Ottawa Citizen

Thursday November 11, 1999

It's time to stop exploitation of men, author argues

Zev Singer
The Ottawa Citizen

Yvonne Berg, The Ottawa Citizen / Warren Farrell says men should be valued as people, not just as 'success objects.'

For too long, men have been relegated to doing society's dirty work, putting in more hours, spending less money and dying sooner than women. Women value them not for their feelings, but for the bread they win.

So says best-selling author Warren Farrell, who will be in Ottawa the next few days to talk about his new book, Women Can't Hear What Men Don't Say.

Now that society has been told not to treat women as sex objects, Mr. Farrell says, "We'll need to realize why it's important not to treat men as success objects, deemed lovable by being disposable as soldiers, ice hockey gladiators or investors making a killing on Bay Street.

"It's time to start valuing men as human beings."

In his book, Mr. Farrell attacks the idea that men are powerful oppressors and women are victims. The workplace is a bastion of feminist mythology, he says.

"The basic belief is that women earn 78 cents for every dollar men earn. That's very misleading," he says.

Men earn more not because they get paid more for equal work, he says, but because they simply work more hours. In fact, he says, men work an average of 10 hours more per week than women. His research found that men in the United States put in an average of 44 hours a week, while women average 34.

What about the housework defense? Don't women do much more household labour than men?

Not so fast, Mr. Farrell says. "The fact that every housework study lists most of women's housework, even as it neglects about 90 per cent of the men's housework list, means men's housework is especially unappreciated."

He lists 54 ways, from snow-shoveling to children's toy-assembly, that men toil at such unpaid labour.

Men contribute to the home in another undervalued way, he says, by providing a "male financial womb." Nurturing is thought of as something that women do and men don't.

"That's a false dichotomy. The male financial womb frees women to nurture, so it's our own form of nurturing."

Everyone has heard of the "glass ceiling" that prevents women from advancing, he says. But what about the "glass cellar?" Twenty-four of the 25 least desirable jobs society has to offer are filled by men upwards of 80 per cent of the time, he says. Welders, truck drivers, and roofers are examples of the kind of workers who have the worst jobs, factoring in salary, security, happiness, benefits, and hazards, he says.

Despite this, he says, men are thought of as the powerful ones. For him, this doesn't add up.

"Men have learned to define power as being obligated to earn money that someone else spends, while they die sooner, and no woman would be stupid enough to call that power."

These volleys, fired toward the feminist camp, come from a man who was once an ardent feminist. The 56-year-old Mr. Farrell, originally from New York and now living in California, was the only man ever to be elected three times to the board of directors of the National Organization for Women.

He has changed his ways. "Feminism has become the one-party system of gender politics," he says. "I was part of the problem."

Although feminism started out as a force for empowerment, he says, now it's about victimhood, and competition about which gender has things worse. U.S. First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton's recent remarks that women suffer more from war than men do, he says, are not only untrue, but "competitive feminism at its worst."

"I'm not saying men have it worse," he says. "I want everyone to have the freedom to look inside and be able to choose from options."

Women should be encouraged to work if they like, but men need greater options at home. Right now, men who want to stay home and provide nurturing support for working women are laughed at, he says.

Men are far behind women in thinking about their options, he says. For the last few decades, through feminism, women have spent a lot of time thinking about their own possibilities. Men haven't.

"We have not had a battle of the sexes for the last 30 years. Only one side has shown up. Men put their heads in the sand and hoped the bullets would miss."

To help both men and women explore their roles, he holds beauty contests for men and success contests for women as part of the gender politics workshops he gives. In these sessions, women are ranked by their earnings and men by their looks. It seems funny at first, he says, but he lets them go long enough that people get a bit uncomfortable.

Mr. Warren will be leading this workshop at Carleton University on Saturday, starting at 8:30 am. He will also speak at Chapters on Rideau Street at noon on Friday, and at St. Paul's University at 8 pm. Friday night.

Copyright 1999 Ottawa Citizen