In his brilliant dissection of what he calls 'The Myth of Male Power', Warren Farrell produces what remains, twenty years after first publication, both the seminal men's rights manifesto and the most effective demolition of the central tenets of feminism.
The assumption that men represent a privileged class as compared to women is not only central to feminism but also almost universally accepted throughout the mainstream media, popular and academic discourse and across the political spectrum. In his pioneering 'masculist' masterpiece, Farrell systematically demolishes this assumption.
Farrell shows that, far from privileged, men are overrepresented among the homeless, the victims of violent crime, conscripts, casualties in warfare, the prison population and suicides.
As George Orwell wrote, "one can almost say that below a certain level society is entirely male".
A remnant of his former incarnation as a writer of relationship guides marketed at female audiences, Farrell's 'touchy-feely' writing style may alienate many male readers (as may his suggestion that expecting boys to compete in sports like boxing and American football is a form of child abuse).
In the current work, he adapted this writing style somewhat to attract a more male readership, alternating self-help-style sound-bites with statistics, the latter often highlighted in bold-type and separate from the main body of the text. The result is not entirely stylistically successful.
Nevertheless, Farrell coins countless quotable aphorisms (e.g. "From a woman's perspective, a man's home is his castle; from a man's perspective, a woman's home is his mortgage") and never comes across as bitter or angry.
The Disposable Sex
For Farrell, men represent, not a privileged class, but rather 'The Disposable Sex' (see also The Disposable Male). By this, he means the men's lives are regarded as of less value than those of women.
One illustration of this is the allocation of places on board lifeboats the sinking of the Titanic, where 80% of men on board perished versus only 26% of women. Curiously Farrell does not discuss the sinking of the Titanic in 'The Myth of Male Power', reserving this for his follow-up book, Women Can't Hear What Men Don't Say.
Instead, Farrell's quintessential exemplar of male disposability is conscription, or 'the draft (i.e. compulsory enlistment for military service).
According the Encyclopaedia Britannica, conscription has "existed at least since the time of the Egyptian Old Kingdom (27th century BC)". By the end of World War One, every major combatant nation made conscription universal for young men.
As of 2012, over eighty countries continue to practice conscription (Benatar, The Second Sexism: p27), ranging from the ostensibly liberal democratic (e.g. Switzerland), to the oppressive and purportedly patriarchal (e.g. Iran, the Taliban).
In the vast majority, only men are conscripted. A few make a token gesture towards egalitarianism.
For example, Israel conscripts both sexes. However, men are obliged to serve three years, women only two and, in practice, Farrell writes "the average Israeli man serves thirteen years before his eligibility ends... women less than two", because only 50% of women are called to serve compared to 90% of men, mothers cannot be forced to serve beyond their two years and Israeli men are required to serve two months per year even after their three years is complete.
Is Conscription Constitutional?
In the US, selective service registration is obligatory only for men and, in Vietnam, almost 57,000 American men died (30% of them conscripts) as compared with only eight women (all volunteers).
Farrell therefore describes "male only draft registration and combat requirements" as "the two most unconstitutional laws in America" and "the greatest possible violation of the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantee of equal protection under the law" because "they are a breach of America's most inalienable right: the right to life".
In Rostker v Goldberg (1981), the Supreme Court declared male-only selective service registration constitutional, the Court ruling that, "since women are excluded from combat" and "the purpose of registration was to prepare for a draft of combat troops", making them register served no purpose.
However, this argument ignored the fact that women's combat exemption was itself contrary to the Fourteenth Amendment. Moreover, the recent lifting of the combat exemption renders this argument obsolete (see Hollander 2013).
As it involves forced labour, Farrell compares conscription to slavery, writing of how "during the [American] Civil War, the government passed a Conscription Act, allowing... for an all-male slave trade", such that, "in essence, white male slaves fought to free black slaves".
"Blacks were forced, via slavery, to risk their lives in cotton fields so that whites might benefit economically while blacks died prematurely. Men were forced, via the draft, to risk their lives on battlefields so that everyone else might benefit economically while men died prematurely. Both slaves and men died to make the world safe for freedom-someone else's."
Strictly speaking, definitions of slavery usually entail two components, namely that work be both: 1) Involuntary; and 2) Unpaid.
Conscription is involuntary. However, whether it is paid, and whether wages are merely nominal, has varied over time and place.
Nevertheless, the analogy is sufficiently powerful that the 1930 Forced Labour Convention, prohibiting slavery, explicitly excluded conscription from its prohibition (Article 2 paragraph 2a).
Farrell also compares male-only conscription to genocide, writing:
"How is it that if any other group were singled out to register for the draft based merely on its characteristics at birth - be that group blacks, Jews, women, or gays - we would immediately recognize it as genocide, but when men are singled out based on their sex at birth, men call it power?"
The analogy is again powerful. However, perhaps the neologism "Gender-cide", coined by feminists, but later 're-appropriated' for men by Adam Jones (2000), is better.
Danger: Men at Work
For Farrell, the overrepresentation of men in hazardous occupations (e.g. construction, coalmining, firefighting, logging) is a further illustration of 'male disposability'
In his fourth chapter, 'The Death Professions', Farrell shows that, although men are overrepresented in the best-paid positions, they are also over-represented in the worst jobs. Paradoxically, the reason for both these disparities is the same - namely, the lengths to which men are willing to go to earn money to provide for their wife and children (not to mention attract a wife/girlfriend in the first place).
He focuses particularly on military careers, describing the Gulf War as "The Males-Per-Gallon War" because it was fought to control oil yet men represented 96% of Americans killed with men who served being three times as likely to be killed. (He extends this analysis to the Iraq war in 'Why Men Earn More'.)
But dangerous occupations are not just dangerous. They are also essential.
Men construct the buildings we live in, the sewage and clean water systems we depend on and man the coal mines and oil rigs which generate the energy on which we rely and our safety depends on the risks taken by policemen, firefighters and servicemen.
As Fred Reed observes, "Without men, civilisation would last until the oil needed changing".
Whereas women are often described as a 'civilizing' influence on men, Farrell turns this claim on its head, arguing that "by taking care of the killing for women it could be said that men civilized women".
As Orwell observed, "men can only be highly civilized while other men, inevitably less civilized, are there to guard and feed them".
Socialism and Men's Rights
If it appears I am quoting Orwell excessively in this review, this reflects something perhaps unsettling both to Farrell's critics and some of his supporters - namely the decidedly socialist ring to much of 'The Myth of Male Power'.
In focussing on the hardships endured by ordinary working-class men to provide for their families, Farrell echoes the concerns of early socialists like Orwell (himself an anti-feminist).
This shouldn't surprise us. Farrell's intention is not to defend privilege, but to question who is privileged and oppressed in the first place.
When feminist-sponsored 'comparative worth' programmes dictate that librarians be paid more than refuse collectors because the former have better academic qualifications, this is anything but socialist.
Yet now the Left has largely abandoned the constituency of working-class men in favour of middle-class feminists, and the 'ordinary working man', once the quintessential proletarian, has found himself redefined as patriarchal wife-beating homophobe and bigot. So much for socialism.
Farrell convincingly contends that the most dangerous occupations are overwhelmingly male. However, his claim that the worst jobs are invariably overwhelmingly male goes too far.
Certainly, refuse collection seems unpleasant, as does coalmining. However, (in my wholly subjective opinion) care-work seems similarly unpleasant - as does nursing. Yet these are female-dominated occupations.
However, these careers may be 'rewarding' in that they involve helping others. Moreover, although not well-remunerated in pecuniary terms, nurses are widely extolled as 'caring'.
The same is not true of refuse collectors, or people building and working in sewage plants. Yet these occupations (overwhelmingly male), surely contribute more to public health than all the nurses and care-workers in the country combined.
Cleaning public lavatories is another unpleasant, low-status occupation in which both sexes are employed. However, perhaps the worst cleaning job - cleaning crime scenes - seems to be male-dominated.
Perhaps the only dangerous career that is predominantly female is street-prostitution. Even this, I suspect, is not as dangerous as many mainly male occupations, both criminal and lawful.
Prostitution is also Farrell's favoured analogy regarding the sacrifices of male manual labourers. His chapter on the armed services is entitled 'War Hero or War Slave? The Armed Prostitute' and he writes:
"Most men unconsciously experience themselves as prostitutes every day - the miner, the firefighter, the construction worker, the logger, the meatpacker - these men are prostitutes in the direct sense: they sacrifice their bodies for money and for their families" and "each man, whether in a coal mine near home or in a trench 'over there', expects his body to be used. Male prostitution is a given; freedom for it a luxury".
The analogy is emotive. However, in choosing prostitution as his exemplar of an exploitative occupation, Farrell is taking feminist falsehoods at face-value.
Actually, surveys suggest the majority of prostitutes, including streetwalkers, "are content with their work" (Love for Sale: p381) and few, if any, are forced into prostitution against their will (see Davies 2009; Sharma 2005; McAleer 2003).
Prostitution is an extremely well-remunerated career at which any woman, irrespective of her qualifications, can earn a fortune from literally lying flat on her back. However, homosexual male prostitution apart, it is not an 'equal opportunity occupation'.
Moreover, contrary to cliché, prostitutes do not 'sell their bodies'. They merely rent out certain orifices for a very brief duration and on strict contractual terms (in legal terms, a 'licence' rather than a 'lease').
Men who die in coalmines, construction sites and battlefields sell their bodies in a far more literal and tragic sense.
From Pay-Gaps to Spending-Gaps
Men's willingness to work in dangerous and unpleasant conditions is, Farrell observes, one of factors contributing to the gender pay-gap. Others include greater willingness to work long hours, for a greater proportion of their lives and relocate or commute. Farrell discusses these in greater detail in Why Men Earn More.
However, Farrell recognises that, although men earn more than women, this does not make them richer. Rather, "the key to wealth is not in what someone earns; it is what is spent on ourselves at our discretion - or what is spent on us, at our hint" (i.e. "Spending Power").
Indeed, the entire process of human courtship is predicated on the redistribution of wealth from men to women - from the social expectation for the man to pay for dinner on the first date, to the legal obligation that he continue to financially support his ex-wife for anything up to several decades after he has belatedly rid himself of her.
Accordingly, Farrell reports, "Women control consumer spending by a wide margin in virtually every consumer category".
Unfortunately, the data he cites to support this claim is inadequate.
He reports, "a study of large shopping malls... found that seven rimes as much floor space is devoted to women's personal items as men's". However, the associated endnote cites only his own "rough measurement of approximate floor space" and an unpublished dissertation.
As Farrell acknowledges in another endnote in his follow-up book, "the survey is informal, by eye only, and subject to much improvement" ('Women Can't Hear What Men Don't Say' Chapter Five, endnote 78). Moreover, it represents only an indirect measure of spending power, based on the assumption that "if women's or men's departments were not creating enough profit per foot, they would be forced to give way to general departments or those of the other sex" (Chapter One, endnote 16).
Similarly, he claims, "In restaurants, men pay for women about ten times as frequently as women pay for men - the more expensive the restaurant, the more often the man pays". However, in his endnotes, Farrell acknowledges, "this is based on my own informal discussions with waiters in restaurants around the country in cities where I speak" (Chapter One, endnote 20) i.e. mere anecdotal estimate.
Actually, abundant data confirms women's disproportionate control of consumer spending. It has been collected, not by feminist social scientists, but by researchers in the marketing industry, who, concerned with the bottom-line of maximising profits, cannot afford to ideologically doctor their findings.
A review of marketing research confirming women's disproportionate control of consumer spending, albeit focussed on the UK, is provided by David Thomas in Not Guilty: The Case in Defence of Modern Man (pp80-84) - a work published the same year as 'The Myth of Male Power' addressing similar themes.
Violence against Whom?
Another illustration of 'male disposability' is the disproportionate attention accorded to the issue of 'violence against women' - even though males represent the vast majority of victims of violence.
In later works ('Women Can't Hear What Men Don't Way' and 'Does Feminism Discriminate Against Men?') Farrell focuses almost exclusively on domestic violence, reviewing the overwhelming evidence that women perpetrate acts of violence against male partners as often as men do against women (see Fiebert 2012).
However, although men and women are about equally likely to be the victims of domestic violence, men are vastly more likely to be the victimized outside the home. Men are the predominant victims, not only of violent crime, but also of war (War and Gender: p400) and even genocide (Jones 2000).
Yet, Farrell observes, "both conservatives and liberals passively accept phrases like 'innocent women and children'" and "when foreign hostages are captured and only women and children are released, neither ideology protests the sexism".
Even relief operations focus on rescuing and evacuating women (Carpenter 2003).
As Farrell writes, "We don't call male-killing 'sexism', we call it 'glory'"
Farrell devotes two chapters to discrimination in the criminal justice system, documenting twelve 'female-only defences'.
Interestingly, one of these, what Farrell calls the 'depressed mother defence', actually has statutory force in the UK, under the Infanticide Acts, which explicitly apply only to women (in practice, infantical mothers are treated more leniently still: Wilczynski and Morris 1993).
Unfortunately, Farrell cites only a single study on gender disparities in sentences imposed by the courts (Zingraff and Thomson 1984).
Subsequent studies have confirmed that women are more leniently sentenced (Hedderman & Hough 1994; Spohn and Beichner 2000; Mustard 2001; Rodriguez et al 2006; Curry et al 2004; Jeffries et al 2003; Blackwell et al 2008; Embry and Lyons 2012) and less likely to be sentenced to death (Streib 2001; 2002; 2006).
The most recent and rigorous study (Starr 2012) found that, after controlling for prior criminal history and offence severity, convicted women are only half as likely to be sentenced to incarceration as men convicted of similar offences, and receive, on average, 60% shorter sentences than men convicted of the same offences.
Offenders are also sentenced more severely where their victims are female (Williams & Holcomb 2004; Curry 2010; Curry et al 2004).
There is also evidence of discrimination at other stages of the criminal justice process (Demuth & Steffensmeier 2004; Stolzenberg & D'Alessio 2004; Rowe 2008; Freiburger & Hilinski 2010).
Chapter thirteen addresses the topic of sexual harassment. As Farrell observes, alluding once again to the overrepresentation of males in 'The Death Professions', "in one decade women... gained more protection against offensive jokes in the workplace than men had in centuries against being killed in the workplace".
Farrell observes that women exploit their sexuality to receive advantages in the workplace (e.g. flirting with the boss) at least as often as bosses use threats of dismissal to extort sexual favours. Male employees are the primary victims, because they lack the opportunity to trade sexual favours for promotions.
It can be even argued that women who wear sexually-provocative clothing are themselves engaging in a form of sexual harassment of male colleagues.
Farrell also notes that 'hazing' and initiation rituals may be essential to build trust and morale, especially in hazardous occupations. Yet harassment became an issue only when women began to enter these occupations and receive similar treatment.
Recent Rape Research
To balance the feminist extension of concept of 'date rape' to include any sexual experience a woman regrets the next morning, Farrell introduces concepts such as 'date robbery' and 'date fraud' - i.e. the situation where a man is expected to pay for a date but receives nothing in return.
Recent data confirm many Farrell's claims regarding rape. Firstly, evidence has confirmed the prevalence of male-rape in the US prison system, with even Department of Justice data and mainstream media outlets reporting more men than women raped in the US as a whole (Daily Mail 2013).
The prevalence of false allegations has also been confirmed. Whereas Farrell relies heavily on a single study in an obscure publication (McDowell 1985), the most rigorous study of false rape allegations was published the year after 'The Myth of Male Power' by Eugene Kanin (Kanin 1994).
Whereas other studies rely ultimately on subjective assessments of the creditability of individual complaints, Kanin found that that 41% of women making rape allegations in one mid-western city themselves ultimately admitted their allegations were false. On two university campuses, rates of admittedly false allegations were 50%.
Since many false-accusers probably never admit their allegations were false, this provides a conservative estimate of the lowest plausible rate of false allegations.
False Allegations as 'Rape'
Farrell describes false allegations themselves as representing a form of rape, writing: "When a man says he has been falsely accused of rape, he is also telling us he has been raped. He is being accused of being one of life's most despicable persons."
However, only the accuser is treated by the authorities as a 'victim' - even though, before a trial is complete, it has yet to be determined who the real victim is. Moreover, prosecution of women who make false allegations is rare and, when convicted, they typically receive noncustodial sentences.
He also claims, "a man feels raped by a woman who says she is on birth control at night and says she feels pregnant in the morning... [and] this rape of him imprisons him for a lifetime... [and] is sanctioned by law."
Again, Farrell's analogy is emotive but misleading. In using rape as his metaphor for the most horrible form of victimization a person can undergo, he is taking feminist Ms.-Information at face value.
Actually, the psychological trauma of being falsely accused of rape surely far outstrips that of rape itself. A man who is accused of rape has his reputation ruined. A shadow of suspicion hangs over him for the rest of his life, even if he is eventually acquitted, exonerated or never even charged. Many such men lose their families, friends, job, are forced to relocate or even driven to suicide.
In contrast, rape, though an unpleasant experience, it is quickly over with. Moxon reports, "even if depression does occur following rape, it lasts on average only two to four months" (The Woman Racket: p191).
From then on, the victim is the subject of sympathy not stigma and, for many feminists, identifying as a 'rape survivor' is a badge of honour. This is presumably why false allegations are so prevalent in the first place.
(The situation is very different for male-rape in the prison system, where the victim himself faces stigma as a 'punk', and is then repeatedly targeted thereafter.)
"Government as a Substitute Husband"
Traditionally women looked to husbands to protect and provide for them. However, with the rise of the welfare state, this role is increasingly usurped by government, resulting in what Farrell calls "Government as a Substitute Husband".
The burden on men is not reduced. On the contrary, government is funded by the taxpayer and, since they earn more money, men pay most of the taxes.
Farrell reports, "Men as a group pay twice what women pay into Social Security but women receive over 150 percent of what men receive in total retirement benefits from Social Security", not least by retiring earlier and living longer.
"On the face of it, a husband, a charitable institution and a modern welfare state are entirely different. In fact... the principle is the same. All are designed partly - and some would say primarily - to transfer resources from men... to women".
The only change is that, now, the voluntary element, along with any discretion men might retain over the uses to which their money is put, disappears completely.
All men pay taxes to subsidise the lifestyles of single mothers - "since most tax money is paid by men," Farrell explains, "her 'right to choose' is the choice to obligate mostly men to pay for her choice".
Likewise, fathers are forced to pay maintenance to the mothers of their children even while denied custody of, sometimes even access to, the children in question - not to mention any say in the decision to have children in the first place.
If a woman lies about using contraception, Farrell, explains, "she has the right to raise the child without his knowing he even has a child and then to sue him for retroactive child support even 10 to 20 years later".
Stage I: Functionalism vs. Conflict Theory
One of Farrell's key concepts with which I remain unconvinced is his distinction between what he calls Stage I and Stage II relationships.
According to Farrell, until recently all relationships were necessarily 'Stage I' - i.e. survival-based. Men were responsible for 'breadwinning' and women for 'homemaking', because this was the only way to ensure survival.
The assumption that traditional gender roles were demanded by the necessity of survival and worked to the mutual benefit of everyone reflects what is referred to in sociology as a 'Functionalist Theory'.
Most modern sociologists reject 'Functionalism' in favour of 'Conflict Theory', which recognises that individual and group interests conflict and that social arrangements disproportionately reflect the interests of the powerful rather than of society as a whole.
Feminism is a 'Conflict Theory' in that it views the traditional sexual division of labour as designed for the benefit of men. My own view is the opposite. The traditional division of labour works to the advantage of women, with the most dangerous and arduous jobs reserved for men.
Stage II: Utopianism and the 'Gender Transition Movement'
In contrast, recent rising affluence and man-made technologies such as birth control have, for Farrell, freed women to move into to what he terms 'Stage II', where a focus on survival gives way to concern for fulfilment and happiness. Feminism is, for Farrell, an expression of this change.
For Farrell, however, men have yet to make the transition to Stage II. Whereas women's dissatisfaction with their role as housewives was celebrated as 'feminism', men's disillusionment with their role as breadwinners is ridiculed as a 'midlife crisis'.
Yet, Farrell contends, "women's liberation and the male midlife crisis were the same search-for personal fulfilment, common values, mutual respect, love". Farrell sees his mission as to guide both sexes into this Brave New World.
For me, however, Farrell's Stage II seems hopelessly utopian.
Farrell sees his work as the unfinished business of feminism. By demanding equal rights for men, he is taking the feminist rhetoric of sexual egalitarianism to its logical conclusion. Thus, he talks in his Introduction of "cherishing feminism's baby" and the need, not for a Men's Movement, but rather a "Gender Transition Movement".
In truth, however, the Men's Rights Movement represents, not so much the logical conclusion of feminism, as its reductio ad absurdum. The innate biological basis of sex differences mean that equality of the sexes will always remain a utopian aspiration - at least in the absence of the wholesale eugenic reengineering of human nature itself.
Men meanwhile will always remain slaves to their sexual desire and thus to women.
Oppressed or Privileged?
In his preface, Farrell contends that society is "both patriarchal and matriarchal, both male and female dominated", that "both sexes made themselves slaves to the other sex in different ways" and "neither sex can accurately be called oppressed".
However, the remainder of his book shows why this is not the case.
The ways in which women purport to be oppressed are illusionary. However, the disadvantage of men is all too real.
For example, men are overrepresented among both corporate CEOs and the homeless.
But, whereas the CEO usually has a wife or ex-wife, and very often a daughter or two, who share in his wealth and privilege without having performed any of the hard work to achieve this privilege, the homeless man is, in contrast, almost invariably single. _________
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