Warren Farrell Explains The Boy Crisis
In all 63 of the largest developed nations, boys are falling behind girls in all academic subjects – especially the biggest predictors of success, reading and writing. They’re also falling behind in their mental health (depression, suicides), physical health (lower sperm counts), IQ, ability to create friends, and so on.
Warren Farrell explains why. Farrell, often called “the founder of the men’s movement,” came to national attention with his controversial books Why Men Are The Way They Are (1990) and The Myth of Male Power (2001). He has just released a book titled The Boy Crisis. He wrote it with co-author John Gray, the bestselling author of Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus.
The Boy Crisis goes over a long list of afflictions plaguing boys, affecting their development into men, and offers solutions to turn the problem around. Farrell recently spoke with me about the book.
Both Sexes Can Lose
Farrell observes, “Whenever only one sex wins, both sexes lose.” Every girl who turns out well will have a boyfriend or son whose issues she must deal with. Everyone pays for the boy crisis in taxes and other ways — to keep them on welfare or in prison, for the extra police, for the crimes they commit. As Farrell puts it, “Boys who hurt, hurt us.”
A big part of the problem is boys are growing up without fathers. Mothers are usually awarded primary custody of children when parents split up. Currently, thousands of fathers across the country are jailed for getting behind on child support. It’s like a modern-day debtors’ prison – something the U.S. supposedly got rid of years ago. Farrell says we need to change this. We have to redefine everything that child support means.
At the same time, he says, no one confronts the 53 percent of women under 30 who have children without being married about their denying their children’s right to have both parents.
Farrell brings out some fascinating insights from studies that most people are unaware of. Not only do boys do better with fathers than mothers, but girls do better with fathers too. This is true at all ages. It’s true whatever the dad’s income.
Farrell, a former board member of the National Organization of Women, says the women’s movement did a great job expanding the options for women in the last half century. It framed discrimination as women not being able to be equally involved in the workplace. But, he says, no one talked about the discrimination against men in the home place. Those who wanted to enter the world of their children found themselves targets of prejudice. Especially after divorce.
Society gives boys what Farrell calls “social bribes” to be men, particularly to risk their lives in war and other dangerous work. We call them heroes. And by women “marrying up,” we got men to associate making sacrifices at work with being loved.
Feminists Having It Both Ways
Feminists cast men’s high pay and status as discrimination in favor of men and against women, but they did not see that the expectation of men to earn money was actually discrimination against men. The road to high pay is a toll road. They portray the male as oppressor and the female as oppressed — acknowledging the mother’s sacrifice of a career, but not the dad’s sacrifice in his career.
Feminists try to have it both ways, Farrell says: “I am woman, I am strong; I am woman, I was wronged.” Ironically, feminism damages our daughters by honing victim power into a fine art.
Farrell observes that few romance novels are titled, “He stopped when I said ‘no.’” Women are still falling in love with successful men, not men who stop at the first “no.” The sexes need a dialogue, not a monologue. Farrell feels we’ve turned the battle of the sexes into a war in which only one sex has shown up – our sons are putting their head in the sand and hoping the bullets will miss.
We have to ask girls to share the risk of romantic rejection, not just blame boys when they push too hard and ignore them when they don’t push hard enough. Affirmative consent – requiring men to ask a woman for consent before he reaches out even just to hold her hand – infantilizes women, Farrell says. It keeps them from sharing accountability for the changing male-female tango. When women respond romantically to sensitive men, men will become more sensitive.
Treat the Sexes Differently
Farrell says that we can treat boys and girls differently without insulting girls. It doesn’t require positive or negative judgements about either sex. For example, boys tend to enjoy roughhousing more. We can acknowledge those differences without catering to them and enabling them.
It’s a balancing act. Boys have greater challenges sitting in the classroom, but they need to learn to sit sometimes. They do better getting up and doing a project, a play or chemistry experiment, and they should be allowed to that sometimes. From the success that both sexes have from excelling at what they do best, they’ll gain incentives to push themselves further – such as girls engaging in risk, boys sitting still.
The data shows that children need dad’s time more than they need dad’s dime. We need to require dads to contribute time first. We also need to punish moms that prevent dads from contributing time.
One of the biggest solutions is to decrease divorce. Farrell teaches couples’ communications workshops all over the country. He’s discovered that the main source of conflict in marriage is the inability of spouses to take criticism from each other without becoming defensive. So the other person starts walking on eggshells. They feel less and less heard by the person they love the most. Then children arrive, and the parents have even less time to communicate their frustrations with each other. Their parenting styles are different, but they don’t know how to communicate the value of their differences. They are legally married but psychologically divorced, in “minimum-security marriages.”
Farrell has spent his life trying to get men and women to understand each other. He attempts to get men to understand the everyday “beauty contests” of regular life that women live in. He gets women to understand the risk of up to 100 romantic rejections men regularly get approaching women. By understanding these, the sexes can develop an emotional compassion for each other. Then he gets both spouses to realize that being criticized does not mean they will be rejected.
When the couples do that, they feel so much more loved by each other, and then they realize they can do that with their kids, parents, conservatives and liberals, Israelis and Palestinians, employer and employees. It’s the beginning of creating the world peace we all talk about. Which has always been elusive for us.