We will over the next few weeks continue to present full transcripts of all the presentations at the International Conference on Men’s Issues 2014. Here we bring you Dr. Warren Farrell’s speech, the first speech from Day 2, Saturday June 28, 2014, introduced by Paul Elam. Our thanks once again to Rick Westlake for doing the bulk of the work of this transcription. –DE
(Attila Vinczer) Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. May I have your attention, please? At this time I would ask that you would take your seats.
Welcome to the International Men’s Conference, hosted by AVfM; founder, Paul Elam. This will be our second day, our second half of the conference. Yesterday, we had an absolutely stellar day. (Applause.) The feedback that I’m getting is something spectacular. We have had some of the greatest minds talking about matters concerning men and boys, and, in actuality, society. Today, we are moving ahead with an equally spectacular day, I am certain.
Before we get started, I have some books that I would like to give away. If you could check your ticket number—Number 121, you are the winner of Bachelor Pad Economics by Aaron Clarey. You can come and get your book when you have a chance. The next book, Men On Strike by Helen Smith—Number 3. We also have two bracelets from the Goodfathers Only organization, run by Calvin Mann—Number 143 and Number 38. You can come and claim your prizes later on.
Without any further ado, I would like to have Paul Elam introduce Dr. Warren Farrell.
(Applause. Paul Elam takes the podium.)
Oh, no, Warren. Come on. (Warren comes to stage.) Terry Bagley’s hell …
Good morning, everybody. I have the pleasure of introducing Warren Farrell, a man who truly does need no introduction to this group. I could go into a lot of book titles that Warren has written, which most of you are already familiar with—they are available in the back of the room. I can mention that he was named by Financial Times as one of the 100 greatest thinkers in the 20th century; I think, in the 21st century too.
But rather than just go down a very lengthy list of Warren’s accomplishments, I want to take this opportunity to talk about what he’s meant to me, and I think, consequently, what he means to the people in this room, and to many, many other people.
Twenty-plus years ago, I was walking around in the mental-health industry, knowing that there was something wrong with matters between men and women, knowing that there was something wrong with our perception of men and our perception of women. And I could not articulate it. I couldn’t put my finger on what the problem was. All I know is that I knew something was deeply wrong. And I went looking for information; I found almost nothing helpful. I found a lot of feminist literature; I found people discussing men’s issues in ways that seemed to more compound the problems that I was looking at than to solve them.
And then one day, a therapist I know said, “Hey, have you heard about this book that’s come out? It’s called The Myth of Male Power. And just in hearing the title, I said, Okay, and I was at the bookstore that day, and I got it. And finally, for the first time in my life, and the first time in my adult work, with people with problems, and encountering what I perceived to be all of these issues between men and women that were not being addressed in a way that was helpful and healthy, and that could lead to building bridges between men and women, I found The Myth of Male Power. And it turned my life around. It made me see things differently. And finally, somebody had articulated—and for me, that’s the brilliance of it.
It is, we are all—there’s great writers in this room, there’s people on AVfM staff, there’s people that do videos on YouTube, and really speak well to these issues. Can you imagine being back in the early 1990s with no support, with only the feminist perspective around you, and conceptualizing all of this, and articulating all those issues on your own? I think it was a masterwork of our times. And I think we’re very fortunate to have Warren here.
Then I got the opportunity to actually meet Warren, and to visit with him in his home, to share a meal with him, and to talk with him on a personal level, to hear about his father and to talk about mine. And what I got out of that was that not only was Warren a genius, but in the realm of human emotions—of the heart—he had an impact on me instantly.
I’ve been following his writings for a long time. I’ve read all of his other books. But nothing compared to spending time with this man, to seeing the loving relationship that he has with his wife, and the love that dominates, from his presence, between people. His work has been one that has led us to a movement that is finally, again, starting to build bridges between men and women instead of walls.
One of the things that we’ve missed in this culture, especially over the last 50 or 60 years, is mentoring. It is a lost art, where skills, and maturity, and perspective, and balance about life is passed from one individual to another; frequently between men, between fathers and sons, between men and their apprentices in what they do. We’ve lost a lot of that, and having it in-person; and we’ve become a society without mentoring, for the most part. And this is why I’m so thankful for the work that Calvin Mann does in mentoring young men. But I also think that we adapt, especially as men, and that we can receive mentoring from their words … which I’ve received, for many years now, from Dr. Farrell.
I could go on and on about how I feel about this man. But this is his moment; I want you to hear him. So without further ado, I want to introduce you to my friend and to my mentor, Dr. Warren Farrell.
(Applause. Warren Farrell embraces Paul, and takes the podium.)
Testing, yes … Paul, that was really beautiful, and really has touched me.
I remember when my dad read the first draft of The Myth of Male Power. He looked at me and said, “Are you prepared?” I said, What do you mean, prepared? And he said, “Are you prepared to wait for a generation, until this book is even acknowledged?”
Forty-four years ago, when the women’s movement surfaced and I was writing for The New York Times, I wrote, “A Men’s Movement will emanate from the core of the consciousness of a Women’s Movement.” Forty-four years later, and maybe, like my dad said, 21 years later, that’s finally happening. It’s happening here. It’s happening now. It’s happening with us.
It’s happening, in part, because of Paul Elam. And, Paul, I’d like to ask you to stand. Please. And it’s happening … Paul, stay standing, please … ah, please? …
Dean Esmay, where are you? … Dean, I’ll also ask you to remain standing.
It’s happening, also, because, as Hillary Clinton said, “It takes a village.” And we may disagree or agree with Hillary on various things, but when it comes to “it takes a village” to create a men’s issues awareness movement, yes, it takes a village. And some of that “village” is AVfM’s editors. I’ll ask you to stand up, please, if you’re here. Some of the editors of AVfM … AVfM. And if you have ever contributed an article to AVfM’s site, please stand up. You are part of the people who have created this movement.
And if you are part of AVfM’s radio staff, please stand up and remain standing. I’ll ask each group of people to remain standing.
And if you are with their news department, please stand up. News department. And if you are with AVfM’s operations management, or international conference management, please stand up. If you’re with AVfM … AVfM’s server administration or forums administration, please stand up.
If you are with AVfM’s international multi-siting or AVfM’s Europe, please stand up. If you are one of AVfM’s financial supporters, we honor you. Please stand up. … Wow.
If you’re one of AVfM’s speakers at this First International Contribution—ah, Conference—whose contribution is not speaking here, but you are here because of your contributions … please stand up.
And now I’ll ask everyone to stand up who has gone the distance to attend this First International Conference on Men’s Issues. (Applause and cheers.)
I just wanted to be sure I got a standing ovation! (Laughter.) Thank you!
I asked—what I’m going to be sharing with you today is my third draft of this speech, to which my wife can testify. And I had a really careful analysis of what happened to feminism, from my own personal experience with it. But I decided I didn’t want to focus, in this event, on what happened to feminism and where feminism went wrong; and where I was, I thought, in the right movement, and how it morphed into a gap being created between equality, which was the original goal of feminism, and politics; and how politics led to exactly the opposite of equality. I had that all drawn out and worked out, and then I said no—I wanted to concentrate on where we need to go, what our top issues are. I want to concentrate on why are these issues that I will define, our top 10 if you will, what I believe should be our top 10—why they are important, and what the psychology is behind working with these issues first.
So let me work, first, on the number-one—what I think should potentially be the number-one issue that we should work on, and why that’s so important to address first.
Number one, I believe, should be the boy crisis and what’s happening to our sons.
And here’s why: When men discuss adult men’s issues, men hear weakness. Most men have learned, when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Not when the going gets tough, the tough go to a psychologist; when the going gets tough, the tough write a book about what’s wrong, or they do some wimpy thing like write The Myth of Male Power. That’s men’s reaction to men expressing their pain, their issues … adult men.
Women’s reactions? When men discuss adult men’s issues, women hear whining.
Women fall in love with alpha males, not whining males. Women survived based on their ability to find men who protected them; not because women needed protection per se, but because women were focused on protecting the children. And when they found a strong man who didn’t focus on his issues but focused on protecting her and being willing to die for her, her children survived. We’re here today because of the sacrifices that adult men made, and were selected for by women who focused on men who stood up and fought and saved and sacrificed; not men who talked about their issues, who were introspective, who got in touch with their feelings, who got in touch with their fears.
Instinctively, traditional women are more interested in firefighters than a man who says, “Gee! There’s a fire—I think the cause might be a drought—the fire makes me feel unsafe. It brings out feelings of insecurity from my childhood.”
So, then, the question becomes, Is there hope for men discussing men’s issues? And the answer is yes, because we have neuroplasticity; we have the ability to change. We are not stuck in our biology and our heritage. The defining characteristic of human beings who succeed is the ability to adapt. And our genetic heritage is in conflict with our genetic future. And that’s where we’re at, at this moment.
Let’s look at this in relation to boys’ issues. Let’s look at … think for a moment: When a woman who’s a mom sees her son having problems, as opposed to an adult male having problems, women switch from a biological desire to be protected by a man to a biological desire to protect her son. Suddenly her heart opens up. Toward her son, her biological instinct is to protect, not be protected.
So, for example, let me take dating. We know how difficult it is to talk about date-rape, an almost-impossible issue to discuss. If we discuss this with an adult woman, if she hears a man talking about fearing rejection, and fearing taking the sexual initiative, her mind switches to all the guys who went too far, too fast with her. Her mind switches to the guys who bought her drinks, largely to get her to bed. So instead of feeling appreciation for the work that they did to buy the drinks, she remembers the manipulation rather than the appreciation. She can’t easily hear the guy’s plight because it triggers her own trauma. It triggers her legitimate trauma.
As a mom, if she hears her son discuss his fear—as a mom, if she hears her son’s fear of calling a woman he’s attracted to, she switches to want to protect him from being rejected. Suddenly she feels his pain. She wants a woman to see her son’s value—the son that she’s nurtured and brought up, and cares for and loves more than anything in the world. She wants—she feels that, and suddenly, when a boy’s issue is discussed, she can feel what boys go through.
That’s why I believe the boy crisis, and what’s happening to boys, is both legitimately an extremely substantive issue—the more you understand the boys’ crisis, the more terrified you are. So that’s the substance. But the biology and psychology of it is what I just mentioned.
That’s why I choose it as my number-one issue.
I feel a bit like David Letterman here …
Number two: Children’s need for both parents.
Notice I didn’t say men’s rights to children. It is not about men’s rights to children; it’s about children’s—not rights to both parents, but children’s NEED for both parents.
It’s about children’s need for both parents because both parents, whether it’s by nature or by God—for whatever reason, both parents are checks and balances to each other. Moms tend to nurture and protect, and listen and care. Dads tend to push and create encouragement to try things that are new. And if the child falls on a ski slope, the mom will say, “Sweetie, any time you want to give up working for the ski team, don’t worry, you can do what you want to do”; and Dad will say, “Get up and try again.” And when Dad—when Mom isn’t around, what do Dads do? They tend to nurture more. When Dads aren’t around, Moms do a little more pushing. But as a rule, when Mom and Dad are both around, the children get the protection they need, the nurturing they need, and they get the encouragement and the push that they need.
So what do we know about children who do best? When they have both parents … When children grow up in non-intact families: When I did the research for Father and Child Reunion, I learned that there was only one series of four things that together had to be combined in order for children who grow up in non-intact families—like children of divorce, and children who are born outside of marriage—in order for them to succeed at the level that children do when they grow up in intact families. And those four things are:
Approximately an equal amount of time with mother and father. When either is left out of the equation, children suffer.
Second, the parents living close enough to each other so that the children don’t have to give up friends or activities in order to see the other parent, and therefore resent the other parent; that, in order to see them, they have to give up friends and activities that they are invested in. And then they either undermine themselves, and don’t get involved in team sports, and don’t get involved in things that are healthy for their growth, or they don’t have friendships that they really feel that they can be at their birthday party, and support them in the way that they want to be supported, and therefore they don’t get supported by those friends in the way they want to be supported.
Third, there must be no bad-mouthing between mother or father, mother-to-father or father-to-mother, that the child can detect. Bad-mouthing does not mean only words, it means body language as well.
Fourth, and this is new research, that couples that do family counseling—after divorce or non-intact families—do much better than couples with the same socioeconomic background that do not do family counseling. Not family counseling “when needed,” but family counseling proactively … consistently.
When children have significant father involvement, they do better in more than 30 areas we now know. When I wrote Father and Child Reunion, I was only able to document 26 areas; but now, in recent research, it’s another four areas as well. They do better in all social areas. And the most amazing social area—we usually think of a mother as more empathetic than a father; that’s probably true, especially toward the child; but children, all over the world, who have an equal or significant amount of father contact are more likely to be empathetic than children who do not. They’re also more likely to be assertive without being aggressive.
And just a little hint on the empathy issue: One of the reasons they’re more likely to be empathetic is not because dads are more empathetic. It’s because dads require, by boundary enforcement, the child to think of the dad’s needs, the mother’s needs, and other people’s needs beside themselves. Empathy does not beget empathy. Empathy begets the belief that you can be paid attention to, and your feelings should be heard. People who are always empathized-with often become self-centered. People who are required to think of other people, in order to win, in order—“Do you want to continue the rough-housing? You have to think of not poking me in the eye, not pulling me in the hair, not knocking me in the groin in order to get your way. And if you don’t do that, if you don’t think of me, there’ll be no more rough-housing.” And the boundary-enforcer dad who says, the moment he’s kicked or pulled —hair-pulled—again, immediately transfers it to say, “Okay, no more rough-housing,” and when he follows through with what he says he will do if what he asks for is not paid attention to, the child learns to think of somebody else besides herself or himself.
When the boundaries are not enforced, the child thinks of how to manipulate a better deal. So the child prepares to be an excellent lawyer, but nothing else.
And there are some wonderful human beings who are lawyers, by the way … whew!
Occasionally, I lie … no, just joking.
Number three is the “pay gap.”
Why the “pay gap”? Because when feminists speak about men’s—men and women, they basically start out with, “It’s a patriarchal world, in which men have made the rules to benefit men at the expense of women; and the proof of that is that when men and women work equally as hard, men arranged the world so that men get a dollar for each 76 cents that women get for the same work!” And even President Obama said this. And even would-be president Romney said this. It’s the one thing that Republicans and Democrats both agree on. And it’s also completely not true.
What is true—when I did the research for Why Men Earn More, I began to find that there were a number of things that men and women did differently in the workplace. And I was beginning to find five, six, seven things. The more research I did, it moved up to 10; the more research I did, it moved up to 25 differences between men’s and women’s decisions in the workplace. And it’s not really the workplace; it’s their work–life decisions, the way they handle work and life.
Now, there’s a big difference between men and women but not in pay. There’s a—the pay gap is not a gap about male versus female. It’s a gap about mothers versus fathers.
When mothers and fathers are in an intact situation, and children are born, mothers tend to divide their labor between the work at home and the work at the workplace. And they begin to figure out a world of work which is more flexible, that allows them not to commute so far, that allows them to get home earlier, that allows them to take off some time—like be a teacher and take off a good portion of the summer. And so, jobs that are more flexible, jobs that are more fulfilling, jobs that are closer to home—those jobs pay less. Because what feminists didn’t realize is that pay is not about power. Pay—the road to high pay is a toll road. It’s taking time away from your family to be at work. It’s being willing to be adaptive to the needs of the workplace.
If they open up a company in Siberia, or in Alaska, in Juneau, and you don’t like cold climate—you want to get further in that company, you move. Or you work in Alaskan pipelines, or oil rigs, and you hope to save—or Alaskan fisheries, and you hope to save up enough money, when you’re a single male, to be able to afford a woman; to be able to afford a family. Pay is about—when we pay for—we learn this at a very early age; we pay to go out on a date with women. The pay that we pay for, for a woman—reflexively—is our compensation for our inequality. It is our way of saying to a woman, “I am not worthy of your company until I put money out for it.” If there’s no romantic interest, the man doesn’t put money out. If there is romantic interest, the man puts money out because he’s paying for his inability to be equal to a woman. It’s like, compensate for it by paying for it.
When I’m paid to speak here, it’s because I’m valued. If I’m paid as a consultant, or as an expert witness, it’s because I’m valued. The more I’m paid, the more I’m valued. And women sensed and felt that when a man took her to a really nice restaurant, she felt valued. And so women began to feel that if they weren’t—if a man didn’t pay for a really nice restaurant, maybe they weren’t valued as much as somebody valued the woman who was paid to go out to a beautiful restaurant.
So pay, for men, was what we had to do to compensate for our inequality. Pay is not about privilege, it’s about a toll road. Pay is about the power we forfeit to get the power of pay.
Now, what happens when men and women are not married? And don’t have children—particularly when they don’t have children, that’s the distinction, mothers versus fathers? When men and women have never been married—this is U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics I’ll give you right now—when men and women have never been married and never had children, the women earn 17% more than what never-married men that never had children earn; even when you control for number of years in the workplace, the amount of education, and life of time—and other factors like that. That has been true, to a lesser degree, it was 13%, in the 1970s.
For 44 years we’ve had that pay gap—longer than that—between never-married men and women who have never had children because when women have not been married, never been married and never had children, they tend to focus more on their careers. And when men have never been married and never had children, we tend to focus more on job fulfillment; being the artist, being the writer, being somebody like me that doesn’t make a lot—that usually doesn’t make a lot of money; by doing that type of thing. That’s why we hear words like “starving artist.”
The reason I feel the “pay gap” needs to be so high on the list is because that’s the first place where a woman’s mind goes to as proof that men really have organized this world in a way to benefit men at the expense of women. And more importantly, when women find out each of the 25 decisions that leads to higher pay, all 25 behaviors and work–life decisions that men and women make—all 25, every one of them, lead to men earning more money and women having a more balanced life, that is, a happier life, usually.
And what is the purpose of pay? The purpose of pay is ideally to have a happy life. So if the purpose of pay is to have a happy life, and women have more balanced lives which usually means happier lives, then, really, men should be learning from women, not women learning from men. But there are women who want to focus on career. My wife loves the work that she does; and so—when she—the excitement of that—so what women also need to know is, what leads to higher pay, should they wish to have higher pay?
So the “pay gap,” when you understand it, it doesn’t only help people feel better about the way the structure of the workplace is set up, it also helps women know that if pay is their focus, there are 25 specific things that they can do to earn more money. But each of those things comes with trade-offs. You can—if you’re not educated, you can as a rule earn more money as a garbage-collector than you could earn even as an art historian. But you may or may not wish to get up at three in the morning in Michigan and collect garbage. Now, the people who do that earn more money in relation to the amount of their education.
What looking at the “pay gap” helps us understand is that—is the underlying definition of power that men have bought falsely, brought falsely, adapted falsely. And that definition is, feeling obligated to define power, feeling obligated to earn money that often somebody else spends while we die sooner. And if I started a women’s empowerment workshop, of which I’ve conducted many, and if I started that out by saying, “I’m going to teach all the women here today how to be more empowered—I’m going to teach you how to feel obligated to earn more money that somebody else spends while you die sooner—” you know where I would be.
The fourth issue I’m going to prioritize, you’re going to be most surprised with. It’s communication.
And communication is obviously not just a men’s issue. It’s a men’s and women’s issue.
But the reason it’s so important is because every time feminists speak, or AVfM speaks, there’s a propensity to distort what the other person says, and then to argue with the distorted version that the other person never meant to begin with! And when Arabs or Israelis speak, it’s the same problem. When mothers and fathers and women and men speak, it’s the same problem. And when I … in 30, 40 years of working with couples, one of the things that I’ve found is that I’ve never had somebody say to me, ‘Warren, I want a divorce! My partner understands me!’
And I realize that if I could put, not a diamond ring on somebody, but if I could put, inside of my psyche, the ability to have compassion for and understand the person who was speaking with me, I would be a better husband than I would if I had the biggest diamond in the world to give my wife.
The problem with that is, while everyone agrees with me, no one knows how to do it; because, biologically, when we heard criticism, we fear that there would be an enemy. And in order to survive, our biological response to the criticism had to be to put up defenses; or, better yet, kill the enemy before the enemy kills us! And when we’re criticized by our wife or husband, that’s what we want to do, we want to kill them before they kill us! That’s functional for survival, but exactly the processes that were functional for survival are dysfunctional for love and dysfunctional for intimacy. And so I said before that our genetic heritage is in tension with our genetic future. That’s what I mean. We got here by surviving; but we need to … we’ve upped the ante. Now we not just need to be role-mates, we have the potential to be soul-mates. And soul-mates require the ability to listen to each other; to listen to each other until we say that—the other person says, “I feel completely understood.” If I interrupt Liz and say, “I understand,” what I’m doing is saying, “Shut up.” She has to tell me she feels understood.
So how do we do that? We do that—because biologically we’re programmed to respond defensively to criticism, and we respond more defensively the more we love somebody because the more we love somebody, the more vulnerable we feel. The more vulnerable we feel, the more likely we are to get angry, not be centered; anger is just vulnerability’s mask. We get angry at the people that reject us that we love, not the people that reject somebody that we don’t love …
A woman calls a guy, a guy and a woman go out at night, and the guy does not call back in the morning; if the woman calls the man a jerk for not coming back, you know that she had interest in him. If she didn’t have interest in him, she’d be calling it “relief” that he didn’t call back.
When we call people names, when we cut them off like that, it’s because it hurts less to be rejected by an object than it does to be rejected by a human being. Construction workers call women, whistle at women, they treat women as sex objects because it hurts less to be rejected by somebody that they know is going to reject them. They are not worthy of that beautiful woman walking by the construction site, so they objectify her. When a woman calls a man a jerk, it’s because she felt that that man evaluated her as not being, she not being worthy of him.
And so—if we have such deeply engaged resistance to being able to hear others, especially when they love us, what do we do with that? We do a work—so one of the things that I do with couples in my couples workshop is I develop a workaround, to be able to work around the biological propensity to be defensive when you’re criticized; to be able to hear people and to associate the criticism with love, an opportunity to be loved. But how do I do that? By creating an altered space. No one can do that in a natural space. You have to meditate yourself into a space where you are receptive to associating “being criticized” with being loved. That meditation takes at least a 10- to 15-hour training for people to learn how to do. It means separating out the week so you have two hours of the week in caring-and-sharing mode, and 166 other hours in a conflict-free zone. You have to know how to deal with the conflict-free zone when conflict comes up.
Those are the types of things that, when we work on them, for men and for women, we begin to solve domestic violence—because domestic violence is not about power; domestic violence is about a momentary act of power designed for an underlying experience of powerlessness. So the solution to domestic violence is to not tell men “give up your power”; the solution to domestic violence is telling, is teaching both sexes how to feel empowered by, and how to empower, the other gender. And their children. And their parents.
That’s why communication is so important.
Now I’m going to go from being a nice guy to being a tougher guy.
Issue number five: Men’s Studies.
150,000 women a year take Women’s Studies courses. When you or I contact the media, if they’re focused on gender issues, to a large degree, a very high percentage of them have a Women’s Studies background. And so when I am being interviewed by NPR, even if I spend three hours with the associate producer and convince her that there really is legitimacy to men’s issues, she summarizes in bullet points my talk, and her producer says, “The guy’s crazy, and you were just too weak to see his craziness. You were too weak to see his manipulativeness. And so, therefore, no … no go.” And so, we’re up against a huge wall there.
Now, so what do we do if there’s Men’s Studies courses, er, Women’s Studies courses, in virtually every university in the industrialized world, and virtually no Men’s Studies courses that are real Men’s Studies courses, the type of Men’s Studies we’re talking about here; just feminist “men’s studies” courses in universities?
I finished a game of tennis, some years ago, with a guy; we both belong to the same think-tank. And when we finished, he said, “What do you do?” And I told him about what I do, and he said, “Wow! That is fascinating!” And I said, What do you do? And he said, “I’m the president of Northwestern University.” And I said, I’m fascinated that you’re fascinated by these issues—people are always fascinated at people that are fascinated with them … And I said, Are you interested in maybe being the first university in the world that brings men’s issues—into Northwestern University? And his response was, “And have me fired?” And I said, How’s that? I think I knew how that was … but he said, “Because the feminists would have me up on a stake within hours.” And this was just the beginning of social-media time.
And so I said—so I reversed the question; I said, Is there anything that we could do to bring Men’s Studies to Northwestern University? Without even missing a beat, he said, “Of course. Sue me. Sue the university.” And I said, Tell me more! He said … “If you sued me, I’d have to bring Men’s Studies into the university, and I would be a hero because I was avoiding a lawsuit. And I’d be able to say to the feminists, we had to do this, in order to be able to … to not be sued. And if we were sued, we’d end up having to do things like eliminate the Women’s Studies program. So we have a choice—we can either eliminate the Women’s Studies program or bring in an equal-but-opposite Men’s Studies program, that really is a Men’s Studies program.”
And so, I said, any other complications? And he said, “Yes. You have to have standing.” And standing means that you have to have somebody at that university who really wants a Men’s Studies program. So part of what we can do, if we make Men’s Studies an issue, is recruit men and women on college campuses to be, to file for a Men’s Studies program. Maybe they’ll succeed, and just get it. But if they don’t succeed—they want it, and there’s a group of two or three or four men and/or women, who want a Men’s Studies program that is a legitimate program on the college campus, and they don’t respond—now we have a Title IX issue. Now we have, also, a potential violation, if it’s a state university, a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Now we have something to work with—but here’s the big issue with Men’s Studies. Once this happens at one university, particularly in states like California or Texas—once it happens at one university, all the universities—which are usually comprised of academics, who usually have a great deal of fear and not that much courage … they are going … they tend to respond by saying, “Omigod, we’ve got to get our act together—we’ve gotta—we’ve got to do this.” And so one successful lawsuit at a significant university will have a ripple effect, as the coin that you’ve created for our us—has on that coin, a beautiful picture of a ripple effect—will have a ripple effect at every university in this country. That is, every university that gets any federal funding, which is about 97% of universities in this country. But what happens in the United States also happens in the entire world, usually. And so this will have—one university, one group of three or four students, can have a ripple effect across the entire world. That’s why I believe it should be in the top 10 men’s issues.
Number six is a men’s birth control pill.
Yes … And this is not just because Carnell Smith is here.
We’ve often heard, I think correctly so, that a women’s pill was probably the single greatest instrument of freedom for women in the 20th century. I would say that’s a pretty reasonable assessment. But it’s interesting that we have been within just a hair’s reach of being able to develop a men’s pill for more than 30 years. I wrote about this in one of my early books, wrote about it before The Myth of Male Power, about—I went around to scientists and found, was a men’s pill viable? And the answer was yes.
So I went to pharmaceutical companies and said, Why are you not doing this? The scientists now have the ability to create a men’s birth control pill … “We’re not sure that the men really want one, or th-th-that there’s much of a market for one. We’re not willing to, sort of, invest in the whole distribution and advertising.” And my response was—are you kidding? And the pharmaceutical companies responded, “You show me, you know—we haven’t received a hundred letters, from men, in the last decade, asking for that.”
When women want something, women speak up. When men want something … we keep it to ourselves. And then we wonder why pharmaceutical companies can’t hear what men don’t say. We need to speak up. That’s why A Voice for Men is one of the most perfect titles, and this is one of the most perfect forums, to begin that process.
Number seven: men’s health intelligence.
Notice I didn’t say men’s mental health, or men’s physical health, but men’s health intelligence.
The reason we are so unintelligent in terms of health is because every society that survived, survived based on its ability to train its sons to be disposable. Disposable at work; as warriors; disposable, I’m sorry, disposable in war, as warriors; disposable at work, as firefighters, as workers on oil rigs, and so on, coal miners; and indirectly, therefore, disposable as dads.
Now, if your survival is dependent upon your disposability, that means your disposability keeps you alive as a nation. Not your—the health of the boy. If you train a boy to be worried about his health, worried about hurting himself, that doesn’t lead to a boy who’s willing to risk himself—his disposability, to go to war. If I’m trained to really care about you, and love you—and I do go to war—and you die, your blood is spattered all over me—I go into major trauma. If I learn to not care about you, I go into much less trauma.
The degree to which men learn to love, the degree to which we learn to think of ourselves, the degree to which we learn to ask for help—health, and help for ourselves—is the degree to which we were hesitant to be disposable; therefore, we jeopardize the survival of the country. So, what was functional for the health of a nation was dysfunctional for the health of a boy.
And so, that is why we are unwilling to talk about mental health issues. This is why, when boys and girls are 9 years of age, we commit suicide at exactly the same rate. But as boys learn, get the hormones, and the socialization of masculinity, how do we evolve? We evolve by the age of 10 to 14, as we get the beginnings of masculinity, we commit suicide twice as much as girls. Between the ages of 15 to 19, four times as much. Between the ages of 20 and 25, five times as much. So we are, as we learn to—“When the going gets tough, the tough get going,” not when the going gets tough, we have five or six ways to express our feelings, like Tom Golden talks about, or other ways to directly express our feelings. We don’t learn the different modalities that are both comfortable for us as traditional men and comfortable for us as less-traditional men, to express feelings, or to be able to act it out, or be able to honor, or to be able to do the other things that Tom so articulately talked about yesterday.
When we have a nation that hasn’t rethought through its disposability propensities for boys, what we have is boys out there saying—girls out there saying, “Cheerleaders! First and 10, do it again! First and 10, do it again!” And what are the women saying to the guys? They’re saying to the guys, “First and 10 … do it again?” Risk spinal-cord injuries, risk concussions, risk shoulders dislocated, and still play! If you have a dislocated shoulder—I remember watching a college game, where the newspeople were saying, “Isn’t it incredible that Joe, with a dislocated shoulder, is still tossing the football so accurately?” Well, he should be calling the doctor! Not tossing a football. But we are honoring him for risking further damage to himself.
NFL means “Not For Long” for a reason. Because the people who are rewarded, and are the heroes of women and men, all around the world, they are people who don’t often live for long; who are often walking around barely able to walk at the age of 50; and the very thing that they were honored for is exactly the thing that they’re weakest in.
We need to question this. We need to question this at every level of society. We need to question, Why is it that men die five years sooner than women, when we used to die, in 1920, only one year sooner than women? And very few people a) know that; and b) despite the fact that we die earlier of all 10 leading causes of death, there are seven Federal Offices of Women’s Health, and zero Federal Offices of Men’s Health. That is the type of issue that will need to be surfaced; that is also sue-able; that is not—Men do not get due process, men do not get equal protection, when we don’t have equal protection in the very most important area, which is living.
That’s number seven; number eight is coming up.
2009: President Obama’s just elected. I get a phone call. Picked up the phone, a woman says, “We understand that you were on the board of directors for the National Organization for Women, for a number of years. President Obama has just formed a White House Council on Women and Girls. We’d like you to be an adviser to the council. Would you like to be?” I said, Of course! And she says—I said, Before you hang up, is it possible, perhaps, that you could have a White House Council on Men and Boys as well? And she says, “Huh?” And I go—I explained a few reasons, and she said, “Oh—never thought of that. Interesting.” But she said, “Actually, though, I am in charge of filling councils that already exist. I have no authorization to actually create councils on my own.” I said, I totally understand that. If I created a proposal for a council, would you be open to looking at it? And she says, “Yeah—well—I’d look at it, sure.” And I said, “Would you pass it on to, maybe, receptive people inside the White House?”
“Yeah, I can do that, I can do that.”
And so, I decided that I didn’t really want to do that. I wanted to get the top 30 people in the country that I could think of, that were authors on boys’ issues, that were … people who were Liberals, people who were Conservatives, people who were practitioners like the head of the Boy Scouts; people who wrote about these things in a different way, for a different type of audience, like that of men’s health; people like Tom Golden, who are practitioners, counselors, that are actually working on these issues. I got all of these people together, for a period of 18 months—you can imagine when you have Libertarians, Conservatives, and Liberals, all on one council, what these dialogues were like—with, sometimes, 25 or 30 people. Tom is shaking his head because he remembers some of these discussions! But we finally hammered out a very significant proposal to create a White House Council on Boys and Men.
When we did it, it got—basically, long story short—went nowhere. It almost went somewhere, many times; but always at the last second, there was somebody that knocked it out of the agenda to actually present it to President Obama. Somebody that, five minutes before, it was on their agenda; they were going to be seeing President Obama five minutes later.
Why do we need a White House Council on Boys and Men? Because boys and men are having problems in almost every single area. We’re falling behind girls and women educationally, economically … when we fall behind economically and educationally, I don’t know a lot of women who are that interested in marrying men in the unemployment lines. And so this affects not only our sons, but also our daughters; also marriages; and therefore, whether children will grow up in intact families. The reason—one of the most incredible statistics—the reason, a few years ago, 53% of women who had children, had children without being married, is because many of those women could not find men who earned a decent living; and that often translates, for many women, into “I just don’t want to take care of another child.”
And so, when a man doesn’t earn decent money, it has an impact not only on the man, not only on the woman, but on the ability of children to have a father in that child’s life; and therefore, on the ability of the boy to see that he has a role model of something; some person who can be respected and can be productive. A boy who looks at a role model of a father that’s disowned, that is put down—he is not a boy who feels he has much of a future. He’s a boy that goes adrift. He’s a boy that gets lost. He’s a boy that has no sense of purpose. And that is what we have today.
So the White House Council on Boys and Men has, deals with many issues—because boys and men are dealing with many issues, and many issues are being dealt with in different departments of the government—it’s crucial for the White House to be able to coordinate that. But it’s also crucial for the White House not just to be the government as substitute savior. It’s also important for the White House to conduct an interactive relationship with private companies that also do work. And the White House is doing that, now, with Brother’s Keeper and with the White House Council on Women and Girls. But with adult white males … it is doing nothing.
That’s number eight, and number nine …
Feel this building.
This is the building of men who are the ultimate in being willing to be disposable.
What we don’t know about these men is that recently, in the war in Iraq and Afghanistan … for each man who was killed in the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the number who were killed by suicide is 25. Twenty-five that killed themselves by suicide, for each one that died in the war, through war-related means. More men died of suicide that have been in the war in Iraq and (Afghanistan), in one year, than were killed in the wars themselves in all of the years combined.
What we are saying from that message is, “When we need you, we will use you. But if you happen to survive the process, we don’t care. We are willing to invest money to get you the equipment, to buy you the best of this and that. But when you’ve finished your job of serving, if you haven’t died on the outside, we don’t care what happens on the inside.”
When we don’t care what happens on the inside, we are making the ultimate statement about the continued investment that we have in male disposability … in the cruelest of ways.
The good news is that if we make veterans’ care a major issue, Conservatives can understand that. Traditional men can understand that. And almost all men and women can understand that. And we give our sons a message that if you do join the military, you will be cared for as a human being, not just as a “human doing.”
Number 10, and last: men’s image.
“Boys are stupid, throw rocks at them.” Could be made up by anybody. But when it was made up, it started out as a postcard. Then it became a T-shirt. Then it became a hat. Then it became an industry.
I don’t have any problem with anything really terrible being said by anybody. I don’t have a problem with Hitler, I have a problem with the people that agreed with him. Because it takes more—if no one agreed with Hitler, then there would not be any Hitler as we know Hitler.
When somebody produces terrible words, I don’t have a problem with it; I have a problem with the atmosphere of the country supporting those words, so that it takes those words and translates that into an industry.
I have a problem with the Dallas Rapid Transit—the DART—that you heard here yesterday. I have a problem with them having a picture of a boy, saying, “When I grow up, I will kill my wife,” or a Black girl saying, “When I grow up, my husband will kill me.” And I have a problem with the fact that we don’t understand why that picture on the DART poster was a picture of a White boy; because if a Black boy was saying, “When I grow up, I will kill my wife,” we would immediately understand, see, explain, and be really infuriated at the racism. Because, over the last 30 or 40 years, we’re not free from racism, but at least we’ve begun to recognize it on that level of obnoxiousness.
But a White boy—when he says it, we did not see the sexism. We didn’t see the sexism to the degree that the poster was funded, that the poster went through the city council, it went through public employees, and people posted it on the buses; and until there were complaints from A Voice for Men, it wasn’t taken down. That tells you the embedded sexism in this country; that tells you the degree to which there is an image problem, for boys and for men, that we need to address.
The good news about men’s image, as an image problem, is that I find that as I go through a lot of things, aside from boys’ issues … that after boys’ issues, people are able to look at that DART poster, look at the “Men are stupid throw rocks at them” … They can see that “Jews are greedy, throw rocks at them,” “Blacks are stupid, throw rocks at them,” “Women are stupid, throw rocks at them” … they can see the sexism in that pretty quickly. And that gets them on board to a common desire to have some justice, to have some compassion, to have some caring. And we need to bring that common desire aboard.
All this translates into the issues that I have discussed … when those issues are dealt with, they will deal, they will take care of solving problems and issues I haven’t discussed. When we deal with communication issues, we will deal with a lot of the problems that lead to “date rape” and sexual harassment. When we deal with communication issues, we will deal with a lot of the problems that lead to domestic violence out of people not feeling heard.
So let’s look at our names. “A Voice for Men” is a great name because people understand that men have not spoken up. People understand that women can’t hear what men don’t say. People understand that the shadow side of masculinity is the lack of a voice, the lack of expressing feelings. I think it would also be helpful to have subsections, called A Voice for Boys, and A Voice for Dads, and A Voice for Women Who Care About a Voice for a Voice for Men, Boys, and Dads.
Let’s look at the term “men’s rights activist.” Here is the challenge of men’s rights activists: You know and I know that men do need rights. We need the right to equal parenting; we need the right to not be registered—the only gender registering for the draft. We need the right to Men’s Studies. We recognize that all of these lack of rights are total violations of the Fourteenth Amendment, and often of due process.
But “men’s rights” is a tougher-than-necessary fight, in a world that believes that “men made the rules and have all the rights to begin with.” It’s like asking for kings’ rights. That’s the first challenge that comes to us. So we call ourselves “men’s rights activists”; the average person, particularly the average Liberal, is going, “Aggghh!” And the average Conservative is going, “Men don’t complain!” And so it’s like—we’re going back to the thing I mentioned in the beginning: It taps into the biological resistance. It’s a salmon swimming upstream. We have so many valid issues, we don’t need to start by swimming upstream. We need a little help, down a good hill, to get us going.
I think a better way of framing ourselves is “men’s issues activists.” Jim … And we’ve called this a Men’s Issues Conference. And so, we are on the road to that. Jim, in my workshop the other day, said that “men’s issues activist” had also the advantage of being “MIA,” and men’s issues are definitely missing in action.
Or we can call ourselves, more generically, “an advocate for boys’ and men’s liberation”—becoming part of a gender liberation movement. And then that helps people to see what’s been left out. Very few people can argue that “gender” means “two genders.” And there hasn’t been a boys’ and men’s liberation movement … Something’s missing.
It’s easier for people to join the fight for what’s needed than for what it appears we already have.
In the final analysis, we don’t need a women’s movement blaming men. We don’t need a men’s movement … and we don’t need a men’s movement either fearful of or blaming women. We need an understanding that, throughout all of history, both sexes have roles; both sexes have obligations; both sexes have responsibilities. Neither sex had “rights.” The job of a mother and a dad was exactly the same: they wanted their children to have lives that were better than theirs, and they would sacrifice their lives—whether it was a Chinese interned laborer, building our railroad, or someone going into our military. They sacrificed their life with the hope that—what? Their children’s lives would be better than their lives. Mothers and dads are in the same boat. We care, we love each other, we love our children. This is not a time for a men’s rights or a women’s rights movement; it is a time for a gender liberation movement, helping roles go from the rigid roles of the past to more flexible and fluid roles that recognize the individuality of all of us, individually, in the future.