Calgary Sun

Friday, January 7, 2000

Pork roast

Women can crow but men can't oink when it comes to sexism


Warren Farrell believes the world is sexist.

But if you think his new book --Women Can't Hear What Men Don't Say -- is all about feminism or strictly for women, you're wrong.

This ground-breaking book demonstrates how both sexes are hurt by gender-based anger at home and work, media images, culture and men's fear of expressing hurt feelings.

It's based on five years of research and writing, and 30 years of experience counselling almost 250,000 people.

If you're about to tune out, thinking this is just another slam against women, wrong again.

This San Diego-based author of The Liberated Man, Why Men Are the Way They are and The Myth of Male Power is the only man ever elected three times to the board of the powerful U.S. National Organization of Women.

He's been featured eight times on Donahue, repeatedly on Oprah and CNN, and interviewed by prestigious journalists Peter Jennings, Barbara Walters and Larry King.

The answers are "not in reading my book once" but in "studying it and rehearsing with your partner," says Farrell.

Learning the language of relationships, he adds, is like trading pencil and paper for a computer -- unnatural but you'll never go back.

The human race has spent thousands of years learning to fight and debate and no time learning to listen and empathize, says Farrell.

Modern man finds himself hopelessly deadlocked by the need to repress his feelings to become successful.

The inability to express emotion doesn't mean men are afraid of intimacy but rather that there isn't a "safe" environment for them to open up.

Effectively giving criticism and accepting it so that it can easily be given, is one of the first and most important topics the book covers.

Many couples, says Farrell, are afraid to understand their partners point of view partly because they fear they'll have to give in or compromise.

"The inability to handle personal criticism destroys more relationships than I know," says Farrell.

Men, in particular, fear conflict with their partner because they're afraid it will lead to less intimacy; not more.

Farrell's extensively-bibliographed research shows men today are in somewhat of the same passive/agressive scenario that women were in the 1950s.

A woman who has a problem with her man deals with it by criticizing.

"Women are more willing to initiate conflict, more willing to escale conflict, better able to handle it when it occurs and, when they have initiated it, are quicker to get over it," says Farrell.

Men in the same position are fearful to do the same because they're more dependent on women for emotional and sexual approval.

Taken to the extreme, the guy may win the argument but get a cold reception -- particularly in the bedroom.

Most men then retreat to their own "cave" which could be an ulcer, drinking heavily or extended hours at the office. In the end, some stray so far they end up seeking other women, says Farrell.

Women in troubled times, on the other hand, are more likely to turn to female friends or family for support and if they divorce, they're more likely to keep the kids.

Societal bias favouring women is deep and ingrained, says Farrell.

One of the most interesting chapters of the book describes how male bashing is funny while female bashing is sexist.

The first can be found in Hallmark cards, the latter in a lawsuit.

Take for instance, the case of Lorena and John Wayne Bobbitt.

If it had been Lorena who had cheated on her husband instead of the other way around, would it have been OK for John to lop off her breasts as she did to his penis, asks Farrell.

"It's never OK to kill or mutilate your partner," he adds.

In another analogy, he asks if society would have accepted a "battered man syndrome" from O.J. Simpson.

Most of us would have said that he can't play "helpless" but has responsibility to take care of himself, call police or leave the home before resorting to violence.

Violence against men, states Farrell unequivocally while citing more than 53 studies, has been censored.

Most women's groups rely on crime statistics rather than studies to prove their case that some one in 10 women at some time in their lives experience abuse from men.

But women, explains Farrell, are more likely to report abuse. Men, on the other hand, do not see violence in the home as a crime.

A University of Alberta study found that 12% of husbands were victims of violence by their wives compared to 11% of wives who said they were victimized.

Threats to pull funding is the reason most don't know these stats, says one U.S. professor, who pioneered the analysis of research in domestic violence.

Farrell's book aims to make marriages stronger and create fewer divorces by bringing new awareness to men's plight.

While it's aimed at men, there's nothing stopping women from picking up this book to learn more or buying for the man in their lives, says Farrell.

"Give it to him with a note 'This helped me love you better' not 'You need this.' If the book doesn't work -- send it back and I'll refund the money."