Misogyny is back in fashion, and this time it's really getting personal

I read this week that men, high-flyers especially, are rediscovering their love for their children. Great swathes in the banking and publishing industry are swapping six-figure salaries for the chance to collect Sebastian and Tiffany from their schools in London's Holland Park every afternoon.

Yet, just as these undoubtedly rather nice men are busy reinventing fatherhood, some of their peers are still locked in a bitter war with their wives and girlfriends. I have been stunned by, or maybe my eyes have been opened to, the latest battle of the sexes currently in vogue. Some men, it seems, are so embittered by women's march towards equality that they have reverted to type. Malicious, I'll-put-you-in-your-place misogyny is back, and this time it's personal.

At a small inn on the outskirts of a tiny Pennine village, Dillon celebrated his 21st birthday with his parents and their friends. Kimberley, his mother, is an attractive woman in her mid-forties who has built up a property empire from a £20 note and a husband with a good, strong back. For 20 years, she has harangued, cajoled and charmed her lackadaisical and unfaithful partner into using his building skills to make a future for their family, rather than just a basic wage for himself, and today their sons drive BMWs and confidently ask for £650 gold bracelets as presents.

Dillon's older brother, Jamie-Lee, is training to enter the police force. Sitting at Kimberley's right hand, he greeted each female guest with a sneering "You've put on weight", or an irritated "You're so skinny, there's nothing of you".

His plain-faced girlfriend sat glumly at his side. Every so often, he would turn to her and say, in a stage whisper that could be heard in Manchester: "Now, no dessert for you, fatty. You shouldn't be wearing that top with your saggy arms anyway."

The poor girl's lower lip quivered and she looked guiltily at her plate of sausages and mash. Finally, she rushed to the loo with tears in her eyes, and Kimberley firmly said: "Jamie-Lee, don't speak to her like that - you're no slim Jim yourself."

His eyes swivelled towards his mother and he let loose a diatribe of snide, petty insults that lasted for several minutes. Each remark was followed by a little "aren't I funny, I'm just making a joke" laugh. "Mum, if you bothered to get off the sofa and get a job, you wouldn't be such a big, bleached-blonde heifer . . . hahahaha."

When I fumed to his aunt about his obvious loathing for women, I was reliably told: "He's harmless, really. It's just his way."

If his attitude was not reprehensible, then why did all the women around him leave the dinner feeling irritated, insecure, dirtied or depressed?

Another woman-hater is the "celebrity" TV writer and comedian who yells across rooms, "Hey, tits, how are ya?", at every woman to whom he has been introduced. As with Jamie-Lee, his leering shouts are greeted by sheepish giggles from the women he insults, and gleeful, if quiet, cheers from his male hangers-on.

Last week, at a party in Kensington, he held court surrounded by naive and nubile debutante types and MTV wannabes. I was talking to someone else, but I was interrupted by him screaming: "Hey, Booth, ya big bitch, I've gotta bone to pick with you!" He waved me over, fully expecting a compliant, giggling response. When I stayed put, he yelled more charming invitations until a female friend stormed over and, pulling him to his feet, looked into his eyes and said: "Keep away from us, you hideous little monkey."

Ten minutes passed. He sat laughing with a truly stunning black singer in a cream dress, and throwing us poisonous looks. Being a famous writer, he was clearly thinking of some brilliant response. Finally, he came over. "I may be a little monkey, but I'll still be sleeping with that nigger tonight, won't I?"

He hates women, but not as much as we sometimes hate ourselves.

This article first appeared in the 28 January 2002 issue of the New Statesman, Time to bite back?