Farrell is practically an institution unto himself for the men's movement.
Warren started his career as an ardent feminist, writing a book, The Liberated
Man (1974) that mostly concentrated on how men can support the women's
movement. He is the only man to have been elected three times to the Board
of the National Organization for Women in New York City.
subsequently underwent a transformation of viewpoints and wrote two more
books, Why Men Are the Way They Are (1986) and the more radical The Myth
of Male Power (1993), both of which have been of enormous value to men
and the men's movement. The New York Post called Why Men Are the Way They
Are "the most important book ever written about love, sex, and intimacy."
He has served on the boards of the profeminist National Organization for
Changing Men (now the National Organization for Men Against Sexism (NOMAS))
and the National Congress for Fathers and Children. Warren is currently
finishing up his fourth book, The Seven Greatest Myths About Men, scheduled
for publication in 1997. He continues a demanding schedule of workshops
and speaking engagements to publicize his books.
J. Steven Svoboda is a 36-year-old attorney who has reorganized his work
life to allow him to devote the majority of his time to doing men's work.
He is writing a book as well as regular articles and letters about men's
issues, writing and performing solo theater pieces regarding men's issues,
doing legal and human rights work on behalf of men, and helping to organize
the work of the new Northern California chapter of the National Coalition
of Free Men.
spoke with Warren at Warren's home near San Diego on September 22, 1996.
Warren is a remarkably humble and gracious host and interviewee. He has
followed his path at tremendous emotional and financial cost to himself,
as he alludes to at points in the interview, and yet never does he fall
into self- pity. He is an easy man to admire and to like.
How did you develop your passionate interest in men's issues?
It evolved from my experience in the fifties, growing up during the McCarthy
era, and hearing a lot of assumptions that America was wonderful and Communism
was terrible. I was never quite able to believe that one group could be
all angels and the other group all devils. I was somewhat astonished that
when I spoke to that effect, I was immediately assumed to be a devil.
then in 1956 or 1957 my family went over to Europe and I moved over with
them, and immediately people in Europe thought my perspective on that
issue was 100% correct. I was 14 or 15 at the time. So I got reinforcement
from that. I mentally registered that maybe my "crazy" ideas
weren't so crazy. Throughout my life I have always been amazed that people
couldn't listen to other people, that they couldn't hear their best intent,
that there seemed to be an enormous need to demonize.
when the woman's movement surfaced in the late sixties, I was astonished
again that everyone was turning it into braburners and couldn't understand
the best of what women were saying. And pretty soon I decided that I was
so interested in that that I changed my doctoral dissertation topic and
I wrote my doctoral dissertation on the political potential of the women's
movement as indicated by its ability to effect a change in men's attitudes
and behaviors towards women. As I started to do that, I began to realize
that writing a dissertation is a little like masturbation; it doesn't
communicate with anyone else! So I decided to write a book. The opportunity
was created when an academic paper I wrote for the American Political
Science Association convention was discovered by the New York Times. They
asked me to translate it from academic language (the intellectual equivalent
of Ebonics) to English. At about the same time I was elected to the Board
of Directors of the National Organization for Women in New York City.
I started to get very well recognized in the early seventies as the only
man in the United States who had been elected three times to the board
of NOW in New York City.
went well until the mid-seventies when NOW came out against the presumption
of joint custody. I couldn't believe the people I thought were pioneers
in equality were saying that women should have the first option to have
children or not to have children--that children should not have equal
rights to their dad.
As a former ardent feminist, what is your current view of feminism?
I'm a 100% supporter of the portions of feminism that are empowering to
women and a 100% opponent of the portions that hone victimhood as a fine
art. And when I see statistics that men earn a dollar for each 59 cents
that women earn--or 76 cents-- statistics that are just totally untrue
and extremely misleading, or statistics that men batter women more than
women batter men, and I explain to feminists why they aren't true, but
they cannot even listen, well, it reminds me of what Mark Twain used to
say: "Misery loves company but it hates competition." And that
sort of defines the feminist movement. It loves the company of people
who identify with its victimhood but let anyone add, for example, that
men die earlier of all fifteen leading causes of death or that prostate
cancer is funded at one seventh the level of breast cancer for almost
the same level of deaths, they just go berserk.
Are there situations in which it's hard to figure out whether the feminist
position would support equality or just support women's claims?
Not too often. I'm almost always able to solve that by one simple test,
which is reversing the roles. The only trick there is that you have to
know male/female issues well enough to know what a true role reversal
is. For example, the equivalent of a woman being treated as a sex object
is a man being treated as a success object. So, a man cannot say, "If
a women at work touched me on the rear I'd say 'thank you'; why does she
say 'sue you'? The equivalent is a woman taking a man's money, as in going
to dinner and expecting to be paid for.
It's been said, probably by you and by others, that the men's movement
is the only revolution in history being sought by a supposedly privileged
class. How do we combat this perception?
In a way, the entire book The Myth of Male Power is a 500-page debunking
of the myth of men as a privileged class. One section, for example, looks
at men as "nigger": all the ways that men are treated as second-class
people. So for example, armies usually constitute the underprivileged.
Imagine telling women that since 1.2 million American men were killed
in war, we're going to have an affirmative action plan to have 1.2 million
women killed in war before we ask another man to register for the draft.
And all women would register for the draft until then. We'll have women
die in war while men stay home and take care of the children. Most women
will not say, "Oh, this is wonderful, finally female privilege."
And so the problem with men is that we have learned to call things power
that any other group would call powerlessness, like getting medals to
die or earning money that somebody else spends while we die sooner that
any other group.
if we sent little girls out on the football field at nine years of age,
and told them that they were going to take this little piece of pigskin,
and they were going to get concussions, spinal cord injuries, broken noses,
kneecap injuries that will last for life, and that if they get the pigskin
a hundred yards down the field the boys will love them more?
What about affirmative action for men as teachers in elementary schools,
for example, so that boys can get positive role models which they aren't
necessarily getting? Is that an idea that would make sense, do you think?
It's an idea that makes perfect sense. And it's not only an idea that
makes perfect sense, but it's an idea that makes it crystal clear how
biased our concept of affirmative action is. It's not affirmative action
to help people level the playing field; it is to protect the female and
to protect certain minorities but not to protect the areas in which men
are the minority. One can make a case that says that since 85% of children
being brought up in single family homes are being brought up by women
that about 85% of elementary school teachers should be males to balance
out the feminization that the boys and girls receive. We're in a very,
very dangerous period today. In America and in most of the industrialized
world, men are coming to be thought of by feminists in very much the same
way that Jews were thought of by early Nazis. The comparison is overwhelmingly
You have mentioned on that subject that both men and Jews were seen as
having all the power and creating all the problems, so that treating them
worse was permissible. How do we talk about analogies like this without
totally losing people?
We have to go right to the death issue, because you're talking about people
being annihilated because they were Jewish, and I am talking about a million
men going to their deaths because they were males. That's called the draft,
and it's important for people to hear that we're talking about ways of
killing a group of people because they belong to that group and that the
death of a Jew is no more precious or less precious than the death of
a male. I am a quarter Jewish.
What about sports? Do you think there is justification to have separate
genders in sports?
With professional sports, you can make an argument for males and females
being separated but you cannot make an argument for males and females
being separated and being paid equally. No one says, "Very few Jews
have been in the NBA, so we're going to have an NBA just for Jewish males
and it's important that they are paid equally, otherwise that shows discrimination
against Jews." No one would even say that about whites in the NBA.
Because whites and Jews are fair enough to say, "Wait a minute. What
counts is the qualifications." Feminists have confused opportunity
hundred times more important that what happens on a professional level
is what happens in our school system vis a vis sports. I don't think there's
anything that is a greater area of discrimination against women today
than the fact that nowhere in the world is there a female role model in
team sports that more than half of a general audience would recognize.
So girls are being deprived of team sport role models. They're not being
deprived of individual sport role models. But the value of team sports
is much different than almost anyone knows. The feminists often say men
are so preoccupied with competition; look at their preoccupation with
competitive sports. Totally incorrect. Men's competitive team sports focus
on the balance between individual achievement and team achievement with
the emphasis on team achievement. There is never a single move that you
should make in a team sport that puts the individual before the team and
if you do that you are ostracized by the team.
second point from team sports that is almost always missed is the ability
to separate the issue from the friendship. I slide into second base, you
tag me out. I call myself safe, you call me out. I say you're blind, you
tell me I'm blind. I'll say afterward, Steven, want to go out for a drink?
And the next day, I'm second base and you're shortstop, I'm throwing the
ball over to you, we're cooperating, and we together are calling somebody
else out, who's calling us blind. Where we stand depends on where we sit.
And if two lawyers are arguing in a court and they're full of insults
and they go out and they play golf or tennis together, women look at that
and they go "What? You were just castigating his evidence. He's defending
someone who was a criminal. You are the angel." And we understand
there aren't angels and criminals. There are gray lines to everything.
are often a lot less vindictive than women are, because we are rejected
constantly every day. Learning to handle rejection is a part of every
man's life a thousand times a year and he begins to learn the basic rule,
which is that if you stand out you will be a home run king but you will
also be a strikeout king. Babe Ruth was both and most men who succeed
It's a very interesting analogy that you draw there between men being
rejected and men being used to team sports and used to this idea that
you compete with someone and then you go out for a drink with them. Where
do you see that difference coming from primarily?
I think it comes from team sports from lots of risk taking and rejection.
And the good news for men is that we learn to handle rejection a lot better
than women do. The bad news is that we pay a price for that handling of
rejection, which is the covering up of our sensitivities and the discounting
of our feelings. It's sort of like we have a scab over our rejected areas
and we compensate for that by having to succeed because we learn that
success is the best preventive medicine against the cancer of female rejection,
against the cancer of our parental disapproval, against the cancer even
of our children thinking that we're wonderful.
Unfortunately not against the cancers that kill us earlier.
Very frequently not.
Do you think that there might be differences in our evolutionary roles
as compared to women which might have made a difference in our attitude
toward competitive sports, or do you think it more has to do with our
No, it definitely has to do with our evolutionary roles. In fact, the
socialization gives us the tools to fill our evolutionary roles. They
are our building blocks. The reason you played sports like bullfighting
and had gladiators is you were telling men you would praise them if they
learned how to risk their life and still perform. And those that succeeded
were your best protectors and so you had to get men to call it power to
have the concussion or the spinal cord injury. So you would socialize
them to be disposable. And the reason the subtitle of The Myth of Male
Power is Why Men Are the Disposable Sex is because everything in that
book is a counter to the belief that men have the privilege. It is saying
rather that privilege was the reward for sacrifice and privilege was the
reward for disposability. If you were willing to sacrifice yourself, you
would be called a hero. The Greek word for hero was "serow,"
from which we get our words servant, slave, and protector. All come etymologically
out of the word hero. This tells in one word the entire story of masculinity.
While it's been said that men oppress women but men are oppressed by society,
I personally am not convinced that there's any difference. What do you
Men don't oppress women any more than women oppress men. The whole concept
of men and women oppressing each other is ridiculous. That's a fabrication
of the feminist movement. What is true is that both sexes have roles that
can legitimately be considered oppressive, but those roles are not roles
designed by men or women, they were designed by biological necessity and
the necessity of survival. Survival was the oppressor. And in order to
survive, you didn't teach people to focus on rights, you taught them to
focus on responsibilities, you taught them to focus on obligations, which
is why our grandparents listening to this discussion would be disgusted
with us. And you have a nation of victims rather than a nation of entrepreneurs
because you're focused on competing to be a better victim.
biology of women in a survival-focused world was the childraising and
that left the social role of men to raising the money to support the biological
role of women. And it's not been until industrialized societies had enough
income to help society progress from what I call a Stage 1, which is survival-focused
to Stage 2, which is focused on the balance between survival and self-fulfillment,
that we could produce people who were able to focus on what rights and
opportunities they had.
men did not have it all figured out and have a system of rules designed
to oppress women. You could make a case that women taught men to play
the role of chauffeur in life, that women sat in the back seat as mother
and told us in the front seat in the uniforms to drive and we figured
out the best way to get there without asking directions and the woman
just fired us if we didn't do it right and continued to employ us if we
did it right. You could make a case that women addicted men to their sexuality
and then withdrew their sexuality until we provided them with a source
of income. You could make a case that women figured out a way of brainwashing
boys to earn money that the women spend to have better homes while we
live out in the mines and construction sites and kill ourselves. You could
do that but that would also be an incorrect masculinization and demonization
of the female role. The truth is that neither sex had power. Both sexes
had roles. Rather than raise children, men's role was to raise money.
When you have a role, you have an obligation, you don't have power. Power
is the ability to control your own life.
So how do we carry on a dialogue about men's rights in a society that's
so focused on victimization?
First you focus on equality and you say we have a 14th Amendment that
says that it's a violation of the Constitution to protect one group--one
sex, one race--more than the other. You start with something as simple
as why do we register eighteen- year-old boys for the draft. You ask questions
like that. Then we look at some of the crucial issues like why is it that
judges will award custody 90-95% of the time to the female. Is this equal
protection for the males that want it? You then ask questions like, when
our taxpayer dollars are being spent on health for women and men, why
is it that in 1920 men only died one year earlier than women and now we're
dying seven years earlier? Shouldn't we put money into men's and women's
health until men and women are dying about equally?
start saying that the school system has been focusing on helping girls
in math because they had been doing worse in math than they used to. Now
they're doing just about as well in math as boys are. That's terrific.
Now why aren't we doing the same thing for boys around reading, around
the dropout rate, around attention deficit disorder, around the use of
drugs like Ritalin? Why is it that we have a school system that's female-focused
and female-run at the elementary school level in particular?
is it that we have a women's birth control pill and not a men's birth
control pill? Can you imagine what the feminists would be doing if we
had a men's birth control pill and not a women's birth control pill? And
if men said, "It doesn't make any difference. If I tell you I'm on
the pill, I'm on the pill, and you can trust me." They would be saying,
"You must be kidding." Yet we as men are expected when a woman
says, "Trust me" to trust her even though she can be saying
she is on the pill and not be, and when she discovers herself pregnant,
she can either tell us or not tell us, she can get an abortion or not
get an abortion, she can raise the child alone for 18 years oftentimes
in many states and tell us retroactively and we are retroactively responsible
for child support.
we've moved from an era when women's biology was women's destiny to today,
which is an era in which men's biology is men's destiny.
Some of the ways you're phrasing these issues sound so commonsensical.
Do we have some peculiar blind spot regarding gender issues and if so
why would that be?
The blind spot is our biology which taught us to protect women and to
sacrifice ourselves if we have to. Men and women have been trained biologically
and through socialization to consider a woman's life as more sacred. The
reason for that is that women were the bearers of children and you could
lose a man and as long as you had a few men around you could impregnate
a lot of women but you could only produce so many children and so the
women were protectors of their children and the men played their role
of competing against each other to be the great protector. We had to train
ourselves to be disposable and women for generations after generations
selected for men who were the officer and the gentleman, not the conscientious
objector. The conscientious objector was the person who valued himself
too much to be able to die in war. Forty studies have been produced now
showing that women batter men and men batter women equally. No one is
even willing to look at them, much less believe them, even though half
of them were done by women and most of them were feminists, and so no
matter what you say, it's very difficult to penetrate the mentality of
Lately I've been hearing a fair amount of talk about identical rights
as opposed to equal rights, the idea being that the equal rights idea,
as you've just mentioned, gets changed into unequal rights with the idea
of remedying past inequities. How do you feel about that distinction?
The way to test for whether you're being fair is that you ask yourself
questions like, "If we have affirmative action to help women in areas
in which in the past they have been discriminated against, do we have
affirmative action in the areas in which men in the past have not had
an equal opportunity?" Are we going out there with special scholarships
to give boys to be elementary school teachers? Same thing with flight
attendants. Same thing with cocktail waiters.
thing with prostitutes. Why aren't we giving men the opportunity to be
prostitutes and make the same amount of money as women as often? I'm being
a little tongue in cheek about prostitutes but not completely because
it's wrapped into some deeper issues. But on the elementary school teacher
level, it's absolutely crucial. Are we giving fathers special training
to be fathers, not just paternity leaves that are equal to maternity leaves,
but why not give men twice as much money for paternity leaves? Make a
matching program for men so that a corporation contributes a certain amount
and the government contributes an equal amount so that the courses men
take on relationships and on family would be tax deductible? And I could
go on and on.
really believes in equality anyway. For example, if we really believed
in equality we'd be paying about two to three times as much for each house
as we pay. Because if we really believed in equality of outcome we would
say that fifty percent of the people building our homes have to be women.
You know what it would take cost-wise to get a woman to sacrifice her
life to the degree that construction workers do? There are construction
workers killed every single workday hour in the United States. It would
take much more excruciating safety standards. Rafters would practically
be in glass so the women couldn't get hurt. We would have to pay women
so much more for the rest of their life that the cost of housing would
soar. And we probably would pay almost twice as much for housing as we
currently do, especially for the building of skyscrapers.
Can we promote any men's issues as also women's issues?
All women's issues are to some degree men's issues and all men's issues
are to some degree women's issues because when either sex wins unilaterally
both sexes lose. So when you look at battered women and you don't look
at battered men, then you conclude from seeing only the battered women
that women are battered by men as an outcome of male privilege and power.
And you don't see that the person who does the battering is acting out
a momentary experience of power to compensate for the powerlessness that
they're experiencing. Which is why poor people batter more than well-educated
I was in a relationship with a female therapist who said, "I know
you're not the violent type but every time I get into a relationship with
a man I always make it clear at the beginning that no matter how long
we've been together, if you ever hit me just once, I will leave that relationship."
And I said, "That's very sad to me. I'm unlikely to ever hit you.
But it saddens me to no end that we could build a thirty-year marriage
with lots of love and children, etc. and something would happen one day
and I would hit you and you would leave without regard for everything
we have built together." And she said, "Well, why does that
bother you? You know that ahead of time. You just have to not do it."
And I said, 'Because I could get you to hit me within 48 hours even though
you know ahead of time that I'm going to get you to do that and I can
get you to do that without ever touching you." And she said, "That's
not true." And I said, "One dollar." And she said, "OK."
we had a one dollar bet on whether I could get her to do it in 48 hours.
During the first 24 hours I tried once and she saw through it. And in
the 46th hour I got unreasonable with her verbally, meaning that she would
say something and I would distort what she would say, and she would try
to clarify it and I would distort it again and then attack her based on
the distortion. I knew which buttons to push by that point in our relationship
and she got so caught up it that she whanged out and slapped me and I
said, "One dollar please." And she said, "Oh, you bastard"
and almost hit me again. It was really funny. But she has said to me a
few times since that it was one of the best things I ever did for her.
It really helped her in therapy to work much more effectively with the
dance of powerlessness that verbal battery can create that makes physical
battery a much more likely outcome.
Let's talk about your books. Your first book was profeminist but didn't
speak to men's issues as such. The Myth of Male Power is probably more
radical than Why Men Are The Way They Are. Will your next book continue
this progression of stepping out further on behalf of men?
It will continue that, yes, and it will take the seven issues that are
the most misunderstood, the most believed, that are causing the most damage,
like the belief that men earn more money than women do for the same work,
the belief that men batter women more than women batter men, and basically
leave the reader who reads them unable to argue against the facts.
A lot of men in the men's movement feel there's grounds for great optimism
that real change is coming. More and more men and women seem to be recoiling
from the greatest excesses of feminism in the 70's and 80's. Yet the pace
of change can seem so glacial sometimes. What are your thoughts about
how quickly we can hope to start moving toward true equality?
A very long time, because if you were to ask the question, can we hope
for men to change as quickly and make as much progress in the next twenty-five
years as women did in the last twenty-five years, the answer is no. And
the reason is that women complaining is not an evolutionary change. Men
complaining is an evolutionary change. Women asking for men to protect
them and therefore for the government to become the substitute husband
when women don't get the protection of men is evolutionarily very natural.
Men saying, "I need protection, I need help, please help me,"
is not natural.
Was there any difference in the feminist reaction to Why Men Are the Way
They Are versus The Myth of Male Power?
Yes. The Myth of Male Power dealt much more with the political issues,
the legal issues, sexual harassment, date rape, women who kill, and those
issues were very much more interfaced with the agendas of feminism. Why
Men Are the Way They Are was basically ignored by feminists. With The
Myth of Male Power, I was actively opposed by feminists.
Could you tell us a little bit about that?
With The Myth of Male Power, NOW and the feminist men like Michael Kimmel
called up to TV shows in the United States and Canada and from what I
heard from producers that leaked this to me, said things like, "Warren
Farrell recommends rape and incest and he will set feminism back twenty
years and if you produce a show with him, don't expect us to be recommending
books from feminists in the future to you."
did two articles that were accepted for Modern Maturity, one of the largest
circulation magazines in the US. After the articles were accepted, edited
and paid for, one feminist researcher objected to them and got Modern
Maturity to drop both articles. And regarding the places like the New
York Times in which I had published every single thing I had written when
I was a feminist, since I have questioned feminism nothing I have written
has been published. When I was doing the Donahue Show as a feminist, I
was on seven times. I was on once where I deviated from the feminist position
and I was never invited back.
What evidence did they have that supposedly you were promoting incest
or rape? Was there any evidence of that?
None whatsoever except that I mentioned both words. The incest thing was
very ridiculous because I just made an analogy about workplace sex being
incestuous. I said that when colleagues in the same company have sex together,
it was like people in the same family having sex together. And they took
that and said I was recommending incest. It really shocked me that the
producers didn't read for themselves what was being said. And with the
rape, I was showing why the rape statistics are exaggerated, and saying
that date rape was much more complex than the way feminists had portrayed
it, as men oppressing women.
It seems that the normal collegial intellectual debate parameters are
completely outlawed with certain feminist ideas.
I've often thought that the men's movement ought to be entitled to the
same sort of latitude a lot of us have given the women's movement, in
other words, we ought to have a right to have our Mary Dalys and Andrea
Dworkins who go overboard and create space for the Gloria Steinems and
Betty Friedans. If you had to place yourself somewhere on the spectrum
as a men's writer and activist, where do you see yourself?
Let me add a couple of things to those descriptions of women. Gloria Steinem
is in the camp today of Andrea Dworkin and Catherine MacKinnon and Mary
Daly. She much more identifies with that than with the camp of Betty Friedan.
Gloria Steinem is very anti-male in her vocabulary even though she's a
wonderful human being. The opposite is true of Betty Friedan, who's a
terrible human being but is a very thoughtful person who understands that
men have issues of transition as well. The other person in that radical
camp who is often skipped over is Valerie Solanas who wrote the book Society
for Cutting Up Men: SCUM Manifesto. And her significance is quite great
in the sense that she is the person that shot Andy Warhol and she is the
person who is now having biographies made of her and being celebrated.
For the film biography of Andy Warhol, she was interviewed as one of the
experts ON Andy Warhol after having shot him and ended his effective life.
So this is the celebration of a male killer. Because it wasn't just Andy
Warhol; she tried to kill a couple of other men as well.
would I put myself on that scale? I hope I'm a more original thinker than
Betty Friedan has come to be, but at least I think of myself more as putting
out ideas that are not ready to be heard that when looked at, people are
never quite sure whether they're revolutionary or just common sense. The
sad thing is that they're both revolutionary and common sense. What I
do in my writing is try to say things that are quite radical and about
as radical as can be accurately backed up. So what I try to do in my writing
is say exactly what needs to be said with no holds barred except with
a few holds barred in the area of sexuality, which is more than most people
can handle, and yet say it with love and compassion and with consideration
of women that is equal to my consideration of men. I hope my personality
is more like Gloria's and my thinking is more like Betty's.
It seems to me that when I talk about men's issues apart from the company
of women, they often get what I'm talking about. To what extent do you
think men who aren't in fear of women's reaction can grasp and acknowledge
our oppression, our problems?
To the extent that a man exists who is not in fear of a woman's reaction,
they can get a grasp of our problems pretty well. But try to find a man
who's not in fear of women's reactions. You are looking for a needle in
a haystack. The only men who aren't in fear of women's reactions are usually
men who aren't born or who are dead. (Laughter)
the heterosexual male is very, very disconnected from his own abilities
to get support from other men and so therefore very frequently all his
emotional eggs are in the basket of females and the result of that is
that all you have to do is begin to withdraw from him and he will just
It sounds as if you feel that there's a relationship between homophobia
and anti-male sexism.
Homosexual men have different reasons for not standing up for these issues,
the main one of which is that the political atmosphere of the gay community
is politically left and has bought that men are the oppressors and women
are the oppressed. Gay men have identified with the model of oppressors
and oppressed as two opposing groups. And since the laws are seen as written
mostly by heterosexual males, they see the heterosexual male as being
the oppressor. And the gay male has not had the life experience that a
woman can get just about anything she wants from a man if she's attractive
and she smiles and flirts properly.
Is there any connection between what I believe is our greater fear of
male homosexuality versus female and anti-male sexism that you can see?
Our main reasons for fearing males having sex with males is that you really
had to construct a more powerful social role to keep men in their place
than you did to keep women in their place. The biological role of women
having children was fairly natural. But the fact that one act of heterosexual
sex could lead to eighteen years of responsibility versus one act of male-
male sex leading to zero years of responsibility made heterosexuality
a pretty bad deal. And so [male] homosexuality, to the extent it was permitted,
would undermine the mentality of unquestioning obligation. As I point
out in The Myth of Male Power, even the Bible is far more preoccupied
with immortality issues than it is with morality issues.
Often men's rights get portrayed as anti-woman. If you're asked whether
you favor taking away from woman to give to men, what do you say?
I know of almost no case in which you have to take away from women to
give to men. If you work on creating a battered man's shelter and recognizing
that men are battered as often as women, you don't take away from women,
you start reaching out toward helping men, and you work on a totally different
solution to battering, and that solution becomes one that teaches people
how to hear each other effectively in love relationships rather than distort
what the other person says and set up the conditions for battery.
feminists are saying that whatever battering occurs must be a man's fault
because it's a patriarchy and a male dominated system so that anything
the male does is an outgrowth of his power and anything a female does
is an outgrowth of her powerlessness. That model prevents you from having
a system model that says that if you teach both actors in the system a
better way of communicating more lovingly and empoweringly to each other,
then there will be less battery and that's what we care about. So the
current feminist solution often produces lose-lose situations when in
fact we should be looking for win- win situations.
The argument I face sometimes is based on a hypothesis that there's a
fixed amount of money to fight issues of either gender. And so the argument
is well, are you proposing to take away from women to give men more?
And the reason that is ridiculous is because if you're approaching a problem
with a lose-lose situation, you're creating a bigger and bigger problem.
And if you approach a problem with a win-win situation you get a smaller
and smaller problem. So the ideal is to not have any money go towards
these issues because we'll no longer have an issue. And the measurement
of how much we're doing to help the society is not how much money we spend
on the problem but how much we reduce the problem. And we reduce almost
all male-female problems by working on both the female and the male. And
that usually means having both sexes take responsibility.
On another hot topic, rape, your talk of male-only draft registration
and combat requirements amounting to legal rape of men intrigues me. You
also talk of false rape accusations as constituting a form of rape. Rape
is such an explosive issue and it's one that women seem to own despite
the fact that more men may be raped than women if you consider prison
rapes. Can you use this sort of explosive language and get away with it?
I think it's important that we do because I won't get away with it in
the beginning. At first people are [saying], (mock outrage) "What?
How can you?"
I approach it by saying let's look at what makes rape such a tough issue
for women. And if I'm working a workshop we list on the board all the
things that make rape a tough issue: like humiliation, feeling invaded,
feeling violated, feeling like no one will believe you, feeling like you're
a disgrace, not feeling that anything is sacred.
so I ask the participants: imagine that you were a pillar of respect in
the community and someone falsely accused you of molesting children that
you were working with. Let's see what you would feel. "No one would
believe me." Totally humiliated. Nowhere to go. Violated for sure.
Even the people that you love think that you are now a devil.
who are raped do not have everybody around them thinking that they are
horrible and a devil. They may at the worst suspect that they had a little
something to do with the rape but they would never think that they are
horrible, terrible people. But these men falsely accused of rape or molesting
children are often wiped out to such a degree that they often commit suicide.
The number of women committing suicide after being raped is I'm sure considerably
lower than the rate of suicide among people who are falsely accused.
One issue that I've personally analogized to rape is circumcision because
it seemed to me like something that you're aware of and get reexposed
to every day of your life. I wonder if you have any thoughts about why
this is still happening after the documentation that's come out about
what a loss it is for men. Why is this still going on?
For the same reason I mentioned before about protection. Our role as men
was to prepare ourselves to be able to experience pain and call pain glory.
Not only in football but when James DeMeo did cross-cultural studies that
I talk about in The Myth of Male Power, one of his findings was that the
more a society was preparing warriors, the later in life it did its circumcision
and the more cruel the circumcision was and the less likely it was to
use anesthesia. The male was not only supposed to in some societies experience
at the age of twelve or so his penis being cut but he was supposed to
cut it himself and if he was to make the transition into manhood, which
was an initiation rite, he was supposed to not grimace as he cut himself.
that's circumcision taken to its extreme. And the purpose was to prepare
a man to be able to handle pain in the area that was at the essence of
masculinity. Handling pain and even smiling through it marked the ultimate
man. And that in my opinion is the ultimate in stupidity.
Let's talk a bit about the "men's movements." The mythopoetic
and masculist men's movements often seem very separate to me with little
thematic or personal overlap in terms of the people who are involved in
them. Are these really two separate movements or is there some way that
they relate and can reinforce each other?
Well, they basically are two separate movements in their current form
but they're not really two separate movements and they shouldn't be, and
they can both help each other. Most men's issues people should be more
involved in the introspective dimensions that are encouraged by the mythopoetic
movements, particularly getting in touch with what I call their two F's,
their fathers and their feelings. That movement leads naturally into the
fathers' rights movement.
a man is able to connect with his feelings, he is able to care more. When
he is able to connect with the father that was missing, he's able to both
care more and recognize the importance of being a good father. When you
care about being a good father, you start caring more about your own children
and the type of father you are. And that leads into worrying about the
rights that you have to not lose your parental connection to your children
and before you know it you're into the fathers' rights movement.
What do you think of the Promise Keepers?
Well, there's good news and bad news. The good news is that it's the largest
group of men in the country that are being encouraged to talk about their
feelings, to get together in groups, to talk about family, to talk about
relationships, and all of that is good good good good good. And the bad
news is that almost all Promise Keepers are Christians or born-again Christians
who believe that God intended men to be wallets and women to be child-raisers
difficulty with women raising the children and men raising the money,
is that there's a contradiction of outcomes. We are telling men to be
more involved with their family but then we're telling them to earn all
the money for their family, which takes them away from the family. And
so the man becomes a bread- winning machine. So the difficulty of the
Promise Keepers is that it creates what I call in The Myth of Male Power
the male tragedy or the male Catch-22: the more effectively he fulfills
God's role of providing for his family, showing his love by providing
for the family, the more he's away from the family he loves.
I've noticed in talking about men's issues that ways to cut off a dialog
without having to think about the issue have been developed for almost
every men's issue. The draft--men conduct all the wars anyway. Divorce
and custody--men abandon their children and don't want to parent anyway.
Men die younger- -it's their fault for keeping their feelings bottled
up. Circumcision--what about female genital mutilation, which is worse?
Prostate cancer vs. breast cancer--but isn't all medicine for males? What
do we do to avoid being ambushed by these questions?
We present the answers to these questions. We take them as opportunities.
We say, let's look at the issue of men causing all the wars. Let's reverse
that. Suppose we said to women, "Women, you are obligated to register
for the draft at the age of eighteen before the age of consent and before
you have the vote. And then when you go out and get a spinal cord injury
from a shot through your back that makes you a paraplegic for life, we
say, 'Ha, you caused the wars, you're a woman. Margaret Thatcher was in
power and she sent you and all the other women to war.' How would you
feel?" And that usually stops them in their tracks. So 90% of the
time the best answer is to reverse the roles.
Just before I got on the plane to come down here, I read about a male
adolescent who was raped by a female and some statements that were made
in court by the judge that a terrible experience can have its pleasant
aspects and that his passivity justified the rape. We're talking about
a 16-year-old boy who was raped by a 29-year-old-woman. What can we say
in the face of such monumental callousness and double standards?
Reverse the roles. This is a perfect thing for you as a performance artist,
to do a whole dialog about a woman who was raped and is being told, "Oh,
you probably enjoyed it."
Are we bad people if we don't put the toilet seats down after we piss?
Oh my god. Any man that doesn't put the toilet seats down after he pisses
should probably either get life imprisonment or be executed immediately.
It's difficult to know which is the best solution for him. (laughter)
What can masculists learn from feminists?
First we can learn not to be masculists. Because basically either one
is usually a form of sexism. I say that a little in hesitation, because
I do believe that it's valuable for a period of time to focus on those
types of issues that have limited women but as long as you're equally
focusing on those types of issues that have historically limited men.
So the main thing that we can do is learn to present those issues and
see if we can do it without demonizing women in an equal and opposite
remember when I was on the board of NOW, lots of women I loved and cared
for that were feminists would say, "Gee, Warren, it's so hard, if
I say what I believe I could lose my job or my husband or be ridiculed."
And yet they said what they believed. They took those risks. Not all of
them, but a significant enough group. Now granted, it's a whole lot easier
to hear a woman who's playing victim than it is to hear a man who's playing
victim. There's nothing in the culture that is more reprehensible than
a man who's playing victim even if he is a victim. But it's exactly for
that reason that we need the men's movement. So I believe that men's issues
do need to be presented by the men's movement for a period of time but
that we try never to lose sight of the fact that we're all in this together
and we have to always make sure that we are creating solutions that produce
love in the long run if not the short run and at the same time we do need
to say what our issues are and that's going to produce people verbally
battering us for a period of time until those issues get heard.