seen since...

  9. "there must surely be some men who are godlike in their wisdom, perception, understanding, loftiness of outlook, breadth of vision, gentleness, kindness and ability to put the welfare of others first."

    Why Lucy, you just described my husband!

    Regarding "male interests"... there was a time, fairly early in my transition, when I tried to distance myself from many of my interests that I felt were too "manly". I later came to realize that I actually enjoyed many of those things and there was really no reason to give them up.

  10. "Does that mean that anyone who has an interest in 'male' hobbies cannot have a 100% female brain? No offence intended."

    My ex loves riding motorbikes, a pursuit which is usually associated solely with males.

    I know women who shoot.

    I know women who play wargames.

    I know women who are fascinated by military history.

    I know women engineers.

    So I'd love to know what scientific basis there is for supposing that there's such a thing as a 100% female brain, or come to that a 100% male brain.


  11. As a woman engineer (yes, I have an M.Eng degree from Cambridge, no less) who enjoys DIY even now that I'm fast approaching 70, an age when I'll feel officially 'old', I see no reason why I shouldn't do what things I like and not do things I dislike, such as gardening - often considered a female hobby. You all might like to know that the head of the Engineering Dept. at Cambridge is a woman... so for me, gender and hobbies aren't greatly correlated. Mind you, though I once did some serious work on a car engine, grinding in new valves, nowadays I just stand and look helpless and let the blokes do it all!


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