On Sunday, Feb. 17th, Dr. Warren Farrell joined me for a rich discussion entitled “Only Liberated Men and Women Can Heal Our World”. Whether you’re a man or a woman, married or single, old or young, politically liberal or conservative, socially traditional or highly unconventional, you’ll most likely be both confounded and inspired by our dialog, finding both an affirmation of and a challenge to your perspective.
Warren’s articulation of what he calls the Gender Transition Movement began with his significant early involvement in the feminism movement. He grew to question what has become a prominent tenet of much feminism—the idea that patriarchy was created by men for men, and that women are the only victims of its male-dominated oppression. Warren says that this is a false assumption and that both men and women are “prisoners of the need to survive.”
Ironically, and tragically, what is usually described as the “male dominance” of patriarchy has in fact engendered tremendous silent, unseen suffering and self-alienation in men. Consider these areas:
-Life Expectancy: The life expectancy of men and women was only one year apart in 1900; now women live 4-5 years longer. Warren asks, “What’s the measure of victimization if not life expectancy?”
-Mental Health: Overall male rates of suicide are 10 times those of women.
-Education: In school, boys are considerably behind girls in reading and writing, motivation, grades, and standardized test scores. Males have gone from 61% of college graduates to a projected 39% in 2019.
-Work: 92% of workplace deaths are men. One of every five men 25 to 54 is not working. The recent recession has been called a “man-cession” because the job losses have so dramatically skewed toward men.
And while women traditionally have a strong pull to monogamy as they age and can feel disposable themselves because men have been conditioned and encouraged “win” the attention of younger women, it is men who are ten times more likely to commit suicide when there is a loss of a partner through death or divorce.
Warren defines power as having control over one’s life and rights, rather than choice-less adherence to societal obligation and responsibility. So historically both sexes were powerless, in that each was confined to limited roles: the woman’s role was raising children; the man’s role was “raising” money. Warren suggests that a true measure of liberation is for men and women to make our own choices about our lives, careers, relationships & childrearing roles.
While I was inspired by the prospect opening up to my more empathetic, “feminine” capacities as a man, I wondered how we might change deeply, internally without becoming so sensitive that all our attention is entirely focused on therapy and personal growth. After all, masculine agency is needed to catalyze a rapid social transformation equal to our current crises. Warren’s response was that every virtue taken to its extreme becomes a vice, including the traditionally masculine territory of purpose and boundary enforcement and the feminine qualities of feelings/empathy. The presence of each provides the necessary checks and balances to meet life at ever level in a healthy way.
And this of course extends to parenting. Warren outlined the dichotomy that exists today of the prevalence of both dad-rich and dad-poor families. While we have seen the emergence of a new wave of dad-rich, choice-full, parenting where fathers are much more involved than the generations before them, overall, children today are much less likely to have father involvement. In 2010 more than 50% of pregnant women under 30 were unmarried, which usually means the father is minimally involved. “Dad-poor” daughters are more likely to struggle socially, academically, and to get pregnant without being married themselves. A dad-poor son looks at the future and sees that unless he’s a performer, he will have no purpose, certainly not in something as disposable as fatherhood.
When both the mother and the father are involved, both skill sets are present and can be learned and enacted by each parent. Warren explained that in a divorced family the mother is more likely to cave into the child’s desire for immediate gratification. The child may never learn a core component of maturity — postponed gratification, an omission with lifelong implications. And increasingly, Warren says, dad-richness will be socio-economically correlated with the gap between rich and poor.
I hope you’ll download and listen to the full conversation to hear how Warren questioned the wisdom of a society that routinely persuades its sons to be disposable and opened up a vision of new choices and possibilities.
I invite you to listen to the full dialog here.