A Man
Overboard

 

 

 

August interview with Warren Farrell


I first discovered Warren Farrell's book The Myth of Male Power about five years ago when I was going through a bitter divorce and custody battle. I was already mad as hell at how I was being treated in the legal system and I got even madder after reading his book. Actually, Farrell's perspective and research helped me understand that I had a right to be furious.

Contrary to the claims of the victim/feminists movement, women do get special treatment in many areas of society including child custody cases. (Fortunately for me I ended up with joint custody of my three children.)

Farrell told me he spent six years researching the book. It looks like he did. It's very well documented.

"I came to a point where I had to ask the question, 'how did things get this way?'" he said, of his years of study.

Did you know that statistically courts are less likely to convict a defendant found guilty of a crime if that person's gender happens to be female? Women's prison sentences are significantly shorter than a man's for a comparable crime? If a woman has a male "partner in crime," the man invariably takes the rap!

If men represent the powerful gender then why do they end up killing themselves in six out of seven suicides? Why do we accept that men are the disposable gender sent in vast numbers to die in war? Why are nine in ten workplace deaths men? Why does breast cancer research receive over six times the funding of prostate cancer research? Why do women live longer? Are you mad yet?

The former board member of NOW (The National Organization of Women) has a unique insight into the workings of the feminist movement.

"Feminists had politicized their freedom by blaming men," he said, "and they missed the point."

According to Farrell, early feminism made a wonderful contribution in helping women see their own opportunities. Their mistake was to claim that men were out to oppress women.

"The women assumed that men had it all figured out," he explained. "They saw men in a conspiracy to oppress women."

In his research, the author said he was "delighted" to discover that the conspiracy theory was bogus.

"I felt great joy in knowing that men were not inherently oppressors," he said. "Historically, there are bad men and bad women."

Men have an inherent desire to serve from the "Warrior" or "King" archetype, he added. "In the September 11 disaster, there were firefighters and police officers that knew they were risking their lives as they went about warning people to get out of the building - knowing it was going to collapse. Those men went up those stairs knowing their lives were on the line. There's no greater example of service."

Centuries ago, gentlemen were supposed to wear swords to protect the honor of women. Now suddenly I'm thinking of a Groucho Marx line, "remember men you are fighting for the ladies honor ... which is probably more than she ever did." It's only a joke, right?

"If a woman was insulted, men were to risk their lives to protect the honor of the woman," Farrell stated, "even if they were insulted verbally. The idea of women being second class citizens is preposterous. We don't go to slaves or workers and say I'm going to risk my life for you. It was not a slave/master relationship."

Since women and men are basically in the same struggle for survival, Farrell suggests we try to get along.

"It was clarifying for me understanding history and other cultures and the common denominator between women in Afghanistan in veils, and polygamy, and gladiator fights and bible stories like Uncle Laban and Jacob and Rachel and Leah, and so just being able to piece all those things together I came to understand neither sex was out to oppress the other."

Since the industrial revolution in Western Europe our culture has figured out ways to master survival to the degree we can start asking questions about self-fulfillment, he added.

"Ironically, the male role has created inventions that freed women to have enough income to get divorces and look inside of themselves and go to workshops."

In D.H.Lawrence's Lady Chatterly's Lover, the husband is crippled in a wheel chair and completely dependent upon his wife who then explores other "options" with the studly hired help. The husband is paralyzed in more ways than one.

Farrell said men tend to be more emotionally dependant on women. After the divorce or death of a spouse, men are ten times more likely to commit suicide.

"Women have learned to develop women friends for support and communications," he continued. "They have methods to get together and say 'oh, we never thought he was good enough for you, but we didn't want to say anything about it ... Reid or Warren or John came on to me and you know he was always wandering ...' so by the time they're done with this kind of interaction they've helped their woman friend build a bridge."

Men friends have about three-minutes of opportunity to help their buddy before we switch the topic to sports, he added.

"If you talk to men at work you hear the message that you've had your three minutes now and it's time to get back to work," he said, chuckling. "If you miss the cue you are subject to getting fired."

Women are programmed NOT to encourage their female friend to try and work out the relationship.

"They tell their story about how they've been screwed and that really helps women to feel like they're all in this together," he said, "but it has its shadow side too when helping the woman doesn't acknowledge her role in the process and confronting her with it."

Because men don't have that kind of support system, they just get depressed.

"Men become depressed, destructive, and find another woman quickly, then complete the whole process by getting depressed again," he said. "That's why every man should be involved in a men's group - any kind of religious or secular group."

Farrell suggested men even "put an ad in the newspaper" to get together with other like-minded men. There are thousands of support groups in this country including The ManKind Project (see www.mkp.org) or the resource for men page (www.menstuff.org). The author also recommends going to your local church or getting the necessary counseling.

"We're social creatures and knowing other men are having some of the same problems is extremely counter-depressive and helps us to get a prospective on ourselves," he instructed. "Men need the opportunity of talking through their problems, spiritually and emotionally, and be able to see concrete solutions that other men have discovered coming out the other end ... and are still looking good on the other end. It gives me hope when I see another man has made it through difficult times."

Are you ready for this? Farrell says men's group are more important to men that women's groups are to women. Why? Because women naturally reach out to each other. They're already talking and listening to each other.

"There's thousands of battered women's shelters where people are trained for only her perspective," he said. "And when the going gets tough, society gets tough on men. There's a tendency for men to put their emotional eggs in a woman's basket because he doesn't have the same societal support."

Although Farrell points out the political inequality between men and women, he said he believes the biggest gap is "spiritual."

"I think the best part of the women's movement is that it helped women personally," he explained. "It didn't really help women get money and status, it helped them ask the question 'who do I want to be and what do I want to be?'"

The women's movement asked good career questions, but didn't go to the spiritual level, he said.

"If a man says 'I want to be a doctor' the spiritual question is 'let me look inside of myself and forget about being a doctor and ask a different question ... 'what rings true, what excites me, and why does it excite me? Is it because I see admiration from mother, father and interest from my girlfriend?' If those are the spiritual reasons, then he is spiritually bankrupt. Those are approval reasons and he needs to look beyond them."

Farrell said writing creates an "inner fulfillment" for him even if it doesn't make him rich. And approval? His father is still waiting for the author to get a real job.

"His approval is not as important to me as being in touch with who I am," he stated matter of factly, "and writing makes me feel excited, and feel like I'm contributing, and my life has meaning."

Asking the questions that bring meaning into a man's life is inherently the role of masculinity, the author said.

"Traditional male roles were designed to prevent men from asking the questions," he stated. "The historical role of masculinity was designed to prevent a man from being spiritual. What was spiritual for him flowed from what was functional. His role was to be responsive to what the society needed him to do at any point. So if society needed him to go out in a war and fight and die, so be it, so more men would train themselves to die. Society wanted electricity, so society needed men not to ask if you'd get black lung disease in the coal mines. It had an investment in preventing or discouraging you from asking questions or making you feel like less of a man to ask questions like 'is coal mining what I want to do? How do I grow? How do I expand myself?' Those were questions that would have made you appear just plain selfish and to be condemned."

Farrell said a traditional man's job was to be a hero and a slave - the exact opposite of the spiritual journey.

"What men have to offer spiritually is the part of him that receives joy from giving," he said, "a kind of giving from choice rather than being programmed."

Women are far more enlightened but also more self-righteous on the "side of shadow," the doctor said. He praised the "humility" with which men have done their duty throughout the ages without complaining.

"There has been a willingness in men to be adaptable," he noted. "There's been a type of generosity and non-pettiness, and a type of giving of themselves in love."

Men tend to have more learning experience of working together from cooperating in team sports, he said.

"We think of sports as competitive," he continued, "but the essence of team sports is learning to give up ego and learning what is the right balance of you taking the shot or someone else in a better position taking the shot. The man's moment by moment interest is what's best for the team."

Speaking of Jung's work with archetypal energies, Farrell said the essence of a Warrior is to NOT think of one's self.

"The Warrior learned to die before thinking of himself," Farrell noted. "There's never been a quadrant for a man to take care of himself. That's why much of the men's movement has been a miserable failure. It is a genetic leap. Women taking care of themselves is part of their heritage and they'd drop a handkerchief to see who would take care of her 'the woman in distress'. Women learned to do that. But because we needed women more than men, because they protected children directly and bore children, men needed to be more adaptable as a Warrior, or to chop lumber, build homes, or be spiritual leaders. We mostly worship the Warrior in the position where he was needed. That role did not allow for the question 'what satisfies me the most?' You can't draft a man who is asking questions, 'what do I need for me?' The purpose of boot camp is to strip a man of being sensitive to his own needs. The military must have a machine working perfectly."

So where's the saving archetype?

"It's in the King role," he declared.

Farrell said the legacy of our grandparents has given us a culture, a technology, and the wherewithal to survive so we can begin asking questions that our forefathers couldn't.

"They focused on survival and didn't have the luxury of creating a new balance of giving to others and giving to one's self," he said. "The hero role has historical been the King who brought gifts to his people."

The ages have certainly demonstrated enough examples of the "Shadow King," but there still exists the "positive side," he added.

"It's like being a spiritual missionary, having the willingness to give what you've found," he said. "The bad part is when you're willing to force it on others because you're so convinced you're right."

Developing the "Good King" is a personal spiritual journey that comes from meditating and creative pursuits like writing in a journal.

"We can learn from women who have kept diaries," he said. "They thought about themselves and their lives and exchanged their words with other women. Sometimes words like "Warrior" don't give off the image of a man teaching himself how to journal.

Women can also learn from men and their ability to overcome obstacles.

"We hear the expression 'when the going gets tough, the tough get going,' well both genders need to ask if this is the right way to go," Farrell noted. "Sometimes when there is pain, we need to stop and pay attention."

The best future for all is when the yin and the yang are held in balance, he added.

"I may need to ask 'is this a moment I need to tough it out and stick with my wife 24-hours-a-day when she has cancer?' he asked. "That's when the Warrior is functional. And at the same time, a man can ask the question, 'am I by sticking it out and becoming impatient, sarcastic, and less loving?'"

The only way a man can ask those questions is by going inside himself.

"Masculinity and femininity are opposing positions," he explained. "Neither of those positions serve us well alone. It is a blend addressing the thousands and thousands of nuisances that are needed for us to observe both ourselves and others."

Farrell said when a child declares "I don't want to go to bed and turn out the lights" or "I don't' want to play soccer" that parents should ask the question "is this the time to push and encourage my daughter to play or should I give a more careful eye to giving her a break?"

"Any simple formula we adopt almost always underserves us with the male/female relationships," the author stated. "Women have often said that 'no' means 'no' in a dating situation. That underserves the nuisance that there are many 'yes's' and many 'no's'. If a woman said 'enter me' with no excitement then the word wasn't as important as the tone. She was adapting to me rather than excited about it. If she said 'no , no, no,' but she was touching me all over, I would be more likely to interrupt that as a 'yes'. Simple solutions almost never address the complexity of nuisances between men and women and parents and children - between body language and tone of voice."

Farrell said we need to pay attention to the conscious and the unconscious.

"Throughout history neither sex had power," he continued, "they just both had roles and neither was conscious. Women were told their role was raising children and men were told to raise money. Women risked death in childbirth and men risked death in war. Both gender were powerless."

Farrell acknowledged the work of C.G. Jung in helping us have "real power" and control in our lives.

"Personal power does NOT come from doing things people tell you to do," he said. "We need to go into the unconscious and find our balance ... balance what you discover inside yourself with the commitment you make to other people to be supportive of a sick wife or care for the kids."

A "Shadow Mission" is when we are not looking at the conscious/unconscious or male/female relationships within ourselves, the writer noted.

Dr. Warren Farrell's "Golden Mission" comes from his heart.

"The first time I ever heard someone speak from his heart in a group, I was stunned by his honesty and openness," he recalled. "It seems that men learn to speak from their heart only after reaching a crisis. Maybe that's the part of initiation for every man.

Click on the following for his books: His most recent (1/05) Why Men Earn More,. Previously books include The Myth of Male Power, Why Men Are the Way They Are, Women Can't Hear What Men Don't Say: Destroying myths, creating love and Father and Child Reunion. Check out his website www.warrenfarrell.com

© 2005 Reid Baer

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The fame you earn has a different taste from the fame that is forced upon you. - Gloria Vanderbilt

Reid Baer, an award-winning playwright for “A Lyon’s Tale” is also a newspaper journalist, a poet with more than 100 poems in magazines world wide, and a novelist with his first book released this month entitled Kill The Story. Baer has been a member of The ManKind Project since 1995 and currently edits The New Warrior Journal for The ManKind Project www.mkp.org . He resides in Reidsville, N.C. with his wife Patricia. He can be reached at E-Mail.



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