The Myth of Male Power

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The Myth of Male Power
Myth of Male Power cover.jpg
AuthorWarren Farrell
CountryUnited States
SubjectMen's rights
PublisherBerkley Trade
Publication date
1993 (Simon and Schuster, 1st ed.)
2000 (Berkley, 2nd edition)
Media typePrint (hardcover and paperback)
305.32 21
LC ClassHQ1090.3 .F36 2001

The Myth of Male Power: Why Men are the Disposable Sex is a 1993 book by Warren Farrell, in which the author 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,[1] and has been translated into several languages, including German and Italian.

Defining male power and powerlessness[edit]

Farrell explaining the future of our sons' definition of 'power'.
Farrell explaining the future of our sons' definition of 'power' at the Integral Spiritual Experience World Conference of Spiritual Leaders, 2010.

In The Myth of Male Power, Warren Farrell offered his first in-depth outline of the thesis 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."[2]

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."[3] 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.[4]

"Why Men are the Disposable Sex"[edit]

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 expendability required socialization.[5]

Farrell observes various characteristics of modern US society, such as the tendency to assign higher-risk jobs - soldier, firefighter, coal miner, and so on - to men: almost all of the most hazardous professions are all-male, and segments within professions have higher percentages of men as their level of hazard increases. Other statistics, in conjunction with the lack of public outcry or mobilization around them, point in the same direction of male expendability. Men are victims of 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. While the death rates for breast cancer and prostate cancer are comparable, the US spends six times as much on breast cancer.[6]

These statistics, Farrell suggests, can only be explained if US society places greater value on 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".[6]

"Where Do We Go From Here?"[edit]

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.

He claims that the women's movement has led to the re-socialization of girls to become women who balance survival with fulfillment but that there has been no similar re-socialization of 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.[7] In Farrell's recent presentations on this topic, he estimates that men are in 2011 where women were in 1961.[8]

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.[9]

The "Pay Paradox"[edit]

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.")[8]

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..."[10]

Critical responses[edit]

Academic 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".[1]

Feminist social critic Camille Paglia, writing for The Washington Post, says The Myth of Male Power "attacks the unexamined assumptions of feminist discourse with shocking candor and forces us to see our everyday world from a fresh perspective", though she added that Farrell is sometimes guilty of "questionable selectiveness or credulity about historical sources". Paglia nevertheless concludes that the book "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."[11]

Reviewer Robert Winder describes the book as "shock-horror hyperbole posing as scholarship" and goes on to write "Farrell might be right to see the gender conflict as a war to which only one side has turned up, but this is only a sarcastic way of confessing to an authentic male worry: the twinge of jealousy men sometimes feel when confronted by feminine solidarity. Farrell, however, just like some of his female opposite numbers, prefers accusation to self-examination".[12]

Linda Mealey notes that the book is recommended reading for educators in the social sciences, particularly gender studies; she does also critique Farrell for easily seeing causality in correlation.[13]

Academic Margot Mifflin writes that "most of Farrell’s tit-for-tat theories about man’s greater societal burden are slanted, self-serving, and absurdly simplistic."[14]

Anthropologist Melvin Konner writes that, like Christina Hoff Sommers' Who Stole Feminism? (1994), The Myth of Male Power is a good antidote to the way in which "real knowledge about sex roles...tends to get buried in postmodernist rhetoric."[15]

The Los Angeles Times notes that "some critics say 'The Myth of Male Power' goes beyond the nurturing rituals of the male movement to mount an outright assault on the victories of the modern women's movement."[16]

An article in Mother Jones notes that the book "has spawned a network of activists and sites that take Farrell’s ideology in a disturbing direction."[17]

The book includes several factual errors concerning murderer Laurie Dann, who is used as an example of violence against men by women. Farrell states that all of her victims were male, that she burned down a Young Men's Jewish Council, burned two boys in a basement, shot her own son, and alleged that she killed an eight-year old rapist; none of these claims are true.[18] Some men's rights activists,[19] academics,[20] and media figures have repeated Farrell's errors and conclusion.[21][22] Farrell later issued a correction on his web site.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Clatterbaugh, Kenneth (2000). "Literature of the U.S. Men's Movements". Signs. 25 (3): 883–94. doi:10.1086/495485. JSTOR 3175420. S2CID 145019982.
  2. ^ Warren Farrell, The Myth of Male Power, (N.Y.: Simon & Schuster, 1993), Chp. 2
  3. ^ Warren Farrell, The Myth of Male Power, (N.Y.: Simon & Schuster, 1993), Chapter 2 & 3.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ Farrell chapter 2.
  6. ^ a b Jones, Todd (2004). "Uncovering 'Cultural Meaning': Problems and Solutions". Behavior and Philosophy. 32 (2): 246–68. JSTOR 27759484.
  7. ^ especially Components 1 and 2.
  8. ^ a b (text of a presentation from the Dec. 2010 Integral Spiritual Experience).
  9. ^ Warren Farrell, The Myth of Male Power, (N.Y.: Simon and Schuster, 1993), Personal Introduction.
  10. ^ Why Men Earn More, Dr. Warren Farrell, Part I.
  11. ^ Camille Paglia (July 25, 1993). "Challenging The Masculine Mystique". The Washington Post.
  12. ^ 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. Archived from the original on 2022-06-18. Retrieved 2013-09-02.
  13. ^ 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. doi:10.1017/S0730938400019316. JSTOR 4236163.
  14. ^ Margot Mifflin (1993-08-27). "The Myth of Male Power Review | Book Reviews and News". Retrieved 2013-09-02.
  15. ^ Konner, Melvin (2002). The Tangled Wing: Biological Constraints on the Human Spirit. New York: Times Books. p. 501. ISBN 0-7167-4602-6.
  16. ^ WARRICK, PAMELA (August 9, 1993). "A New Role for Men: Victim : Former feminist Warren Farrell says he's sick and tired of guys getting bashed. 'Male power,' he proclaims, is just a myth". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 3 October 2018.
  17. ^ Blake, Mariah (January 2015). "Mad Men: Inside the Men's Rights Movement—and the Army of Misogynists and Trolls It Spawned". Retrieved 3 October 2018.
  18. ^ Farrell, Warren (1993). The Myth of Male Power. New York: Berkley Books. p. 216. ISBN 978-0-425-18144-7.
  19. ^ Equal Parents of Canada (1998-03-31). "Brief to the Special Joint Committee on Child Custody and Access". Retrieved 2007-02-16.
  20. ^ Fekete, John (1994). Moral Panic:Biopolitics rising. Robert Davies Publishing. pp. 31, 339. ISBN 978-1-895854-09-1.
  21. ^ "Corrections and Clarifications: Peter Raeside takes a look at the views of 'men's liberationist' Warren Farrell". The Globe and Mail. 1993-09-04.
  22. ^ Kay, Barbara (2007-12-05). "The last white ribbon". National Post.
  23. ^ "The Myth of Male Power". Retrieved 2011-03-22. While Laurie Dann did go into a boys' bathroom and not a girls' bathroom, and tried to kill the boys for whom she was a babysitter, the Chicago Tribune on May 21, 1988, Section 1, does list two women who were direct victims of Laurie Dann, and a mother who was an indirect victim when she tried to rescue her two sons who had been taken to a basement by Laurie Dann who immediately lit a fire in the basement. Therefore my suggestion that she was a parallel force to the celebrated University of Montreal killer who focused on women, was not accurate.

External links[edit]