I really enjoyed Warren Farrell’s incredibly insightful book, Why Men Are the Way They Are. In fact, I liked it so much I put together a list of quotations from the book. I’ve also just finished one of his other books, The Myth of Male Power. I can’t say that I agreed with everything in it, but it was still a fascinating read.
So, I was particularly happy to get the opportunity to interview Warren Farrell. What follows is an edited transcript of our conversation. Enjoy!
Intriguingly enough, you started out working with NOW (The National Organization for Women) and you became interested in talking to men about gender issues out of a desire to actually address concerns you heard from women. However, when you got the answers, you wrote that you found NOW and other women’s groups weren’t interested anymore. Why do you think that’s the case?
I think it’s very hard for anyone to be interested in any point of view that contradicts their self-interest. That’s whether it’s women or men or labor or management or Republicans or Democrats. We all tend to be amazingly advanced at our scientific capabilities and amazingly limited at our social skills.
Now you’ve written a whole book on the pay gap between men and women; could you give us a brief synopsis on why it exists?
Yes. What I discovered in a book called Why Men Earn More: The Startling Truth Behind the Pay Gap — and What Women Can Do About It is that there are 25 measurable differences between the choices that men make in their life around pay and work and pleasure and balanced life and the choices that women make. The differences all have one thing in common; Each of the choices that men on average make lead to men earning more money and each of the choices that women make lead to women having more balanced lives which usually means healthier, happier, better lives. So women’s lives tend to be more balanced between the demands on them for a work life and the demands on them for family life — and they can choose what they wish to do based on their personality. This leads to a huge pay gap.
So, for example, men and women who have never been married and never had children — those woman earn 117% of what the male counterparts earn even when you control for education, hours worked and years in the workplace. So the pay gap occurs between men and women, only after men and women get married. Then women increase their time with the children and men increase their time with the workplace. Then women want choices that allow them more flexibility and more fulfillment and more ability to be with the children. Men make choices, too. They may go from making a lower salary to a higher salary so they can support not just themselves, but also their wives who are working less on average and their children who need their help.
High pay, I explain, is basically a toll road. You pay 25 different tolls like working more hours, working on jobs that are less fulfilling, working on more hazardous jobs, working on weekends, working at night, commuting further distances to get to a city that pays more, taking sub-specializations like in medicine…You might take a specialization that deals with cardiac problems and life and death issues rather than pediatric issues or psychological issues where you can control your appointments.
So basically the gap in pay between men and women is a statement of the increased obligations that men take on under certain conditions — supporting wives or children. Therefore, it should be acknowledged as an increase in male obligations for which men should be praised, rather than criticized as if it were discrimination against women. If anything, it’s actually discrimination against men.
Well, playing into that, feminist blogs I read today still talk a lot about the patriarchy and how men have all the power while women have none. You, on the other hand, wrote an entire book called The Myth of Male Power. Give us a quick rundown of why you say men aren’t the powerful ones in modern society.