Does Feminism
Discriminate Against Men?
A Debate

Ch. 2, “Do Men Have the Power?”

Excerpts from Does Feminism Discriminate Against Men? A debate by Warren Farrell

"The weakness of men is their facade of strength; the strength of women is their facade of weakness."

There are many ways in which a woman experiences a greater sense of powerlessness than her male counterpart: the fears of aging, rape, date rape; less physical strength and therefore the fear of being physically overpowered; less socialization to take a career that pays enough to support a husband and children, and therefore the fear of economic dependency or poverty; less exposure to team sports—especially pick-up team sports-- and its blend of competitiveness and cooperation that is so helpful to career preparation; greater parental pressure to marry and interrupt career for children without regard for her own wishes; not being part of an "old boys" network; having less freedom to walk into a bar without being bothered....

Men have a different experience of powerlessness. Men who have seen marriage become alimony payments, their home become their wife's home, and their children become child support payments for children who have been turned against them psychologically, feel like they are spending their life working for people who hate them. They feel desperate for someone to love but fear that another marriage might ultimately leave them with another mortgage payment, another set of children turned against them, and a deeper desperation. When they are called "commitment-phobic" they don't feel understood.

When men try to keep up with payments by working overtime and are told they are insensitive, or try to handle the stress by drinking and are told they are drunkards, they don't feel powerful, but powerless. When they fear a cry for help will be met with "stop whining," or that a plea to be heard will be met with "yes, buts," they skip past attempting suicide as a cry for help, and just commit suicide. Thus men have remained the silent sex and increasingly become the suicide sex.

Fortunately, almost all industrialized nations have acknowledged the female experiences. Unfortunately, they have acknowledged only the female experiences--and concluded that women have problems, and men are the problem.

Industrialization did a better job of creating better homes and gardens for women than it did to create safer coal-mines and construction sites for men. How?

Industrialization pulled men away from the farm and family and into the factory, alienating millions of men from their source of love. Simultaneously, it allowed women to have more conveniences to handle fewer children, and therefore be increasingly connected to their sources of love. For women, industrialization meant more control over whether or not to have children, less likelihood of dying in childbirth, and less likelihood of dying from almost all diseases. It was this combination that led to women living almost 50% longer in 1990 than in 1920. And it was this combination that allowed women to go from living only one year longer than men in 1920 to living more than five years longer than men in 2005.

What we have come to call male power, then—men at the helm of industrialization-- actually produced female power. It literally gave women a longer life than men.

While the male role in industrialization expanded women’s options, it retained men’s obligations. For example, men voted for women to share the option to vote. But when both sexes could vote, they still obligated only men to register for the draft.

We are at a unique moment in history -- when a woman’s body is affected, we say the choice is hers; but when a boy’s body is affected, we say the choice is not his -- the law requires only our 18 year old sons to register for the draft, and therefore potential death-if-needed.

"A Woman's Body, A Woman's Choice" vs. “A Man's Gotta Do What A Man's Gotta Do”

Even as women were touting equality in the 1980’s and 1990’s, in post offices throughout the United States, Selective Service posters reminded boys of what is still true today--that only boys must register for the draft—that only “A Man’s Gotta Do What A Man’s Gotta Do.”

If the Post Office had a poster saying "A Jew's Gotta Do What A Jew's Gotta Do".... Or if "A Woman's Gotta Do..." were written across the body of a pregnant woman....

The question is this: 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 single biggest barrier to getting men to look within is that what any other group would call powerlessness, men have been taught to call power. We don't call "male-killing" sexism; we call it "glory." We don't call the one million men who were killed or maimed in one battle in World War I (the Battle of the Somme) a holocaust, we call it "serving the country." We don't call those who selected only men to die "murderers." We call them "voters."

Our slogan for women is "A Woman's Body, A Woman's Choice"; our slogan for men is "A Man's Gotta Do What A Man's Gotta Do."

I am unaware of a single feminist demonstration protesting this inequality—or any other inequality that benefits only women at the expense of men.

The Power Of Life

We acknowledge that blacks dying six years sooner than whites reflects the powerlessness of blacks in American society. Yet men dying in excess of five years sooner than women is rarely seen as a reflection of the powerlessness of men in American society.

Is the five-year gap biological? If it is, it wouldn't have been just a one-year gap in 1920. (In many pre-industrialized countries there is only a small male-female life expectancy gap, and in their more rural areas men sometimes live longer.)

If men lived more than five years longer than women, feminists would be helping us understand that life expectancy was the best measure of who has the power. And they would be right. Power is the ability to control one's life. Death tends to reduce control. Life expectancy is the bottom line--the ratio of our life's stresses to our life's rewards.

If power means having control over one's own life, then perhaps there is no better ranking of the impact of sex roles and racism on power over our lives than life expectancy. Here is the ranking:

Life Expectancy
As A Way Of Seeing Who Has The Power

Females (White) 80.5
Females (Black) 76.1
Males (White) 75.3
Males (Black) 69.0

The white female outlives the black male by more than 11 years. Imagine the support for affirmative action if a 49-year-old woman was closer to death than a 60-year-old man.

I am unaware of a single feminist demonstration protesting this inequality.

Suicide As Powerlessness

Just as life expectancy is one of the best indicators of power, suicide is one of the best indicators of powerlessness.


  • From ages 9 to 14, boys' rate of suicide is three times as high as girls';
  • from 15 to 19, four times as high; and
  • from 20 to 24, almost six times as high.

Item. As boys experience the pressures of the male role, their suicide rate increases 25,000%.

Item. The suicide rate for men over 85 is 1350% higher than for women of the same age group.

The Clearest Sign Of Powerlessness

Subjection of a group of people to violence based on their membership in that group is a clear indicator of that group's powerlessness, be it Christians to lions or the underclass to war. If a society supports violence against that group by its laws, customs or socialization, it oppresses that group.

In the United States, women are exposed to greater violence in the form of rape. And therefore rape is punished by law, and opposed by religion, custom, socialization and virtually 100% of men and women.

In contrast, men’s exposure to violence is required by law (the draft), supported by religion and custom (circumcision), by socialization, scholarship incentive, and the education system (telling men who are best at bashing their heads against 11 other men that they have "scholarship potential"), via approval and “love” of beautiful women (cheerleaders cheering for men to “do it again”-- to again risk concussions, spinal chord injuries, etc.), via parental approval and love (the parents who attend the Thanksgiving games at which their sons are battering each other), via taxpayer money (high school wrestling and football, ROTC, and the military), and via our entertainment dollar (boxing, football, ice hockey, rodeos, car racing, westerns, war movies...). After we subject only our sons to this violence (before the age of consent), we blame them for growing into the more violent sex.

But here's the rub. When other groups are subjected to violence, we acknowledge their powerlessness. Men learn to associate violence against them with love, respect and power. Instead of helping men who are subjected to violence, we bribe men to accept it by giving them money to entertain us by risking death.

This is deeply ingrained. Virtually every society that has survived has done so via its ability to prepare its men to be disposable—to call it “glory” to be disposable in war, and eligible for marriage to be disposable at work.

© 2010, Warren Farrell (with Steven Svoboda) vs. James P. Sterba

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Man is not the enemy here, but the fellow victim. - Betty Friedan

Warren Farrell, Ph.D., is the author of numerous international best-sellers on men and women, including Why Men Are The Way They Are and The Myth of Male Power. Women Can't Hear What Men Don't Say was a Book-of-the-Month Club selection and Father and Child Reunion has led to Dr. Farrell doing expert witness work that has encouraged many judges to keep dads in children’s lives. Dr. Farrell’s released Why Men Earn More: The Startling Truth Behind the Pay Gap and What Women Can Do About It in 2005 and Does Feminism Discriminate Against Men? A debate in 2008.

Warren is the only man in the US ever elected three times to the Board of Directors of the National Organization for Women (NOW) in New York City. He has been chosen by The Financial Times as one of the world’s top 100 thought leaders, is in Who’s Who in America and in Who’s Who in the World. He has taught in five disciplines, most recently at the School of Medicine at the University of California in San Diego, and is ranked by the International Biographic Centre of London as one of the world’s top 2000 scholars of the Twentieth Century. He has appeared on over 1,000 TV shows worldwide and lives in Mill Valley, California with his wife and two daughters.You can visit him at or E-Mail

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