Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Warren Farrell - Does Feminism Discriminate Against Men?

This week's chat at Integral Naked features Warren Farrell talking about what's wrong with feminism (instead of talking about what's right with masculinity). Interesting, that. Personally, I'll take Sam Keen over Farrell, but that's a topic for another post. Farrell is considered a leader in the masculinist movement, after having once served on (and being asked to resign from) the board of NOW.

At the Holon's blog, they posted a pretty good entry on the discussion and what Farrell is about. As always, there is the necessary "integral" framing going on, but we've grown accustomed to that by now (and I guess it's useful for indoctrinating novices).

Warren Farrell - Does Feminism Discriminate Against Men? Part 1. Redefining the Relationships Between Men and Women.

Rupert Sheldrake

Does Feminism Discriminate Against Men? Part 1. Redefining the Relationships Between Men and Women.

Dr. Warren Farrell and Ken Wilber discuss some of the ingredients of an Integral account of human sexuality, while exploring the nuances of relationships between men and women, the many attempts of feminism to redefine sex and gender, and the historic causes behind the division of labor and the rigid patriarchies that followed….

"It's definitely true that men, as a rule today in industrialized societies, are basically where women were in the 1950's, psychologically and socially. Part of what is keeping men there is being blamed for having power that is really a camouflage for the powerlessness. Real power is control over my own life."

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Who: Dr. Warren Farrell is a founding member of Integral Institute and the author of six books, including the international best-sellers Why Men Are the Way They Are and The Myth of Male Power. Dr. Farrell is the only man in the US to have been elected three times to the Board of Directors of the National Organization for Women in New York City; and he has also served on the boards of three national men's organizations. Over a period of 25 years, Warren has formed over 600 women's and men's groups and has worked with more than a quarter million men and women from all walks of life. The Chicago Tribune described Warren as "the Gloria Steinem of Men's Liberation." (Warren, though, has more gray hair.)

Summary: It is amazing to consider how much has changed in the past five decades in regard to sexual liberation and empowerment. The woman’s role in today’s society is almost unrecognizable compared to the early 20th century, and would be wholly unimaginable in the centuries prior. In America, attitudes toward sexuality and gender began to dramatically shift with the Boomer generation (and the newly emerging pluralistic values they brought with them), as birth control, free love, and several new schools of “second wave” feminism began to challenge the traditional attitudes that defined preceding generations. Since the early sixties, there has been a tremendous amount of movement toward redefining ourselves as men and women—some forward, some backward, and plenty of jogging-in-place. In the ensuing decades, we have witnessed the masculinization of women, the feminization of men, the neutralization of both genders, the roles of helpless victim set upon women, the witch hunts of fallacious prosecution set against men, the movement to procure equal rights for homosexuals, the advent of sex-change surgery, the rise of pornography as a multi-billion dollar industry, and the capitalization of just about every kink, fetish, and fixation imaginable. And through it all, not surprisingly, men and women in the 21st century still seem to look at each other with the same bewilderment they did 20,000 years ago, after waking up with a headache and an annoying lump on the back of her head.

In order to come to any coherent definition of ourselves as sexual beings, we must take as comprehensive a view of sexuality as possible. Ken Wilber has developed a theoretical model known as the “Four Quadrants,” which, when applied to nearly any field of human knowledge, offers a very simple way to ensure that all bases are being covered and that nothing is being left out. The Four Quadrant model accounts for the interior and exterior dimensions of both the individual and the collective, yielding four major realms of consciousness: intentional, cultural, behavioral, and social (or “I”, “we”, “it”, and “its”, respectively, for those interested in tracking pronouns). All four of these dimensions are closely related, with each quadrant having strong correlates in the others—though none of these quadrants can be reduced to each other (despite the entire history of human thought being essentially an attempt to do exactly this.)

When applied to human sexuality, the Four Quadrants allow us to clearly see the respective roles of biological sex (male vs. female), interior sexuality (masculine vs. feminine), and sexual gender (man vs. woman, as defined by cultural beliefs and expectations), while also accounting for the various technological and economic systems all of these are situated in. By differentiating each of these important dimensions of sexuality, we are able to see how each is able to develop along its own trajectory, with its own history, without needing to confuse one’s sexual orientation with one’s sense of “manliness,” one’s secret desires with one’s cultural taboos, or even one’s gender with one’s genitals.

As previously mentioned, each of these major dimensions of human sexuality (sex, sexuality, gender, and sociological factors) grows through several distinct stages of unfolding. Just as the human body grows through stages of physical maturity—from fetal to infancy, to toddler-hood, to adolescence, to reproductive maturity—so do we grow psychologically, culturally, and socially. In fact, it is only toward the higher reaches of psychological growth that these sorts of important differentiations between biology, psychology, culture, and society can be made—and only from within a relatively advanced culture can significant strides be made on behalf of sexual identity, expression, and liberation. Both men and women evolve through ego-centric, ethno-centric, and world-centric stages of development, creating cultures that reflect these ever-deepening and increasingly inclusive values as they go.

A special note should be made in regards to our techno-economic development, which arguably has the most influence upon development in the other quadrants, for a variety of reasons. By looking to the history of economic production, we can find the history of gender roles themselves—in the earliest stages of civilization, men and women were able to produce food fairly equally, as men would hunt and women would gather, and even later when we moved into the horticultural stage and both men and women could use a digging stick to grow crops. Things changed, however, when we moved into agricultural mode of production, requiring the training of large animals to pull heavy plows through the fields. As men possess more upper-body strength than women, and women were much more susceptible to birth complications under this sort of physical labor, men and women both made the mutual decision to each tend to different spheres of life. This is we begin to see our first true divisions of labor, with men responsible for the public sphere, and women responsible for the private sphere. (And as an interesting footnote, most of the cultures from the early foraging and horticultural eras worshiped gods that were predominantly matriarchal or evenly split between male and female deities, as opposed to agrarian societies who typically only worshiped male deities.) In societies still struggling with survivalist needs, women became valued as humanity’s most precious resource, and men became valued for their disposability, and are expected to compete for the opportunity to protect these resources.

For the next several thousand years, men did what they do best: construct rigid and elaborate patriarchies, in all flavors of tribalism, nationalism, religion, aristocracies, meritocracies, and steel cage matches. And, in these testosterone-driven social hierarchies, a woman’s proper place in the public sphere was all too clear: she had none whatsoever. And though modern and post-modern feminists can (and do) scoff at the unabashed sexual inequities within these patriarchies, the fact that this was an intentional, necessary, and mutually beneficial decision made by both sexes early in history is regrettably forgotten. Most men aren’t the oppressive beasts they are often made out to be, and most women aren’t the helpless victims of men’s oppression that they are often made out to be.

Of course, we are now in a completely different era of history, with modes of technology that have rendered many, if not all, of these prior decisions about labor division obsolete. Much of the physical labor men traditionally had to do has been replaced first by the steam engine, then by combustion, and now by the microchip. This is probably the single most important factor in terms of the rise of women’s liberation, and has brought into relief one of the most frustrating aspects of collective transformation: although the technology can change overnight, the culture is much more slow to adapt, often requiring entire generations to die off before real change can be enacted throughout society. Or, as Ken has bleakly joked elsewhere: “the knowledge quest can only proceed funeral by funeral….”

All in all, it is an amazing time to be alive—to be a man or a woman, male or a female, masculine or feminine, gay or straight. We are bearing witness to an entire new wave of individual and collective values, an Integral wave of development which, when it reaches the tipping point of its emergence, will make just as extraordinary a splash upon history as the European renaissance or the postmodern revolution of the sixties. And while each previous revolution has occurred only to steer the world away from the pathologies and excesses of what came before, the Integral revolution will be markedly different—while creating a space of personal and collective transformation that is radically and unmistakably new, Integral consciousness will also help to bring a tremendous amount of healing, stability, and sanity to the rest of the world, with the crucial understanding that everyone must start at square one before evolving to Integral consciousness. With as comprehensive a view of human sexuality as Integral consciousness provides, it becomes apparent that all of our old and apparently obsolete methods of relating to each other will always exist, and we must therefore allow them to exist on their own terms, while simultaneously liberating ourselves from definitions of sexual maturity that no longer seem to apply to us or our relationships.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Okay, I have to comment on this one. While this is an interesting article with good points, it isn't interesting that a man is talking about what is wrong with feminism. Men have been doing that from the beginning. Secondly, there has been the third wave of feminism for over a decade now, which admittedly doesn't address the issues he is talking about, is approaching feminism a bit differently. Also, men do not have to fear that there will be laws governing what medical procedures they can choose. Reproductive rights is still an issue for women and is an indicator that the woman's perspective is minimized by some camps. To deny this and to say the feminism movement is just a victim mentality minimizes real issues for women.

To throw in sex change operations into the mix was disturbing for me. That is a different issue altogether and is a very personal decision that doesn't really relate to the point he is trying to make. I have worked with transgendered individuals and to toss it into the mix is confusing for me and demonstrates some ignorance on Farrell's part.

That said I agree with several of his points. I see our limited view of gender as a culture as the main problem. I do not think that the masculinization of women as an inherently bad thing nor the feminization of men. I grew up with a more masculine view of what feminine means, not because my parents were into women's lib, but because they didn't see my gender as something getting in the way. I did not grow up with many of the issues many women of my generation did, I did not grow up with the victim mentality around my gender, however I still experienced the power differentials (in the workplace and in terms of my reproductive freedoms).

I disagree that the historical inequities somehow justify the outcome. Talking about agrarian and tribal communities and thus saying that women agreed not to have a vote or had a choice in it doesn't make sense to me. I agree that this fact of history is regrettably forgotten. I also think that the first wave of feminism and into the second, perhaps even post feminism, can minimize traditional feminine roles, which I do not find as beneficial for anyone. But he forgets that in ancient/tribal cultures women are respected and had many rights which were stripped as modern society were developed. Even in Sparta women had much power because they had to. As modern culture developed women's roles were undervalued not by our (women's) choice. To forget this fact is a huge oversight. (Although I didn't read the rest of his article).

Sometimes I think that the arguments/debates are circular and never ending, then when I tire of it I think that people just think too much. :) I don't know if any of this made sense, but those are some thoughts.