The Myth of Male Power
|Subject||Gender Studies, Psychology, Law, Politics|
|LC Class||HQ1090.3 .F36 2001|
The Myth of Male Power: Why Men are the Disposable Sex (Simon and Schuster, 1st Ed., 1993; 2nd Ed., Berkely, 2000) is a book by Warren Farrell. In the book, Farrell argues that the widespread perception of men having inordinate social and economic power is false, and that men are systematically disadvantaged in many ways.
Like Herb Goldberg's 'The Hazards of Being Male, Farrell's The Myth of Male Power is considered a standard of the men's movement, and has been translated into several languages, including German and Italian.
Defining male power and powerlessness
In The Myth of Male Power, Warren Farrell offered his first in-depth outline of the theses he would eventually apply in his subsequent books—books on communication (Women Can’t Hear What Men Don’t Say), parenting (Father and Child Reunion), and the workplace (Why Men Earn More).
As The Myth of Male Power's title implies, Farrell challenges the belief that men have the power by challenging the definition of power. Farrell defines power as "control over one's life." He writes that, "In the past, neither sex had power; both sexes had roles: women's role was [to] raise children; men's role was [to] raise money."
One of the examples that Farrell uses to illustrate male powerlessness is male-only draft registration. He writes that if any other single group (the examples he lists are Jews, African-Americans, and women) were selected based on their birth characteristics to be the only group required by law to register for potential death, we would call it anti-Semitism, racism or genocidal sexism. Men, he says, have been socialized to call it "glory" and "power," and as a result do not view this as a negative.
Farrell contends that this viewpoint creates psychological problems for both sexes: that "men's weakness is their facade of strength; women's strength is their facade of weakness." He adds that societies have generally socialized boys and men to define power as, in essence, "feeling obligated to earn money someone else spends while we die sooner." Feeling obligated, he contends, is not power.
"Why Men are the Disposable Sex"
The subtitle of the book is "Why Men are the Disposable Sex." Farrell argues that historically both sexes were disposable in the service of survival: women risked death in childbirth; men risked death in war. However, Farrell notes, there is a key difference: women's disposability emanated more from biology; men's required socialization.
Farrell observes various characteristics of modern US society, which, for instance, has a tendency to assign higher-risk jobs to men, such as soldiers, firefighters, and coal miners; almost all of the most hazardous professions are all-male, and those professions have a higher percentage of men as the hazard increases. Other statistics point in the same directions: men fall victim to violent crime twice as often as women, and are "three times more likely to be murder victims". Suicide rates are much higher for men than for women--for men over 85, even 1350 times higher than for women of the same age--and while the death rates for breast cancer and prostate cancer are comparable, the US spends six times as much on breast cancer.
These statistics, Farrell suggests, can only be explained if US society places greater stock in the lives of women than of men. Todd Jones cites this as an example of abductive reasoning: rightly or wrongly, Farrell assumes that such behavior is rational, and the only explanation then is that "women are actually perceived as the valuable gender (especially in evolutionary terms) who need to be protected and preserved at all cost, while men (a dime a dozen in evolutionary terms) are thought of as essentially disposable".
"Where Do We Go From Here?"
Farrell posits that men and women need to make an evolutionary shift from a focus on survival to a focus on a proper balance between survival and fulfillment.
The women's movement, he claims, has led to the re-socialization of girls to become women who balance survival with fulfillment, but that no one has similarly re-socialized boys to become men who pursue that balance once they take on the responsibility of children. Thus, Farrell believes, boys and men are decades behind girls and women psychologically and socially, and increasingly behind women academically and economically. In Farrell's recent presentations on this topic, he estimates that women are in 2011 where men were in 1961.
Farrell's political solution is "neither a women's movement blaming men nor a men's movement blaming women, but a gender transition movement." He defines a gender transition movement as one that fosters a transition from the rigid roles of our past to more flexible roles for the future.
The "Pay Paradox"
Men, Farrell posits, learn to earn money to gain the approval of their parents and the respect of other men; heterosexual men also learn to earn money to earn their way to female love ("Women don't marry men reading Why Men Are the Way They Are in the unemployment line.")
Farrell introduced in The Myth of Male Power a thesis that he pursued in-depth in Why Men Earn More in 2005: that earning money involves forfeiting power. He goes on to describe his theory that earning money is less about power, and more about trade-offs. Farrell proposes that "the road to high pay is a toll road--you earn more when you pay 25 specific tolls such as working more hours, or taking less-fulfilling or more-hazardous jobs..."
The Myth of Male Power is both Warren Farrell's most-praised and most-controversial book.
It was praised by social critic Camille Paglia, who, reviewing it for The Washington Post, called it "a bombshell. It attacks the unexamined assumptions of feminist discourse with shocking candor and forces us to see our everyday world from a fresh perspective" while noting that "there is sometimes a questionable selectiveness or credulity about historical sources..." Paglia concludes that "The Myth of Male Power is the kind of original, abrasive, heretical text that is desperately needed to restore fairness and balance to the present ideology-sodden curriculum of women's studies courses."
The most ardent critics are academic scholars such as Margot Mifflin and book reviewers such as Robert Winder. Among their criticisms is that male power is not a myth since men still hold the highest government and corporate positions of power. Kenneth Clatterbaugh, in an overview of literature of the men's movement, comments that "eventually, [Farrell's] arguments reach absurd heights, as when Farrell actually argues against sexual harassment laws and child molestation laws on the grounds that they give even more power (to abuse men) to (women) employees and children".
Linda Mealey notes that the book is recommended reading for educators in the social sciences, particularly gender studies; she does critique Farrell, however, for easily seeing causality in correlation.
- Clatterbaugh, Kenneth (2000). "Literature of the U.S. Men's Movements". Signs 25 (3): 883–94. doi:10.1086/495485.
- Warren Farrell, The Myth of Male Power, (N.Y.: Simon & Schuster, 1993), Chp. 2
- Warren Farrell, The Myth of Male Power, (N.Y.: Simon & Schuster, 1993), Chapter 2 & 3.
- This critique of Farrell is part of feminist James Sterba's critique of The Myth of Male Power and Why Men Earn More in Oxford University Press' book, Does Feminism Discriminate Against Men?, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), which is a debate of thirteen gender issues between James Sterba, representing feminist theory, and Warren Farrell, articulating gender transition theory.
- Farrell chapter 2.
- Jones, Todd (2004). "Uncovering 'Cultural Meaning': Problems and Solutions". Behavior and Philosophy 32 (2): 246–68.
- especially Components 1 and 2.
- (text of a presentation from the Dec. 2010 Integral Spiritual Experience).
- Warren Farrell, The Myth of Male Power, (N.Y.: Simon and Schuster, 1993), Personal Introduction.
- Why Men Earn More, Dr. Warren Farrell, Part I.
- Camille Paglia (July 25, 1993). "Challenging The Masculine Mystique". The Washington Post.
- Margot Mifflin (1993-08-27). "The Myth of Male Power Review | Book Reviews and News". EW.com. Retrieved 2013-09-02.
- Robert Winder (1994-03-11). "BOOK REVIEW / Hapless underdogs in a bitchy world: 'The Myth of Male Power' - Warren Farrell: 4th Estate, 6.99 - Voices". The Independent. Retrieved 2013-09-02.
- Mealey, Linda (1995). . "Rev. of Goldberg, Why Men Rule; and Farrell, The Myth of Male Power". Politics and the Life Sciences 14 (2): 284–85.
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