Walk mile in their moccasins: steps to solving `gender game.' Men's movement leader talks about changing attitudes
San Diego — We have a long way to go before true sexual equality is reached, according to Warren Farrell, a once-ardent feminist, and author of ``Why Men Are the Way They Are.'' Women, he says, have been assertively voicing their dissatisfaction with men for the last 15 years:
Why are men afraid of commitment?
Why are men threatened by successful women?
Why can't men listen?
The less explored side is the growing number of men who are angry about what they perceive as a new double standard: If women are liberated, why do so many still like to have men pay for dinner? Men are just as powerless as women in relationships, Dr. Farrell asserts.
Farrell has conducted over 600 workshops in which men and women exchange gender roles in order that each sex gets a taste of what the other goes through on a typical date.
He believes that the only way to begin to understand the opposite sex is to ``walk a mile in their moccasins.''
Farrell has served on the board of directors of the National Organization for Women three separate times, as well as on the board of the National Organization for Changing Men.
In an interview, he discussed some marriage and ``gender game'' issues in respect to Westernized nations, especially Japan.
Can you explain the stages of marriage in a society?
In stage one, the meaning of marriage and happiness is economic security. In stage two, the meaning of marriage and happiness is personal fulfillment - love.
Almost every society, on some level, is making a transition between stage one and stage two.
How do Westernized nations like Japan fit into this?
Japan is fascinated by America, and Japanese are aware that they may be following America's patterns, and this fascinates them.
The dynamic of movement in Japan from stage one to stage two is not that much different from what America's was 15 years ago.
Until about 1970 or so, pretty much the unspoken agreement was a man marries a woman when she's young and beautiful. In return she gets a lifetime of financial security.
Only in the late '60s did that break apart, and relationships shifted - and the divorce rate grew.
The woman used to be the complete economic ally of the man. When she went into the work force in earnest, the balance was broken. She also became the economic competitor, looking out for herself in case they split apart. The primary reason for marriage was no longer financial security.
But are there some major differences between Japanese and American culture that will make the transition more difficult?
As soon as Japan moves into the personal fulfillment stage in marriage (stage two), we are going to see some havoc wreaked, more so than in the US.
The younger generation in Japan is not quite as driven as are their parents, and some of them (about 5 percent) are beginning to question these institutions.
Where are the two societies now?
Japan is just beginning to enter into stage two, maybe by one tenth of one percent.
In Japan, the woman doesn't have to work outside the home to still be an acceptable wife. A man doesn't have to spend time with the children to still be considered an acceptable husband.
The US is about 20 percent into stage two. We tend to think of ourselves as marrying for personal fulfillment now.
What progress has there been here then?
There is more than a residual expectation for men to make more money than women.
A woman's three options can be:
Work full time.
Work part time.
Raise a family and not work outside the home.
The American married man's three options are still:
Work full time.
Work full time.
Work full time.
The big myth about equality in the last 20 years has been that a woman who supports herself is a career women and equal economically to the man. She is not equal economically until she is willing to support him and the children in the long term as much as she expects him to support her and the children.
Until a female executive is as willing to marry a male secretary as the male executive traditionally has been to marry the female secretary, there is not total equality. The women must be as willing to ``marry down'' economically and redefine ``marrying up'' so that she is marrying up for intimacy and not economics.
There are millions of men who are sensitive and caring who earn less than women are willing to accept. Hence the fictitious ``American male shortage.'' There are many frustrated women who have this blind spot. Our next challenge, I believe, is to combine financial success and personal intimacy.