One of the greatest—if not the greatest—blind spots of feminism is its inability to understand the reality of being a man. Feminists assume that men have privilege at the expense of women, since men typically hold the positions in life they desire: the politicians, the CEO’s and the professions with power. What they ignore is the men who don’t have power in society: the garbagemen, the pizza delivery drivers and other jobs with little or no power. The notion that men have hoarded all this social power and refuse to share it with women isn’t that laughable since it has poisoned the well of heterosexual relations. This critical lack of insight into the reality of men in society is the damning indictment of feminism.
Warren Farrell came to this conclusion, but only after many years as a feminist. In the 1970’s, Dr. Farrell gave many rousing speeches to the roaring approval of women, in which he roasted men for their sexism, laziness and their generalized inability to live up to women’s standards. He noted that the vast majority of the attendees at his speeches were women, he noted that he was drawn in to the approval he got from women. He eventually realized that most any criticism that women made of men he called “insight” and that any criticism of women by men was deemed “sexism.” Once he realized that he was by and large only listening to women, he found out that he was ignoring the pain and anguish of men.
Dr. Warren Farrell
Throughout the ’80’s, his views on feminism and male/female relations underwent significant changes. He published Why Men Are The Way They Are in 1988, hoping that his book targeted at helping women understand men would also strike men as being truthful. The next few years lead him to research issues affecting men and this resulted in his book, The Myth Of Male Power.
In the book, he notes that his book isn’t the opposite of feminism—that society is matriarchal and female-dominated—but takes a Clintonian approach of triangulating what feminists got right and merging it with the reality of men in society. His aim wasn’t just to shed light on what what society misunderstands about the male experience, but framing in such a way that allows men and women to repair the broken institution of marriage and light it anew with understanding, compassion and love. In order to do this, he argued that we have to correct feminist narratives of male privilege.
At the outset, he makes the amusing observation that feminists are quick to say that God might actually be a woman, but never make the argument that the Devil is a woman. Feminism has spent all of its energies of edifying women and demonizing men. It has refused to recognize the real and substantive value men have brought to society and covered up misbehavior by women. In sum, he notes that feminism has ignored so much of the reality about men and women that somebody needs to clear the muddied waters. And he does.
Just in the first chapter, he makes many compelling observations. For example, he observes that in 1992, Japan underwent serious economic contraction and it was revealed that Japanese women had invested billions of dollars that their husbands knew nothing of. Traditional narratives of men recklessly destroying their family finances and women who were subject to their husband’s control of the purse were blown wide open as it was revealed that women were directing incredible amounts of money without their husband’s knowledge.
Further he cites specific examples debunking male privilege. He notes that black women outlive white men, female-headed households have 141% of the net worth as male-head households and men kill themselves at much higher rates – suicide for men over 85 years old is 1,350% higher than women over 85 years old. He discusses the power women have over young children and how marketing caters to women. In sum, he notes that women, as a class, exert great amounts of power over the world around them that we refuse to acknowledge.
He goes on in subsequent chapters to discuss issues related to divorce, media representation and other issues that society misjudges about men and women. Considering the weight of “evidence” against his claims, he spends quite a bit of time bolstering his observations with litanies of studies to justify his assertions. His claims are rational, impassioned and calculated to consider the women who would read the book. Until the final chapters of the book, the book is a fine and balanced read.
At the conclusion of the book, he builds more on his views of relationships between men and women and how to better them. He falsely relies on the feminist assertion that marriages pre-feminism were based purely on need and convenience. He goes on to talk about different modes of marriage and how to achieve more loving relations between men and women. This part of the book falls completely flat, as he has the progression in reverse: marriages used to be about love and, nowadays, are about appearances, economics and sheer convenience. His intentions here are noble, but his solutions are not workable.
He published the book in 1993, during a period of time not receptive to his message in the slightest. Anita Hill and Lorena Bobbitt were prominent figures in media, as media outlets wanted to push narratives of women as victims at the hands of sexist men. His book was condemned roundly by most progressive types—and most likely prompted Susan Faludi to write Stiffed a handful of years later—but also had quite a bit of support from prominent people like David Horowitz and Camille Paglia. His book caused many feminists to swoon from the realization that men don’t have this all-powerful staff of male privilege; it caused others to see the book as a talisman to lead them out of the quagmire of feminist gender theory.
That being said, he has inadvertently helped give birth to the Men’s Rights Movement. Issues around feminist ignorance on the reality of being a man are most assuredly deserving of understanding, but he has unintentionally aided a class of men who refuse to help themselves. The reason feminists hate MRA’s with such a violent passion is that they are a reflection of feminists, a class of people who refuse to better themselves and refuse to understand that society doesn’t oppress people, but teaches them to lie to themselves.
For all the good The Myth Of Male Power has done with its penetrating insight into the reality of male/female relations in society, it didn’t provide any workable solutions to repair male/female relations and has given men a tool to masquerade as victims in society. It forcefully debunked many feminist misinterpretations of society, but it also has provided a political avenue for men to pretend that society hates them or discriminates against them simply because they are men.
Society hurts men in many ways, but to conclude that society hates men is same mistake that many women and feminists make. Just because society burdens you in ways that you think are unfair, it does not mean society is targeting you directly. Any civilization is a delicate balance and most traditions or changes to tradition are ways of maintaining a sense of equilibrium. For example, child custody orders that favor women don’t happen because society discriminates against men or hates men, but because said approach maintains the peace as best it can be maintained.
In sum, The Myth Of Male Power is an incredibly important contribution to American letters, as it rectifies the inadequacy of feminist narratives on gender relations. Noted problems with the book does not detract from the supreme importance of challenging and refuting feminist nonsense on relations between men and women. In order to heal the grievous wounds to heterosexual relations, we must first start with reality, not just for women, but also for men. Farrell’s trailblazing book is just one step forward in the needed conversation about the myth of male privilege.
Read Next: The Myth Of Male Privilege