I hope I live to see the day that Warren Farrell gets his honorary phd in psychology. He must be the person most knowledgeable about men and women on planet earth. The difference between reading his books or listening to his talks and reading anything by the most well known academic on men’s issues, Michael Kimmel, is that listening to Warren Farrell immediatly makes me think of men that I know and I get this ‘aha’ feeling of having witnessed the behaviour that he is describing, whereas with Michael Kimmel and his absurd theories that bear no relation to any men I have ever interacted with, I just wonder what has been done to that person.
One major difference between the two is certainly that Warren Farrell has run hundreds of couples workshops and has thus spoken directly to a huge number of men and women as well having observed them interact with each other. Michael Kimmel on the other hand has spent his life sitting in his office and making up theories. There is certainly a huge grain of truth in the accusation of academics being in an ivory tower, cut off from the real life that the rest of the people are living.
My own experience from the past year in a social science department can certainly attest to that. When I said that one reason I was interested in men’s issues was that relationships between men and women are falling apart at an alarming rate I was met with a surprised look by a young phd student who asserted that quite on the contrary, relationships in our generation were improving. I must admit that I myself used to think this way until I started looking into the issue and finding out that more children grow up in single parent households than in complete families these days. And it is no longer parents of teenage children who are getting a divorce amid a midlife crisis. An increasing number of couples these break up right after the baby is born, robbing the child of a close relationship with their father, depriving them of the opportunity to learn how relationships work and putting all the burden of caring for an infant, that should be resting on two shoulders, onto the woman alone. I spent the past year trying to support a close friend in that endeavour and have to say that it’s crazy. My friend did a stellar job and her little daughter is growing into a wonderful little girl but no one would deny that things would have been more pleasant for everyone involved, had the father been there. That is what the people who claim that, anyone who criticises the growing tendency of single motherhood and is looking for a way to stop this trend, is attacking single mothers, refuse to see. Studies over studies have shown (and so does common sense) that children who grow up in single mother households are disadvantaged as compared to children from intact families. It is quite ironic how people in social science departments, who have overwhelmingly grown up in intact families, refuse to see that their ‘tolerance’ is actually doing harm to people.
So why are relationships increasingly failing? Are we not meant to be together? Will we now, that the economic pressure to live together, spend our lives apart and only meet for procreation? Maybe some people will. But in general it has been established that both men and women derive psychological benefits from stable, long term relationships. The children growing up in these have better prospects in life. The feminist influenced media seems to think it’s too much choice, porn and of course the patriachy. That it is their very patriarchy theory that has driven us further apart is something that followers of the ideology do not like to hear. To me it is blatantly obvious that you cannot have a relationship, that by definition requires empathy, with someone who you see as powerful and privileged in society. You cannot emphasize with their struggles in life if you have been made to believe that they experience no struggles. You cannot realise that some words or actions of yours are hurting them if you think that they have a higher social status than you do. Warren Farrell expresses it poignantly in the second part of this talk:
“Believing that men are dominant makes us feel very fine about stepping over them because we feel like an ant, hitting an elephant. If the male is so strong and dominant he can’t possibly be hurt, so we don’t have to examine our behaviour in relation to him.” (min. 32:00)
This line explains in a nutshell why feminist theory is harmful towards men and is wrecking relationships between men and women. At the time when I started engaging with feminism as a reader of The Good Men Project it seemed benign at first with its talk of equality and ‘men should express feelings’ but once I came across patriarchy theory I knew that this was no force for good. A little while before, my long term relationship had come to a sad end. It had started out as a dream come true but suddenly I got it into my head that his family was perfect whereas mine was a mess and if they ever found out about my background they would no longer treat me as nicely as they used to. Without going into any more details it should not be too hard to understand that seeing another person’s life as flawless and devoid of strugles makes it impossible to any longer relate to them and thus have a relationship. I realised the big mistake that I had made and vowed to never again declare another person’s life as devoid of struggle which has helped me in my friendships as well as romantic life. Then I encountered feminism and saw that it was all about teaching women to make the mistake that I had made and basically ‘objectify’ men, to use one of their cherished phrases. Needless to say, that became desperate to find people whose views were more aligned with my own. When I read the title ‘Myth of male Power’ I knew that I had struck gold. The book has now been issued in an updated ebook version. But the original 1992 version is avilable as audio book on youtube and shall be uploaded in this blog soon.
Today I will share a talk that Warren Farrell gave in February 2015 at the Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality.
Part 2 of the talk and the parts that I found most useful:
“That women say who they want is crucial. Why is that so crucial? Because the data shows us that marriages and long term relationships that are more successful are more dependant as John Guttman has found on what? On the woman being happy. The woman being happy is the key ingredient in making the man happy. The man being happy is not that important in making the woman happy.” (min. 26:00)
In the months after my long term relationship ended I suddenly remembered a situation where I was wearing a piece of clothing bearing the tagline Happy in Love. My partner looked at it and asked: “Are you?” to which I obviously replied: “Sure.” and didn’t think much of it. When that situation came back to me I realised that him making me happy had meant a lot to him and my increasing unhappiness was what made him fall out of love with me. I suddenly saw that women want to be reassured by their partner that he loves them whereas men want to have confirmation that they are making her happy. Instantly my brother and father came to mind and the almost physical pain that it causes them to see the women they are close to being unhappy. This simple revealation helped me understand many situations betwen men and women which usually seem puzzling to an outsider.
Thus, when I was recently listening to Paul Elam’s latest essays on masculinity in which he describes the extent to which men are dependent on female approval (on his new youtube channel An Ear for Men)
“A woman needs to learn to be assertive. The originial choice power is chosing the guy she wants becasue that guy that reflects her intuitive sense of values and taking the risks to ask for that guy rather than doing what veto power gives the woman which is the ability to say Yes or No but often leaves her with having to settle for the 14th choice person. Somebody who might be her 14th choice person because she was never taught, trained, socialised to go up to the first 13 choices that she had a greater amount of interest in. So many women marry men that they feel deeply ambivalent about which is deeply sad. And when we study really good marriages one of the really crucial ingredients is that the women who were interviewed say: “I took more, for some reason I reached out to him. I don’t usually doo that but I did this time. Some version of that or “I am very assertive as a rule and I reach out and ask for what I want. Those women are happier as a rule than women who exercise veto power rather than what I call original choice power.”
In part 4 Warren asks the audience to think about what their fathers enjoyed doing and what they ended up spending the majority of their days on, i.e. what paid enough to secure the family. Where feminists speak of a wage gap, realists can see the sacrifice that their fathers made in order to maximise their earnings that the family needed to survive.