Greg Andresen from Men's Health Australia recently conducted an in-depth interview of Dr. Warren Farrell during which International Men's Day was explored at great length.
GREG ANDRESEN: November 19th is International Men’s Day - a global occasion to celebrate the positive contributions and diverse experiences of being male. On this day we highlight those inspirational men and boys who help to forge a better world and who show by example how to live with self-respect and integrity in their relationships with other people and with the world around them. On this day we celebrate men’s and boys’ strengths while taking time to acknowledge their vulnerabilities and needs. We aim to transcend negative stereotyping and encourage greater options and choices for men and indeed for all people. Finally, it's a day for all humanity, providing an opportunity to consider the vast arena of human experience shared by men, women and children alike; our similarities deserve to be celebrated as do our differences. With this inclusive vision International Men’s Day seeks to bring a new and healing spirit to the world.
On this International Men's Day 2010 we have the great pleasure of talking with Dr. Warren Farrell from his office in Mill Valley California. Dr. Farrell began his research on gender issues in the 1960s. His first book, The Liberated Man, was published in 1974. It was written from women’s and feminist perspectives. By the 1980s, Warren began noticing that men were feeling misrepresented, and his book Why Men Are The Way They Are, was written to answer women’s questions about men in a way that rings true for men.
By the 1990s, Dr. Farrell felt the misunderstandings about men had deepened and become dangerous to the survival of families and love. He confronted the misunderstandings head-on with the award-winning book The Myth of Male Power. Dr. Farrell’s most recent research is published as Why Men Earn More: The Startling Truth Behind the Pay Gap - and What Women Can Do About It.
Dr. Farrell addresses a common misperception about International Men’s Day: the often-asked question “but isn't every other day International Men's Day? Aren't gender inequalities taken for granted? Aren't the achievements of the privileged men in politics and culture routinely celebrated? And aren't women’s lives and concerns regularly trivialised and marginalised? Why do we need to celebrate International Men's Day when men still rule the world?".
And so, but here’s the flaw in that thinking: that throughout all of history, it was not men who ruled, it was the need to survive that ruled and controlled. And men and women tried to play different roles that led both of them to be disposable in that need to survive. Women had to risk their lives in childbirth to bear children. They didn’t have the choice to do that or not to do that. Theoretically, they had the choice, but practically speaking, their parents, their families, their communities, their churches, their synagogues, their whatever, all told them they’d get more love, affection, approval and they’d be more like a woman, like a real woman, if they found a man and raised children most of their lives
Men conversely learned the parallel to that, which is, it’s not your job to raise children, it’s your job to raise money so that children can be raised effectively. So women’s job: raise children; men’s job: raise money. Both of those were not rights, they were obligations, they were responsibilities. They were what you did to become – to go from girl to woman. They were what you did to go from boy to man.
The male aspect of that disposability was that every society that survived throughout history survived based on its ability to persuade its boys that the way that they became men is to risk disposability; to risk disposability in war, to risk disposability in Chilean coal mines, to risk disposability in British Petroleum oil rigs, to risk disposability as a lumber jack, as an Alaskan fisherman, doing something dangerous in Australia, whatever is hazardous to the health of the man, the man was expected to do.
But why was the man expected to do that? Because what it took to create a healthy society created an unhealthy man. That is, what it took to create a healthy society was to be able to defend that society against invaders whether it was Aborigines or Native Americans that couldn’t defend their society against invaders, that group of people got taken over. And the people that were the oppressors, if you will, we were the ones that were able to conquer and we had to be able then to defend what we conquered or we would be taken over.
So, who was asked to do that? Men were asked to do that. And in the United States it’s still today the 18-year-old boy who is obligated to register for the draft. No 18-year-old girl is obligated to register for anything. Girls have become the only group of people who have the privilege of voting without any obligation attached to that privilege.
And so in many respects, the assumptions of male disposability, the requirements of male disposability, were that the legal obligations to register for the draft or the expectation that if you’re a working class man, you’re going to work in that coal mine or do something that you can to support the family. Those obligations were not called obligations, they were called power. And that’s what misled us. That led us to believe that men had the power and women didn’t, as opposed to understanding that men had one set of obligations that we call power, and women had another set of obligations that we call powerlessness, and that made it seem like the men were powerful, the women weren’t.
So for example, when boys begin to become men, we start thinking of girls’ sexuality. And it seems from the girls’ point of view that men have the option of asking women out and do ask women out and oftentimes are the ones to rape women and date rape women, and so it clearly seems from the girls’ point of view that men are powerful and oppressive and only after one thing – sex.
But what we see when we look closer, if we’re the mother of a son or the father of a son, we see the enormous fear that the boy has in reaching out and experiencing rejection. He’s expected at the age of 13 or 14 to risk rejection with girls, about whom he knows nothing, and sexually about which he knows almost nothing. And the fears that he has of being rejected are understood by a mother and father watching the 13 or 14 or 15 year old boy go through that process.
But if you’ve forgotten about that or you didn’t have a brother that you cared for very much and you were just turned in to feminist ideology, which said men were oppressors, you started forgetting about those experiences and fears of rejection. And when no one had said to you, “You know, if you’re a girl, why don’t we just reverse this for a while?” Why don’t we have all girls who grow up be the ones who are expected to risk rejection and ask the boys out. And why don’t we have boys’ sexuality valued more than girls’ sexuality and boy’s physical looks valued more than girl’s physical looks. And so then girls would risk rejection to want sex that boys keep in short supply from them. And if they really want it badly enough they should pay for it by asking the boys out on a date so they should both be involved in the double jeopardy of risking rejection, and then once they’ve overcome the rejection and have gotten some permission to be asked out about something very shameful called sex, we will then have the woman pay for the privilege of being with the boy.
Well, no group of women would get together and say, “Oh yes, we’ll reverse roles with you. We’ll take care of that – or at least we’ll share roles with you. We’ll share, not the option of asking boys out, but the expectation of asking boys out.” And that’s the big difference.
So today, what we’ve created is an era internationally; we have two basic sets of societies: industrialised societies and non-industrialised societies. In industrialised societies, that’s the societies where the roles have begun to change, but they’ve begun to change in the sense that in industrialised societies there’s the option of divorce because the society can afford that. They cannot afford the option of divorce in non-industrialised societies. So in industrialised societies that have the option of divorce, that’s where, once there is divorce, that women have begun to be much more assertive and creating options.
So in those societies, we’ve developed the era of the multi-option woman and the no-option man. And the most typical everyday multiple option that women have that men don’t have is that when the woman is pregnant and she’s married, and she’s involved with her career, oftentimes people will sit around the table and say, “Oh my God, you’re pregnant! How wonderful!” And then they’ll start brainstorming the three options she has. Option one is to be full-time involved with the children. Option two is to be full-time involved with the workplace. Option three is to do some combination of both.
And her husband sits around and says, “Option one is, you know, I can work full time. Option two is I can work full time. And Option three is, I can, you know, work full time.” Or if he’s a working class man, “I can work two jobs.”
And so we say that he has the power because he’s now earning more money than that woman does when he’s obligated to work full time, but you know, when I got into a cab some years ago. I was in the cab with Gloria Steinem going to a radio show, and the cab driver said, “What are you guys talking about?” Because he knew we were going to a radio show. And we said, “We’re talking about male power.” And he goes, “What do you mean by male power?” And I said, “Well, you know, the fact that men have more money and men have more power and influence.” And he says, “Well, who makes more money, me or my wife.” And I said, “Probably you do.” And he said, “Yeah, I make more money than my wife, absolutely. She gets to stay home, take care of three children. I get out here on the streets of New York City working 70 hours a week. Do you think I’d rather be home with my children or working 70 hours a week in a job trying to escape being in an accident in New York City?” Well, we got the point. And he said, “You guys must be from academia.” So he had us figured out in two seconds.
GREG ANDRESEN: When we look around us today, we see that the heads of corporations, politics, industry and society are predominately male. In the second video of this series, Dr. Farrell talks about the glass ceiling as it applies to women’s life choices but also the glass cellar that applies to men and their life choices.
DR. WARREN FARRELL: There’s two aspects of that. One is that I will spend a minute on the glass cellar, but I also want to come back to the glass ceiling because to say that men have the glass cellar jobs, which are all the hazardous jobs are 88% to about 99% male jobs. 93% of the people who die in the workplace are males, but that doesn’t even incorporate the real percentage because firefighters don’t usually die in the workplace, they die from lung problems and chemical problems from the fumes that they inhale; the same type of thing with coal miners. Those are not counted as people who die in the workplace, so almost all the people who die indirectly from work hazards are males as well.
Many of these jobs, women can do. Women can drive cabs in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth or Brisbane, and yet at the same time, if you go to Sydney you don’t find very many women driving cabs at night. You may find women driving cabs during the day in the safer areas, but not at night.
And so in every single hazardous job when women are involved, like in the military, women are about three or four times more likely to not be hurt or not be killed than the men are because they are protected from the most hazardous of the hazardous jobs. So almost all those glass cellar jobs - that is 24 out of the 25 jobs that are ranked by the Jobs Rated Almanac as being the worst jobs in terms of security, in terms of benefits, in terms of work environment, in terms of hazards, in terms of dirt, in terms of, you know, being in a sewer, being on a roof doing roofing, going over a bridge and most bridges that are built are built at the deaths of one, two or a dozen men. And so all of those things are things that are part of the glass cellar that men are in.
Now wake up almost once a week, any morning, and a garbage collector will be picking up our garbage. That garbage collector gets up at three or four in the morning, picks up garbage at an amazingly small rate per garbage can that he collects and women are not competing to do those jobs at a 50% level. If women did compete – if we required by law women to do those jobs at a 50% level, we would pay, I estimate, three or four times as much money to have our houses built, to have our garbage collected because it would take that much more money to find an equal number of women to do those jobs.
Now there’s two problems there in that glass cellar. One is that we don’t even – that we are not conscious of it even existing. And second is that many men do not mind making those sacrifices if they were at least appreciated and recognised for it and that’s what has been missing in the last 30, 40, 50 years, is that men get mocked when they earn a lot of money. They’re invisible when they’re in the glass cellar, and nobody appreciates that almost every home we live in is built at the risk of men’s lives and the hazards - men fall off the ladders, they fall off the roofs and they do things that we are benefiting from every day. Every time we flush the toilet, we’re benefiting from the work of men. But we don’t – we just take it for granted. That’s at the bottom level. But I also don’t want to use the bottom level to ignore the glass ceiling and what the glass ceiling is about.
Now, clearly there have been for many years, and still are in some professions, men who have an “old boy” network that refer men to men, that feel more comfortable with men, that feel – who’s jokes are similar to men. You and I would be probably, I don’t know you, but the chances are fairly good that we would be much more comfortable joking about sports and things like that and there’s certain metaphors and things about sexuality in particular that you and I would feel very comfortable with, especially if you are heterosexual. And so those types of shared connections are things that even when we don’t mean to leave women out, women can feel left out by the sharing of connections.
Now that has a parallel in the opposite world. When men try to become fathers, we oftentimes go into parks and in the parks there will be largely women taking care of children especially during the weekday. And we will feel left out of women’s dialogue and women’s camaraderie with each other. They may be talking about more female things, just like we may talk about sports, they may be talking about who does their hair the best, who does their nails the best and things that are more female oriented that we feel sort of like just disconnected from. Or they look at us taking care of the children in the middle of the day in the park and wonder, why doesn’t he have a job? What’s wrong with him? What’s the matter here? He doesn’t look like very much of a man to be available in the middle of the day taking care of a child. So that’s really the male equivalent of a glass ceiling.
But let’s look more directly at the glass ceiling itself. The glass ceiling itself, here is the best way that I can describe it. I was asked by British Petroleum, ironically, some years ago to help them have their women get more into executive positions. In the process of the investigation I said, “How much do you pay women before they become executives?” And the answer was, “Usually women make close to $100,000 prior to becoming executives.” That’s $100,000 U.S. dollars. And so, I said, “Right there we have the beginning of our answer.” Because when women start earning between $70,000 and $100,000, U.S., which is basically, depending on where in the United States you live, is enough to take care of yourself economically, women start asking a different set of questions which is, “I’m now taking care of myself economically, how do I take care of myself in other ways? How do I have enough time for my children, for my husband, for my private time, for my alone time, for my spiritual time, my time with my church? How do I have enough time to exercise? How do I have enough time to reconnect with women friends? Enough time to just relax, to meditate, to do yoga, to do all the things that a healthy woman does. To learn how to eat right, to shop right, to shop where I want to shop, to shop for things that I want to shop for? And so women start asking, once money is taken care of, women start asking, “how do I create a balanced life?”
So we see that when women earn their own businesses and the Rochester Institute of Technology says to women, “what do you want from owning your own business?” Women say at the 79% level, that the number one thing that I want is fulfilment, and then I want flexibility, and I want autonomy. Whereas the number one thing that men say they want at the 76% level is, I want income. And the reason that men want income is when men have income, they get love. Because without men earning money, there is no woman who is interested in the man reading Why Men Are the Way They Are in the unemployment line. You know what I mean?
So men learn that their relationship books are business books. We learn how to earn the money. So the point about the glass ceiling is that when a woman starts earning money significantly before glass ceiling-type of money, which often runs into multiple hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars, the woman starts saying, “I want a life.” It is an indicator of men’s powerlessness that we haven’t given men the encouragement to ask that question of themselves when they get to start earning $70,000 to $100,000.
I have an assistant who earns less than I do, most of the time, but he learns how to balance his life out. And that’s not considered anything but a wonderful opportunity and advantage for women, but we as men are criticised when we do that.
GREG ANDRESEN: One of the main themes of International Men's Day is to celebrate positive male role models (and not just celebrities but everyday men who are living decent, honest lives). The portrayals of men in the media however are often negative - as violent murderers, wife bashers, sexual abusers, deadbeat dads, and bumbling idiots, even though, in reality, only a small proportion of men act out these roles and behaviours. Dr. Warren Farrell talks about the effects of this bombardment of negative male imagery.
DR. WARREN FARRELL: If we think to ourselves, if instead of saying “men” we said, imagine if almost all the portrayals of black males or black females in the media were portrayals of people who were hopeless or helpless or fools or rapists or gold diggers or all negative images. And if images of women as mothers were negative images. Or if we had almost all negative images of Jews: if as soon as Jews were involved in a business we portrayed them as ripping the business off and stuff like that. Jewish people would immediately recognise that as anti-Semitic, women would immediately recognise it as sexist, and yet with men, we basically laugh at it.
And if we see on TV - a good way of checking that out is to watch commercials on TV. And when you watch commercials on TV, there’s a formula. And the formula is that a woman can be portrayed as a jerk, but only if a male is also being portrayed as a jerk. But if only one gender is being portrayed as a jerk, it always is – not mostly is, not most frequently is, but always is only the male being portrayed as the jerk, and especially if the jerk is a significant jerk.
Now in a Hollywood movie, a U.S. Hollywood fiction movie, if you see a woman for more than three scenes in that movie and she is not hurting the life of another woman or is not portrayed as the devil character, but if she is portrayed as a normal, female, feminine character, and you’ve seen her in three scenes or more, she will not die. She will not be killed in that fiction movie made in Hollywood. If it’s a real life movie, she may die because in real life she may die. But in a fiction movie, you cannot sell a Hollywood movie if you have a positive female character who dies. There are many movies in which positive male characters and heroes die at the end or any time during the movie or are killed during the movie, and the movie can still sell.
So we have in our inner psyche an okayness with the disposability of men and we can laugh at men and criticise them because we feel underneath it all, that men have all the power. The rest of the world is like ants and men are like elephants, so what can an ant do to hurt an elephant? And as long as we take that perspective on the world, we don’t have any guilt about hurting men until we start looking at men in a different way. And there’s one word that helps people have compassion for men, it’s a three-letter word and its “boy:” B-O-Y, or S-O-N. And when we see a male as our son or we see a male, not as an adult male, but we see him as a boy, then suddenly we realise, “Whoa. I care about my son. I care about my son almost equally to my daughter and therefore I care that he’s hurting or he’s being rejected. I care about the fact that my son is in a world now where, in the old days, if he wasn’t highly educated he could prepare for a job in agriculture or a job in manufacturing and still be able to support his family and therefore still be able to have respect of the community and still be able to get married and have children.” But nowadays with agriculture and manufacturing jobs disappearing, and our sons doing much worse in school, I care about the fact that vocational schools are disappearing, that recess is disappearing in schools, that the things that keep his energy positive, and that are oriented toward training him for jobs where jobs will be, that those things are not existing in our school system. When we talk about boys and when we talk about sons, suddenly we have an empathy. And the reason for that is that when it came to adult males, women fell in love with adult males who risked disposability, but women, when they’re raising children, that surfaces women’s protective instincts. That elicits women’s protective instincts.
And so when we talk about our sons, or our boy, then suddenly International Boy’s Day can be heard: International Men’s Day cannot be heard. International Boy’s to Men’s Day can be heard.
GREG ANDRESEN: One of the objectives of International Men's Day is to improve gender relations and promote gender equality. In the fourth video of this series, Dr Warren Farrell talks about the need for a “gender transition movement” as distinct from separate men's and women's movements
DR. WARREN FARRELL: When we understand that, like when we talk to our grandparents about women’s rights or men’s rights, you know, the whole concept of rights, they just go – it’s sort of like it’s anathema to them because from our grandmother’s perspective and our grandfather’s perspective, the world was not about rights, the world was about responsibilities and obligations. And so when you understand that both sexes - women had the obligation and the expectation to be more feminine by raising children, men had the obligation and expectation to be more masculine by risking their lives in war or risking their lives in work or raising money, basically.
And so if you had both sets of genders having roles, then what was not appropriate – it was not appropriate to have a women’s movement liberating women and condemning men, or a men’s movement liberating men and condemning women. It’s appropriate to have a gender transition movement where we together make a transition from the old rigid gender roles to more fluid gender roles where a man raising children can be as respected as a woman raising money.
The good news is, the women’s movement has done some wonderful things for women. It has opened and freed women from the old strict gender roles. And it’s taught women how to be able to not only raise children, but also to raise money. And the good news about that is, women have flexibility. But if you think of a family as also including men: brothers, fathers and husbands, and then you think of the family boat, the woman’s movement has helped women row on both sides of the boat: raise children or raise money. Men have only learned to row on one side of the boat: raise money. In a recession we need the men to be able to be flexible enough to also raise children while the women perhaps raise money.
And so what we’ve done is we’ve taught women to row on both sides of the boat, but taught men to row only on one side of the boat. And the problem is, that when women exercise their power to row on the side where men can only row on, if men can only row on that side, the boat that is rowed on on one side by both sexes is a boat that goes in circles. And a boat that goes in circles is very vulnerable to the rocks of recessions.
And so we see a global recession now in which we have women in industrialised societies trained much more effectively to row on both sides of the boat. That’s why we need a gender transition movement, to help both sexes be able to row on both sides of the boat so all families are much less vulnerable to recessions and
GREG ANDRESEN: One step towards a gender transition movement might be the introduction of paid paternity leave, such as has recently been promised by the Australian government. Do you see such progress also taking place in the U.S.?
DR. WARREN FARRELL: Not as well in the States as it is in Australia and also it’s taking place very much more so in places like Sweden where, and the attitude of Sweden is reflected in its laws and the laws are reflected in its attitude. For example, the law in Sweden says that if a man doesn’t take a full month of paternity leaves, that paternity leave is lost to the family. Now, the woman is allowed to have two or three months, I think it is, without that. So when you start having laws that say, if you don’t take advantage of something like paternity leave, that’s when you really start saying, we’re really encouraging you to be involved. We really recognise and value you being involved.
In the United States we don’t recognise and value that enough and it’s worse than that, in the United States, when a man does, for whatever reason, get involved with his children, oftentimes a man gets involved with his children and his income is not as much as the female’s. And when an income of a male is not as much as a female’s a woman is much more likely to divorce him. And when a woman initiates a divorce, if she says, “I want the children,” he often has to spend $50,000 to $150,000 to $200,000 to fight for the children, which is absurd because oftentimes, even if he is the caretaker, he still has to fight to be involved with the children even at a 50% level.
And so we have a very negative system going in relation to children having the right to both parents. And it’s not even really children having the right to both parents. Both parents - the male and the female - are biologically – the child is biologically half the father and half the mother. So when the child doesn’t have equal exposure approximately to the mother and the father, the child is not having equal exposure to both parts of itself. A child that doesn’t know half of itself has the parent who’s absent become a straw parent. The straw parent – because the child only sees a little bit of that parent, every parent has problems - whether that parent’s unreliable, irresponsible, drinks too much, or whatever. The mother or the parent at home is likely to say some negative things about that parent, and then as that child grows up and says, “Well maybe I’m like that. I’m irresponsible, I lie,” - who doesn’t? – “I do things that are irresponsible,” - who doesn’t? Then the child starts wondering whether “I’m inherently irresponsible, I’m inherently a liar, something’s wrong with me”. But if you don’t know the father, you don’t know the parent that that’s been said negatively about because you’re not seeing very much of them, you start feeling very vulnerable that maybe that’s you and it becomes like the invasion of a body snatcher. It eats up your psyche.
And the boy can’t – or the girl can’t - talk about it a lot because if you talk about it to the mother that may be saying some of those things, or the father that may be saying some of those things about the mother, then you fear that you’ll get into an argument with the parent that’s saying those things. If you say to the other parent about whom it’s being said, you fear you’ll create an argument between the parents and further destabilise an already destabilising situation. And so it’s a real Catch-22 for children in that way.
And so we’re making a little bit of progress, the very fact that there are some paternity leaves in some other countries now is a wonderful thing, but we also find that in the United States and also in Canada, until recently when the laws were modified there to make paternity leaves something that were paid for to a greater degree, there was still a lot of pressure on men not to take those paternity leaves because then this would show that they really weren’t committed to their job. They were like women. They were sort of like not going to be responsible. And so many men, especially if the women had taken some maternity leaves said, “I fear that if I do that, this will lead to me not being promoted as quickly and we need the money, especially if you want the option to stay home.” But that’s just one little slice of the dice, so to speak, or slice of the cheese, or whatever. Another example of that same category is paternity fraud and men’s birth control pill is another example.
Many times when men do become dead beats, it’s often because they felt that they weren’t part of the process of deciding to have that child to begin with. And so not being a partner in the conception, they don’t feel very partnering in the process of raising the child that they didn’t feel that they had a true partnership in conceiving. The only way men can take responsibility for that is to have the same type of freedom. To have a men’s birth control pill just like any – if we ever said to a society, gee, we’re going to eliminate the woman’s birth control pill because you have IUD’s, you have diaphragms, you have other forms of birth control. Women would say, “Excuse me, I don’t think so.” And so, men have to fight for that men’s birth control pill. Men have to fight to make sure that when a child is created that every woman is obligated to report – to get a blood test to make sure that that child is the child of the father that she says it is, so that no father goes through years of raising a child that he’s told is his, only to find out that child is not his, and then perhaps abandon that child and then have a child left without a father or without somebody that cares for him or her. Or a man feel like he’s been fooled all his life to raise money, which doesn’t mean just raising money, but when you’re raising money to support a wife and two or three children, then you are taking jobs that earn more, which usually mean jobs that are less fulfilling.
GREG ANDRESEN: And possibly more unhealthy and more life threatening, etcetera.
DR. WARREN FARRELL: Yes, exactly. You might choose between a job as a librarian or as a garbage collector, but you’ll probably know that a job as a garbage collector will be more available to you than a job as a librarian even if you have a Masters Degree in Library Science. And so because people need more garbage collectors than we need librarians, in relation to the demand – because we all need our garbage picked up every week. And we don’t necessarily need a book from a library every week.
GREG ANDRESEN: One of the themes of International Men’s Day is “celebrating men’s contributions to childcare.” In the fifth and final video of this series, Dr. Warren Farrell talks about the positive outcomes for children from having fathers intimately involved in their day-to-day care.
DR. WARREN FARRELL: First of all, let me just be clear there’s two areas here. One is outcomes, and the other one is why. I can share with you, and I will, what happens when children have fathers that are very involved. Those are outcomes, really good data backs up that portion of Father and Child Reunion. I will then share with you some reasons why I believe that is the case. I believe you’ll find those will make a lot of sense, but they can be argued with because all reasons why can be argued with.
OK, so children do better in about 26 different areas of measurement when fathers are more involved versus less involved. They do significantly better when children are raised primarily by their dads, they actually do better than children raised primarily by their moms. This does not mean though that men are better as fathers than women are as mothers because when people want to do something, when they self-select themselves to do something, they tend to have more motivation to do that and so on. It would be like a woman in the 1950’s self-selecting to become a doctor. The chances are that she would be a very good doctor, probably better than the average male doctor.
And so for those types of reasons, children who are raised with significant father involvement are far less likely to get pregnant out of wedlock during teenage years. They’re far more likely to get married and not be divorced. They’re far more likely to do better in all academic areas, no exception, especially in their SAT’s or the equivalent of the college admissions test. I don’t know if they’re called SAT’s in Australia.
They’re far more likely to do better in all physical health areas; they’re less likely to be sick in school all the way to going to a hospital. They’re far more likely to do better in social areas like getting along better with other children, not getting into fights, not being bullies and not being bullied. They’re more likely to be liked by children – other peer group children - and be liked and respected by teachers and adults and other evaluators of their social skills.
They’re much more likely – and this is the most amazing thing - children raised with significant father involvement are significantly more likely to be empathetic, and this is the thing that most surprised me. And yet study after study around the world that measured the impact of empathy and measurements of empathy show that children with significant father involvement are far more empathetic.
Now my bias in starting the research was that women as a rule tend to be more empathetic than men are. So, how do you get more empathetic children when there’s a significant father involvement? And the reason seems to be that - most high school teachers see this - they have a very empathetic child in school that’s really lovely and then they meet the parents, and the parents might be an engineer or a tough love dad, or tough love parents, but yet the child is very empathetic. Then you get a very self-centered, narcissistic child and you meet the parents on parent night and you find these parents are loving, they’re giving, they’re empathetic. And what you start to understand is that empathy is not engendered by receiving empathy. Empathy is engendered by having to think of other people – by having to think of other people’s needs.
So if the father and the mother are requiring things of you, they’re tough love dads, they’re tough love moms; they’re forcing you to think of somebody else other than yourself. If every time you do something, they’re empathetic, no matter what you do and even when you’re not responsible and when you don’t do what you say you’re going to do, then you don’t have to become empathetic to anybody’s needs and feelings but yourself. So you become self-centred and narcissistic. And that’s why the teacher is so shocked to see this self-centred and narcissistic child when they met the parents, they were their favourite parents on parent night. And so that’s just an example.
Another example is that children who are raised significantly by dads are far more likely to be assertive, but much less likely to be aggressive. And so the social skills of children raised by both parents are significantly likely to be much better. And one of the reasons is that men tend to require things of their children; women tend to empathise with their children and protect their children. And so, for example, when a father and a mother are both – and here’s an example of why it’s so valuable for a mom and a dad to work together and to be home together and to be in an intact family if possible:
Now, let’s say the child in an intact family says, “Mom (or dad) can I climb the tree in the back yard?” And the mom will be more likely to say, “Well maybe Sweetie, in a few years. It’s kind of a dangerous tree, but in a few years yes, but not right now.” And dad will say, “Oh, he (or she) is old enough to climb the tree. Don’t worry about it. Don’t baby the child.” And the mom and dad get into an argument. And mom says, you know, “You’re risking the child’s life.” And the father says, “If the child doesn’t learn how to take some risks and do things and watch out for himself; we’ll overprotect the child and the child will never be able to be an adult.” And so the fight goes on. But eventually that fight may resolve itself by something like the mother saying, “Okay, you can have the child climb the tree, but only the first three levels of branches and not that branch over there because it’s dangerous – and you can’t be out there with your cell phone, here I’ll take the cell phone. You go out there and you make sure when that cell phone rings I’ll make sure you’re still – and you stand under the tree all the time and protect the child.”
Now, what has the child gotten? The child has gotten risk taking skills. Risk taking skills connect synapses that wouldn’t otherwise connect. That increases IQ. That increases and changes shape and size of brain we now know, and only from relatively recent research. That no father says to the mother by helping that child take those risks, that child will have increased IQ, better development in that type of way. And the mother – at the same time, the child has gotten more protection as a result of the mother’s involvement. And so the argument that comes between the mother and the father that may lead to a divorce because the father and mother each feel the other one is hopeless, it was actually a functional argument. The argument was like a checks and balances of an Australian Conservatives and Liberal Party’s arguing against each other.
So just like it takes two or multiple parties to run a government, it takes at least two parents with different points of view, and their attention, they have to understand that their attention is attention that is meant to be. That’s it’s checks and balances on each other’s tendencies to overdo. The tendency of men to say, “push, push, push, push, push, and when you fail get up and do it again”, without having time to empathise with and let the child cry; and the mother’s tendency to say, “Well, if you fell off the chair or you fell off the horse or you fell off the skis on the ski slope, you don’t ever have to ski again, you don’t ever have to ride again if you don’t want to.”
GREG ANDRESEN: Before you go, Warren, could you tell us a little bit about your current work?
DR. WARREN FARRELL: Sure. I’m working with John Gray, the author of Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus. He and I are working together on a book called Boys to Men. And then the White House Council: we’re working a proposal – I’ve created a commission of 30 thought leaders around the country to create a White House Council on Boys to Men. That proposal is being worked through many channels at both the White House and other places right as we speak. And so that’s – I have to sort of keep that under wraps for a while - but only of which is to say there is a White Council on Women and Girls, and we’re hoping that there will also be one that recognises that instead of just caring about whales we’ll also care about males in the future.
GREG ANDRESEN: Fantastic. All right, Warren, it’s been a pleasure talking with you for International Men’s Day 2010. Thank you so much for taking your time to share your thought with us and all the best with your work for the future.
DR. WARREN FARRELL: It’s my privilege to be able to do so and I really appreciate the enormous work and coordination of bringing awareness to boys’ and men’s issues around the world. You are doing a great service and a service to our sons and therefore to the global economy.
GREG ANDRESEN: Thank you very much, Warren.
DR. WARREN FARRELL: You’re very welcome.
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