Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Warren Farrell - Does Feminism Discriminate Against Men? (Part 2)

The last time Warren Farrell was on Integral Naked, I posted it here -- so this is part two of the discussion. No free audio this time around. Farrell is considered a leader in the masculinist movement, after having once served on (and being asked to resign from) the New York State board of NOW.

It appears there will be a part three down the road, since Wilber wanted to discuss specific points from Farrell's book, but didn't get too far with that.

Here is the Wikipedia definition of masculinism:

Masculism (or Masculinism) has two contrasting meanings. When used by self-identified masculists, the term refers to social theories, political movements, and moral philosophies primarily based on the experiences of men. Masculism, when used by masculists (or masculinists), provides a general critique of social relations; many of its active proponents also seek to analyze gender inequality and promote men's rights, interests, and issues.

In an older, usually critical, sense used in sociology, anthropology, psychology, and some feminist thought, masculinism refers to a belief in the superiority of men or the masculine.[1] Traditional academic usage tends to use the form "masculinism" whereas the newer movements focused on men's rights tend to use the form "masculism." However, this distinction in usage of the two word forms is only approximate, and both forms are used in both senses.

I'd assume Farrell (mostly) identifies with the first and rejects the second of these two definitions. Here's a little more:

There is no consensus as to what exactly constitutes "masculism." Some feel the word describes a belief that the male and female genders should be considered complementary and interdependent by necessity. Such expressions of masculism are built around the belief that differentiated gender roles are natural and should be exempt from government interference. Others masculists, such as Warren Farrell, support an ideology of equivalence between the sexes, rather than a belief in unchangeable gender differences. A more encompassing definition might be "a movement to empower males in society, and to redress discrimination against men."

I don't buy Farrell's notion that there is equivalence between the sexes -- we are biologically, psychologically, and socially different creatures, partly by natural genetics and partly by cultural shaping. The cultural part is what we can change, and the genetic part is what we should celebrate.

The challenge then is in discovering how to create equality for all people, irrespective of sex, gender role, or sexuality.

Let's get even more specific -- even among men, there is a huge difference in physical, emotional, and intellectual development, not to even mention the obvious differences among gay men, straight men, bisexual men, and transgendered men. Same thing is true among women.

The idea that all men and women are equal, especially within an integral framework, is insane (consider the integral psychograph). However, no matter the differences, all human beings should be given equal rights and equal consideration under the law.

From my limited view, it seems to me that we need to free people from gender identities and allow them pick and choose among roles as they see fit. We all have our experience and vision of masculinity, femininity, androgyny, and [fill in the blank], so why not be free to inhabit those roles as we see fit?

Anyway, this is the text that comes with the Integral Naked show.
Does Feminism Discriminate Against Men? Part 2. Integral Gender Studies: Beyond Feminism and Masculism

In the second installation of Warren and Ken’s dialogue we explore the stages of psychological and sexual development in both men and women that have shaped the gender roles that have so defined human civilization, now and throughout history.

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: In a 1997 interview with an online men’s magazine, Warren had the following to say:
"Men don’t oppress women any more than women oppress men. The whole concept of men and women oppressing each other is ridiculous. That’s a fabrication of the feminist movement. What is true is that both sexes have roles that can legitimately be considered oppressive, but those roles are not roles designed by men or women, they were designed by biological necessity and the necessity of survival. Survival was the oppressor….

The biology of women in a survival-focused world was the childraising and that left the social role of men to raising the money to support the biological role of women. And it’s not been until industrialized societies had enough income to help society progress from what I call a Stage 1, which is survival-focused to Stage 2, which is focused on the balance between survival and self-fulfillment, that we could produce people who were able to focus on what rights and opportunities they had."
As it is, women have already begun to move from stage 1 to stage 2 en masse, beginning with the women’s liberation movements of the 50’s and 60’s, while men have largely remained "stuck" in much the same condition women were in before the rise of feminism. And this cultural "stuckness" not only reinforces many of the same unhealthy dynamics feminism was originally conceived to address, but also makes it much more difficult for women to fully grow from stage 1 to stage 2 in a complete and authentic way.

At first, the rigid gender roles of men and women were born from necessity, and reflected a conscious choice on behalf of both genders to separate the world into public and private spheres, with men tending to the public, and women tending to the private. These roles became increasingly reinforced throughout history, as biological necessity determined that women would be valued for their fertility, and men for their disposability.

However, the moral, ethical, and technological advancements commonly associated with modernity have begun to change the rules entirely, accelerated by both men’s and women’s destinies being liberated from their biology—especially as muscle-power began to be increasingly replaced by mechanical and microchip-driven power, and as birth control offered women much more control over pregnancy. These evolutionary developments have enabled a considerable amount of women to migrate from the private sphere into the public, for the first time in history. How can men make a similar transition from the "brute power" of the public sphere to the "invisible powers" of compassion, connection, introspection, and sexuality traditionally associated with the private sphere? Do we need an authentic "masculist revolution" in order to regain our collective balance?

Metaphorically, we could say that society is something like a boat, with gender roles rigidly assigned so that men row predominantly on one side of the boat, and women row on the other, more or less assuring that the boat keeps moving forward. However, since the rise of the enormously beneficial women’s liberation movement, women have begun to learn how to row on both sides of the boat—exploring many of the roles traditionally associated with men—who, unfortunately, have not experienced a similar sort of "men’s liberation" movement, and are thus still rowing on the same side they always have. What happens, of course, is that rather than continuing to move the boat forward, the boat begins to move in a circle, seriously compromising any sort of meaningful progress for humanity as a whole. We are very much in this boat together, and must therefore learn how to consciously transform both genders, culturally and individually, so that we might once again be able to point our little collective dinghy in the right direction.

So what can we do to help men learn how to row on the other side of the boat? Unfortunately, there exist virtually no role models for men to guide this sort of transition, no rites of passage or cultural road signs to help remind men that there are indeed higher and deeper levels of masculine maturity yet to be explored and developed. As Ken mentions in the discussion, there are nearly 30,000 examples of Women’s Studies classes, lectures, and departments throughout American colleges, but not a single case of Men’s Studies to be found, on its own accord and outside the auspices of feminist ideology.

Interestingly, while we can look to the absence of emphasis upon "men’s liberation" as a major factor in the ongoing gender inequities of today’s world, Warren himself does not believe we need such a "masculist movement" or any other male-focused analog to the feminist movement of the 50’s and 60’s. Instead, what is most needed is a genuinely Integral "transitional gender studies," rooted in a mutual respect of the roles, rights, responsibilities, and resentments that are carried by both men and women, along with a sincere acknowledgement of all the ways both men and women are simultaneously victims and perpetuators of traditional gender roles.

Click here to listen to Part 1 of this dialogue: Redefining the Relationships Between Men and Women.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Loved this: "As it is, women have already begun to move from stage 1 to stage 2 en masse, beginning with the women’s liberation movements of the 50’s and 60’s, while men have largely remained 'stuck' in much the same condition women were in before the rise of feminism. And this cultural 'stuckness' not only reinforces many of the same unhealthy dynamics feminism was originally conceived to address, but also makes it much more difficult for women to fully grow from stage 1 to stage 2 in a complete and authentic way."

There were other parts I questioned, but I like to think and read before leaping into commenting.