Warren Farrell was once considered a feminist leader. He hung around with Gloria Steinem and wrote about why men and women should break out of rigid old gender roles.
But then, as he learned more, he started to disagree with parts of modern feminism.
“I don’t agree with the part of feminism that says men are the oppressors and women are the oppressed,” he says in our latest Stossel TV video. “That part of feminism is sick.”
In Farrell’s new book, “The Boy Crisis,” he argues that hostility toward males undermines boys’ psychological development. “Boys are a third less likely than girls to get college degrees, twice as likely to commit suicide.”
We pushed back, pointing out that men make more money, run most companies and run most of the government.
“Our dads and grandpas,” he responded, “made sacrifices to make more money! Then the feminist movement turned all of that sacrifice against men.”
He says he wishes once in a while feminists would say, “You (men) were discriminated against in your own way. You were obliged to earn more money or we wouldn’t even think about marrying you and having children with you.”
In “The Boy Crisis,” Farrell notes that dads routinely get passed over when it comes to custody of kids, even though kids benefit enormously if they have male role models. Boys without fathers suffer more, he says.
Why does a same-sex role model matter more for boys?
“Boys tend to not have as many skills at developing friendships and emotional connections,” answers Farrell. “So when the family connection breaks apart, it affects boys more profoundly than it does their sisters. Boys are then far more likely to be disobedient, delinquent, drop out of school.”
One reason fathers are critical, says Farrell, is because men tend to parent differently. For example, men roughhouse more with kids.
“Roughhousing creates so many skill sets,” said Farrell. “It creates a bond with the child, so the children don’t mind discipline … (T)he discipline is the price they pay for more fun with dad.”
But aren’t mothers more attentive to children’s needs?
“As a rule, mothers are more empathetic, but an empathetic parent does not create an empathetic child,” answers Farrell. Instead, “It may just teach children to expect others to think of their needs.”
Real empathy, by contrast, is created “by the father or mother requiring the child to think about the father’s needs, the mother’s needs, their brother’s needs.”
Fathers often fulfill that role by being a little more demanding of kids.
“Moms are filled with love, and they want to make sure their children do well, so they often do for the children,” says Farrell. “Dads are also filled with love, but the way that dads love is to think, ‘I need to love the children by having the children learn how to do for themselves.’”
Studies consistently find that having both an involved mother and father leads to the best outcome.
A government summary of studies on parenting concluded that “children who live with their fathers are more likely to have good physical and emotional health, to achieve academically, to avoid drugs, violence and delinquent behavior.”
Yet government policy simultaneously discourages fatherhood. Welfare programs give more money to households in which the father is absent. Even now, although teen birth rates are down, the percentage of kids who don’t live with fathers is up.
In a world with more fragmented families, Farrell argues that we should think about ways to reintroduce masculine role models in boys’ lives. He wishes there were more male teachers.
“Not just males who are imitation females, but males who have some background in doing more traditionally masculine stuff. Then the children would have role models of a female, and a male who’s softer and also a male who is more traditionally male,” he says.
“Currently, many boys go from all-female homes to all-female schools, and then we go, gee, I wonder why they were vulnerable to a gang leader saying, ‘I’ll show you what being a man really is.’”