However, when the modern women’s movement began to turn its attention to girls – as in books like Failing at Fairness: How America’s Schools Cheat Girls(published in 1994) – they were already doing better than boys on many measures of educational achievement, including college enrollment(link is external). And this gender gap – favoring girls — has only widened in the more than two decades since.
But we don’t hear much about that, certainly not compared to how much we hear about the pay gap between men and women (which is more complex than the simple mantra of “77 cents for every dollar” would suggest). Or the “1-in-5” female college students who is sexually assaulted during her years on campus. But I’m not even arguing about that data here — though good arguments have been made. I am simply saying that this does not imply that we should – as we have done since the early 1990s – take this concern out on half our children: our young sons.
When I say “take this out on,” I don’t mean that we necessarily treat boys badly. I mean that, relatively speaking, we simply ignore them and their needs, their relative lack of achievement, and who they are. Again, think of how often you hear or see something in the news about how women are being treated badly. (And much of this may be true.) But how about the fact that boys are not doing so well. How often do you hear about that?
Warren Farrell in USA Today after the Sandy Hook shooting:
We respond by blaming guns, our inattentiveness to mental health, violence in the media or video games, or family values. Yes, all are players, but our daughters are able to find the same guns in the same homes, are about as likely to be mentally ill, have the same family values and are exposed to the same violence in the media. Our daughters, however, do not kill. Why the difference?
Start with suicide. Each mass murder is also a suicide. Boys and girls at age 9 are almost equally likely to commit suicide; by age 14, boys are twice as likely; by 19, four times; by 24, more than five times. The more a boy absorbs the male role and male hormones, the more he commits suicide…
It’s time we go beyond fighting over guns to raising our sons. With one executive order, President Obama can create a White House Council on Men and Boys to work with the Council on Women and Girls he formed in 2009. Why? No one part of government or the private sector has a handle on the solution.
From “Fatherlessness Common Among 2013 School Shooters” at Women of Grace:
Again, he cites the research of eminent sociologist David Popenoe who wrote: “ . . . (F)athers are important to their sons as role models. They are important for maintaining authority and discipline. And they are important in helping their sons to develop both self-control and feelings of empathy toward others, character traits that are found to be lacking in violent youth.”
Even though most fatherless boys will grow up okay, they are vulnerable, which is why so many are swept away into gangs, violence, and crime.
While the debate over gun control and mental health issues are valuable, if the U.S. wants to get serious about ending school shootings, “it must also get serious about strengthening the families that are our first line of defense in preventing our boys from falling into a downward spiral of rage, hopelessness, or nihilism . . .”
From “Which Mass Murderers Came from A Fatherless Home” at The Federalist:
Now, this isn’t to say that every single mom is doomed to raise a mass shooter. Not every kid who grows up without his father will turn into Roof, and not every mass shooter grew up without his dad. Mental instability can be a product of any number of factors. But to ignore the link between a mass shooter and his fatherless childhood would be to simply ignore the facts. On CNN’s list of the “27 Deadliest Mass Shootings In U.S. History,” seven of those shootings were committed by young (under 30) males since 2005. Of the seven, only one—Virginia Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho (who had been mentally unstable since childhood)—was raised by his biological father throughout childhood.
A few days ago I was at a party in liberal north-east London, when I was asked the inevitable question, “So, what do you do then?”
It’s a question I have come to dread. This isn’t because I’m ashamed of my work, or because I think it’s dull and uninteresting, but because I know that if I tell the truth, the warm and open conversation I’d been having with the person in front of me will often suddenly be replaced by a chilled and awkward silence.
You see, telling people I write about men’s issues often feels a bit like telling them I work for Exxon.
On this occasion, I weighed up the conversational fork in the road ahead of me, and decided to take the plunge and be honest, so I told her I’d just finished editing a book of 40 writers exploring what it means to be a man in the UK today. Her response was simply: “That’s brave.”
Of course, it’s not really brave; not brave like writing about government corruption in China, or human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia, but I knew exactly what she meant.
Speaking out as a man about the issues men face really can trigger a furious reaction.
The most recent example was in response to the author Matt Haig, after he said he wanted to write a book about masculinity. His statement brought down a Twitter storm of contempt in his head before he’d even written a word.
There is a subtle, but potentially seismic shift happening in the workplace. From sweeping diversity initiatives and radical strategies that tackle the gender wage gap to extended paid parental leave policies, the next decade could reveal a very different picture of American workers. But change often comes with backlash….
New research published in the Journal of Business and Psychology reveals that as fathers take on more caregiving and other family responsibilities, workplace norms still see them as “organization men” married to their jobs, which potentially inhibits their development as true, involved fathers. The study also found that there isn’t much in the way of formal support for working dads.
“Around the globe, it’s mostly girls who lack educational opportunities. Even in the United States, many people still associate the educational “gender gap” with girls left behind in math. Yet these days, the opposite problem has snuck up on us: In the United States and other western countries alike, it’s mostly boys who are faltering in school. The latest surveys show that American girls on the average have roughly achieved parity with boys in math. Meanwhile, girls are well ahead of boys in verbal skills, and they just seem to try harder.”
I must admit that when I read this, and saw the words “snuck up on us,” my immediate reaction was “Where have you been?” For anyone who cared to look at the data – and for millions of parents of sons – the problem was already there close to two decades ago.
When the White House created only a White House Council on Women and Girls in 2009, it left out the other half of the family: Boys and Men. Dr. Warren Farrell organized national leaders into a coalition to create a White House Council on Boys and Men. On April 26, 2015, members went to Iowa and spoke personally with seven of the Republican presidential candidates to invite them to a conference in Iowa this July to listen to boys, parents and experts explain the boy crisis and consider a White House Council on Boys and Men as a coordinator of solutions. Here Farrell discusses with Rand Paul the importance of fathers as a way to strengthen the family and reduce “government-as-a-substitute-dad”. A few minutes later, Paul spoke with 1700 Republicans at the Faith and Freedom Coalition and stressed the importance of fathers.
The Dr. Vibe Show is offering a series of interviews with key members of the commission that is urging President Obama to create a White House Council on Boys and Men. Here are links to three of the programs.
I interviewed him about gender roles, power, why men earn more, and campus rape.
Marty Nemko: You’re most well-known for your book The Myth of Male Power, just out in a new e-book edition. Many people think men have the power: Look at the Senate and CEO rosters. How would you respond?
Warren Farrell: A small percentage of men have major institutional power but across the full population, real power is about having choices. The women’s movement has made it socially acceptable for a mom to work full-time, stay home with the child full-time, or work part-time. That’s as it should be. Alas, it’s not as acceptable for a man to work part-time, let alone be a full-time parent. Mr. Mom is still a term of derision.
This remarkable video shows Warren Farrell explaining what moved us into our present cultural state of seeing males as disposable and offers a number of ideas about how we can move forward to a place where both men and women are valued as human beings.
Three years ago, a pilot project, titled the Davis Community Men’s Talk Circle was
started in Davis, California, as a free service to address the profound patterns of male
isolation that occur for men of all ages. As a Social Work clinician, I have seen first hand
the deleterious effects of isolation in men’s lives. Isolation contributes directly to
depression, job dissatisfaction and loss, increase in violence, numbing behaviors, and
alienation from loved ones. Moreover, isolation fuels male suicide, which is at an all
time high for boys, men and our elder males.
Our Community Men’s Talk Circle project draws from the wisdom of a 25 year on-going
annual men’s conference, held in Mendocino. The Elders at this conference structure
the talk so men can enter the deep and painful ills and the subsequent judgements of
themselves, which they have carried alone. The men attending come to feel a great
support, a deep trust, a brotherhood and a safety affording them a way to utilize the
communal experience. Their vulnerabilities, now shared by others, deepens the
possible that they don’t have to go it alone any more! Here the needed healing from
years of exiled pain begins.
This has been our model, in bringing the Talk Circle project to the men of our
community. Each month we intentionally create a Sacred space, where our Circle, our
container for our talking, welcomes men to talk aloud and discover. Men often surprise
themselves, as aspects unbeknownst, are revealed which they did not expect to share.
But this soon becomes a known and valued process, affording men a communal
unfolding, revealing new feelings, new insights, while clarity is advanced. This work
requires that Sacred space must be created, drawing a significant distinction from how
men typically relate to one another, as in the masked cautionary jokes, or the blind-eye
to dismissive behaviors toward others, or the impulse to-fix another man’s experience;
all which are recipes for an unsafe environment, prohibiting any deep and important talk
The Talk Circle is designed as a primer, for men who have never done men’s work
before. The Circle is larger in number (17 – 22 attendees), in contrast to a traditional
men’s group (smaller, 5 – 8, and with greater expectations to share). The Talk Circle
intentionally allows for men to ease their way into their held-back experiences; being
invited to talk, only as they feel ready. To further underscore emotional safety, this
project holds an open-door policy regarding attendance, furthering to lessen the rigors
and demands of the intimacy that usually arise from small and weekly men’s group
work. The Talk Circle also fosters the option for men to begin their own support group.
Contrary to belief, the inherent deep hunger for men to talk communally, once initiated
and structured, is almost unstoppable.
The Talk Circle utilizes a five man committee for planning and sharing the duties with
each monthly event. Responsibilities include establishing ground-rules, underscoring confidentiality, calling in the five directions including the inward direction (toward our
hearts and our truths), providing some music and some poetry, (the language of the
heart) and monitoring the group’s process ensuring that men’s voices of their internal
experiences will be both heard, seen and witnessed. As men gain both a new familiarity
and an emotional safety in this sharing-aloud, they cultivate skills toward new and
potentially meaningful friendships for themselves.
The Talk Circle meets monthly, in donated space (Davis International House), it is open
for all men, ages 18 years and older. Two licensed clinicians serve on the committee,
helping to monitor and assist in the group’s process.
This project is part of a new paradigm of community men’s work. One that is unique, in
its structure to create a culture that is relational and non-competitive; a departure from
our current known sense of masculinity. Ours is a community project whose intent is to
welcome men to know their interiors, thus promoting a maturing of our masculinity from
what is described as our current boy psychology, towards a man psychology. Our hope
is to afford men a reclamation in their lives of wholeness, of vitality, of tenderness, and
of stewardship. We strive to nurture creativity as integral to the aging process, and
embrace the honoring of our Elders, whose resources are currently under utilized and
often discarded. The Talk Circle fosters a culture of honoring our differences, as our
differences lead us into our humanness and our ability to connect.
Creating such Communities is not only very doable, it is teachable, affordable and
would be a significant developmental asset for both boys growing-up, and for men
throughout the course of their lives. It is a significant antidote to the stark aloneness,
(non-relational pattern), that our male culture has inflicted on itself for generations. Men
are too often unaccustomed to being in such groups, and do not know that emotional
safety is possible, and that deep sharing can be structured, leading men into support as
they find their own healing process. Talk Circles foster experiences that welcome men
into greater connection with themselves and then with others while factors contributing
to isolation are kept in check.
Our hope is to share this model with other social workers or mental health workers who
might choose to begin a Talk Circle in their own community.
More information is available regarding this project by calling: (530) 758-2794.
P. Gregory Guss, LCSW, (BA, Goddard College, Plainfield, Vermont; MSW, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California), a psychotherapist for 33 years, specializing in family, adolescence and men’s work, practices in Davis, CA. As a community organizer, he developed and coordinates the Davis Community Men’s Talk Circle project, and sits on the Redwood Men’s Conference Planning Committee. He and his wife have two adult children; he is an avid letter writer, poet and loves character driven movies.
As school begins in the coming weeks, parents of boys should ask themselves a question: Is my son really welcome? A flurry of incidents last spring suggests that the answer is no. In May, Christopher Marshall, age 7, was suspended from his Virginia school for picking up a pencil and using it to “shoot” a “bad guy” — his friend, who was also suspended. A few months earlier, Josh Welch, also 7, was sent home from his Maryland school for nibbling off the corners of a strawberry Pop-Tart to shape it into a gun. At about the same time, Colorado’s Alex Evans, age 7, was suspended for throwing an imaginary hand grenade at “bad guys” in order to “save the world.”