Men are the new children, doomed to chill-cook dinners and talk about sport instead of emotions

Real women - what a pain they are. Much better to make them up, I say. Yet we are forever being told what real women and their real lives are really like. Two government ministers, Tessa Jowell and Margaret Jay, have travelled around the country to listen to the real voices of real women who controversially told them that - guess what - working when you have small kids is tough.

Meanwhile in Real Women we have a TV series full of women's real-life problems; Melanie Phillips has managed to work herself up once more about the disgraceful behaviour of real women in a publication called The Sex Change: feminised Britain and the neutered male; and new research suggests that, in the future, single women will do OK with their evening classes and strong social networks, while their male counterparts will be depressive couch potatoes. On top of all this, we have real woman artist Tracey Emin not even bothering to wash her dirty linen in public, but instead putting it on display in the Tate.

The worry over women continues. Either feminism has already happened and we are merely dealing with the fall-out, or it hasn't happened enough. For cultural pessimists such as Phillips, women are behaving very badly indeed - that is, they are behaving like men. They drink, they sleep around and, worse, they "have thrown away the trump card that they used to hold in the mating game: the constraints they once imposed on their sexual activity". For the only power that women had, according to a new Victorian like Phillips, was the power to say "no". Once women started saying "yes" to their own sexual desires, all hell broke loose. Men have been marginalised, becoming only good for sex and sometimes sperm.

There are many things wrong with such an argument. Phillips's comments about the appalling behaviour of women towards male strippers, as opposed to the gentlemanly behaviour of men toward female strippers, shows that she should just get out of the house more often. But this is not what rankles. What really annoys me is that whatever happens to women is the fault of women and whatever happens to men is . . . the fault of women.

Thus the news that women are learning to thrive on their own is undercut by meaningless headlines that read "Sad culture kills 12 lads a week".

While women are learning to be responsible for themselves - and that means responsible enough to choose not to have children, as well as to have them - men somehow are spoken of as people who can never be responsible for themselves and are doomed to a life of chill-cook dinners with sport substituted for an emotional life.

Remember when Fay Weldon said: "Men are the new women", and we all laughed? Well, it seems to me that men are the new children; they have become infantilised by the current discourse on gender.

As children, they have received an awful amount of attention lately. Entire books have been written about their plight, such as Susan Faludi's Stiffed. As Ros Coward writes in her book, Sacred Cows: "If women had been the leading political subjects of the 1970s, men became the political problem of the 1990s." An awful lot of women's time and women's work has gone into exploring and explaining the current plight of men.

Real women are blamed for causing all this masculine angst and then are asked to clean up the mess left behind. The single insight missing from the likes of Phillips and that gang of women-blamers is that once sex became detached from money, once women could support themselves instead of being always financially dependent, much of the "natural order" of things started to unravel.

Before women had economic independence, sex may have been a trump card. Now it isn't. The repercussions for this on family life are huge and not always beneficial for women, but the idea that all this is somehow women's fault and that they should just get back into their corsets is unrealistic.

Anyone who wants to see what Victorian values actually mean should watch the Bowler family in the TV programme The 1900 House, which features a modern-day family who have volunteered to live as if in 1900. Within two weeks, Mrs Bowler has been transformed from a placid schools inspector to a raging feminist as she struggles with the huge amount of domestic labour. Her husband's life, however, is not so different; his main problem is that he has to use a cut-throat razor.

As you may tell, I am not one of those feminists who feels it is my business to feel sorry for men. Indeed, do men want us to feel sorry for them? I am dismayed by all the energy that has been expended by hard-working women in explaining to us that men just cannot cope with modern life.

A kind of myth is being perpetuated that girls now have access to everything, while poor, suicidal boys have nothing. It's as if men were not running every key institution in this country or that, in a few years' time, these same sad lads won't be establishing their own sad lad network.

The crisis of masculinity, which has been going on for 20 or 2,000 years, depending on your take, is threatening to overshadow the achievements of feminism. Forget women whingeing; now it's men who whinge, or get sympathetic women to do it for them. Who knows what real women are like - except, of course, we are all different. Real men might be like that, too, and somewhere between power-crazed oppressors and powerless inadequates.

I suspect that this endangered species might wonder what all the fuss is about.

The writer is a columnist on the "Mail on Sunday"

Suzanne Moore is a writer for the Guardian and the New Statesman. She writes the weekly “Telling Tales” column in the NS.

This article first appeared in the 25 October 1999 issue of the New Statesman, The New Statesman Essay - Why the old left is wrong on equality