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Warren Farrell’s Funny Footnote, and Where it Led Me

Please don't check my footnotes!

Please don’t check my footnotes!

Men’s Rights elder Warren Farrell is fond of mentioning his academic past — he has taught at a number of colleges — and is not exactly shy about mentioning his Ph.D.  (Check the covers of his books if you don’t believe me.) But the books he’s written are for the most part polemical “pop psychology” and “pop sociology” rather than academic works, and most don’t meet academic standards by a long shot.

How far they fall short of academic standards I didn’t fully realize until I started investigating a suspicious footnote in The Myth of Male Power.

While reading through the book I found myself having a little trouble believing one of Farrell’s factual claims. To be specific, the claim made on p. 283 that there is a “20:1 ratio at which schoolboys hit schoolgirls.”

That’s right. He’s claiming that schoolgirls hit schoolboys twenty times as often as schoolboys hit schoolgirls.

Farrell doesn’t identify the source of this astounding claim in the text, but he does footnote it. So I turned to the back of the book (p. 414) to find this listed as the source of Farrell’s “data”:

Based on a three-year observation (1989-92) of high school students by Elizabeth Brookins, chair of the Department of Mathematics, El Camino High School, Oceanside, California.

I was as bewildered by this as you no doubt are. He’s not citing a published and/or peer-reviewed study by a social scientist here. He’s citing a “three-year observation” of a high school math teacher? What on earth is a “three-year observation?”

From his footnote, any scholar trying to check his work would have no way to know whether this “data” came from personal observation or from a study, and if it came from a study, what the methodology of this study was, or even why a math teacher would be doing a social scientific study about interpersonal violence using her own students as research subjects.

On a hunch, I looked at the book’s acknowledgements and discovered that Elizabeth Brookins wasn’t simply some random high school math teacher: she was, and perhaps still is, a close friend of Farrell’s, credited as one of the three people who “helped me past the political cowardice that is PC.”

In other words, Farrell pulled these highly unlikely numbers — which suggested high school girls were many, many times more violent towards boys than vice versa, and which conveniently illustrated his point — from a high school math teacher who happened to be a close friend of his. How she got these numbers is not made clear, at least not in The Myth of Male Power.

Happily for all of us, Farrell provided a few more details about Brookins’ “research” in his 1999 book Women Can’t Hear What Men Don’t Say. (Conveniently, this portion of the book has been excerpted online here.) Here’s Farrell’s account of the whole thing:

I asked [Brookins] if she would keep track of the frequency with which the boys and girls hit each other the first time. She agreed, but not one to miss a potential math lesson, she asked one of her classes to “do a survey,” to keep track of all the times the boys and girls initiated a slap or punch of a member of the other sex on the playground or in their classes.

When Liz reported the results, she was a tad embarrassed, “Well, it was almost 20 to 1 when I first started keeping track – mostly girls hitting guys on the arm, occasionally slapping them. But I’m afraid I screwed up the survey. I got so furious at the girls for ‘beginning the cycle of violence,’ as you put it, that I began to do mini-lectures in class, and the girls and guys doing the survey started lecturing the people they were observing, and soon there weren’t nearly as many girls hitting guys…. I contaminated the results!”

This answers one question: The “observation” Farrell referred to wasn’t Brookins’ personal observation but a sort of class project.

But it was hardly a scientific survey, given that it was 1) conducted by an unknown number of high school students completely untrained in social science research, using an unknown protocol and 2) contaminated by the head researcher, also apparently untrained in social science research.

This would all be very amusing, except for two things. First, the fact that Farrell quoted the alleged results of this “research” in The Myth of Male Power without reservation, as if the numbers were from a serious social science survey, not from the class project of a friend of his.

And second, his account in Women Can’t Hear contradicts the information about the “research” given in The Myth of Male Power.

In the earlier book, you may recall, he claims that the ratio of girls hitting boys was 20:1, and that this data came from three years of observation.

In the later book, Brookins says the ratio was 20:1 only at the start, but that she quickly “contaminated” the results and the ratio dropped.

In other words, only if the “contaminated” results were dropped could the ratio could be 20:1. But this would mean that Farrell’s claim in The Myth of Male Power that the study continued for three years would be incorrect.

The study could have continued on for three years only if the “contaminated” data wasn’t dropped — but then the ratio would have been less than the 20:1 ratio that Farrell also claimed in The Myth of Male Power.

So either Farrell was lying about, or sloppily misreporting, the results of his friend’s “study” in The Myth of Male Power — or the account he’s given of the research in Women Can’t Hear is itself untrue.

I guess the real question here is whether or not Farrell’s handing of his friend’s “study” reflects incompetence on his part or deliberate deception. It’s hard to believe that someone who spent as much time in academia as Farrell did in the early years of his career would have so completely forgotten the basic rules of scholarship that he thought he could cite a class project by a high school teacher friend of his as if it were serious research. It’s also rather amazing that he could publish two completely contradictory descriptions of the “findings” of this research in books written only six years apart.

I’d love to hear Farrell’s explanation of all this, but somehow — based on his less-than-forthcoming response to critics in the past — I doubt we’ll ever get a straight answer from him.

It may seem silly to make such a big deal of a footnote. But to serious academics footnotes are sacred; if you can’t trust someone’s citations, you can’t trust anything they write. I followed this particular footnote on a hunch, because the claim Farrell made in the text seemed so utterly unbelievable — only to find that the story got ever more unbelievable with each new twist I discovered. I can only wonder if there are other similarly strange tales to be found elsewhere in Farrell’s footnotes.

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Posted on May 6, 2013, in domestic violence, MRA, reddit, the myth of warren farrell, violence, warren farrell and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 130 Comments.

  1. @Kitteh

    I’m quite sure that the scale of my influence is very small, but thank you. I hope it grows some day.

    @howardbann1ster

    I’m scared of never being able to pursue my goals in life because, even with the love and support, I fear that I’ll remain in a state of vulnerability that will keep me from doing what I want to do in life. But I’ll continue to keep in mind what you said. Thank you. And yes, please share that website.

    @AK, Argenti

    Normally distractions don’t help. But I guess I can just write in my journal more, since that at least makes me think about something else. I just don’t want to distract myself too much because, as weird as it sounds, if use too many distractions, I can bottle up feelings and feel even more miserable later (this has happened to me countless times before). As for exercise, normally going to the gym doesn’t help me feel better, but perhaps doing a bit more cardio today would be nice. Thanks you two.

  2. You know what? Aaliyah, this isn’t the appropriate place, and I’m sorry you’re hurting, but please stop making every thread about you.

    You’re right. I probably should have stopped a long time ago.

  3. I don’t think you need to stop :)

  4. @hellkell … ?

    I don’t really feel that she is doing this. Sometimes she brings up personal details in discussions, but they seem to be germane.

    Maybe I’m not reading your comment with adequate empathy, but this really doesn’t seem like the right place to make this request and you did it pretty starkly.

  5. Aaliyah, I’ve been reading Manboobz for a while now and what Kittehserf said is true. You’ve won the affection of people around the world (even people you haven’t even talked to). I was suicidal when I was younger, and I thought that there was no possible way out, but there is, I assure you.

  6. CassandraSays

    FWIW, I agree with hellkell.

  7. In fact, I shouldn’t have even asked here. Anyway, thanks everyone. I’m starting to feel better now but I’ll keep in mind all of that stuff if I start to feel like this again.

  8. Hey, aaliyah, and others who’ve been having a rough time lately, I’ve opened a thread for discussing personal issues. I’ll moderate it more heavily to keep out trolls. It’s here:

    http://manboobz.com/2013/05/06/open-thread-for-personal-stuff/

    You can post pointers to it in other active threads if you post a lot of new stuff there.

  9. PEMRA: Like I said, SRS is founded upon the principle that a particular group of people is subhuman and should be ridiculed and treated with hostility. This isn’t true for AVfM, whatever else you can say about it.

    Apart from the (you know) terrorism. And the fucking their shit up. And the statement that women who dress in sexy clothes, and accept drinks from men ought to be raped, and …

    So maybe, whatever else we can say about it, they do think women are subhuman, and should be ridiculed and treated with, not hostility. No, I wouldn’t say that.

    I’d say violence.

  10. thebionicmommy

    Hmm. I’ll grant I’m a bit surprised at the sloppiness here. Then again I’ve never been a fan of Farrell. AVFM cites Angry Harry as the father of the MRM, not Farrell.

    As bad as Farrell is, Angry Harry is even worse. This is what he told Kathryn Joyce in an interview he gave in her article* “Men’s Rights Groups have become Frighteningly Effective”.

    In a phone interview, Angry Harry said, “Of course there will be more Sodinis—there will be many more,” likening him to Marc Lépine, a Canadian man who killed or wounded 28, claiming feminists had ruined his life, or Nevada father Darren Mack, who murdered his estranged wife and attempted to kill the judge in their custody battle. (Also among this number is John Muhammad, the “D.C. Beltway Sniper,” whose involvement in a Washington father’s rights group and history of abuse is described in his ex-wife Mildred’s newly-released memoir, Scared Silent [5].) Perhaps, Angry Harry mused, that as the ranks of online MRAs grow, “the threat” of their violence “may be enough” to bring about the changes they desire.

    So he was clearly stating that those acts of violence could help MRA’s get the changes they want in society, by scaring people into letting them have their way. That right there is advocating terrorism.

    *I’m sorry for not linking the original article. It was in Double X magazine online, but now I can’t find it, but there are copies at other places like Democratic Underground.

  11. CassandraSays

    If he was the first MRA to suggest that terrorism was the way to get results then he really is the MRM’s true spiritual father.

  12. Perhaps, Angry Harry mused, that as the ranks of online MRAs grow, “the threat” of their violence “may be enough” to bring about the changes they desire.

    Angry Harry – more like Harry Asshole.

    (Terrible joke, but hey, I tried)

  13. Angry Harry? More like Anguished Haranguing

    Angry Harry? More like Sanctily Hardon

    Angry Harry? More like Angreeeeh Harreeeeh

    Angry Harry? More like penguins are whores! (Peter Nolan logic version)

    Angry Harry? More like Angry Hairy

    Angry Harry? More like Angrebet Ærgerligt (Danish pun version (Attacked greedily)

    Angry Harry? More like The Angry Harry, He, The Forerunner of the Most Glorious Humane RIghts Movement of the 21st Century And Banger of Sluts.

    Eveyone, join in! It’s a punapalooza!

  14. Like I said, SRS is founded upon the principle that a particular group of people is subhuman and should be ridiculed and treated with hostility. This isn’t true for AVfM, whatever else you can say about it.

    You are such a whiny, privileged douchenozzle. Show us a link to Srs saying that white men or w/e are inferior to everyone else, like Avfm has repeatedly said that women are inferior to men.

    @Aaliyah

    I really wish I had advice. :( right now, my suicidal feelings are popping up after almost a year of not having any, and I don’t know how to deal, either. All I can say is consensual jedi hugs.

    Though I will say Argenti’s suggestion of distracting yourself helps me, sometimes.

  15. AK – absolutely seconding your recommendation of CBT. It’s a great component of dealing with things like anxiety or panic attacks. Just learning what the body does (sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems and that bastard adrenal gland, frx) gave me a chance to think, “I know this incredible tension and apprehension SUCKS and I’m probably going to throw up, but it isn’t a physical threat and it will pass.” Plus there’s learning to analyse your thought processes and emotions and eventually change your thinking.

  16. This is your Family Feud style of survey research so popular with pomo “researchers” these days. Survey says people are ignorant and uninformed and survey says is the reason people are ignorant and uninformed.
    Boys who grope you are just being friendly and girls who knock the boys grubby groping mitts away are being violent.
    Survey says 20:1 girls are violent more often than boys!
    Also too and besides everyone knows women talk more than men do even though actual research, not surveys, clearly demonstrate that they speak nearly the same number of words daily. A survey is not a study, unless what you are studying is the opinion of those you survey.

  17. thebewilderness

    Criminy PEMRA, do you really think that saying the same thing over and over will magically imbue it with truthiness? You got nuttin!

  18. thebewilderness

    You need to confine yourself to the thread for hostile visitors, PEMRA.

  19. “so popular with pomo “researchers””

    I read that as porno researchers

    *memo to self: do not attempt to read screen when not wearing glasses

  20. CassandraSays

    Well, actually, given the MRA focus on “reasons why bitches should give me more sex for no other reason than that I’d like that”, “porno researchers” isn’t that far off base.

  21. thebewilderness

    A goodly amount of pomo reasearch is just that. Notes from their boner.

  22. Bravo, David! Does anyone know what this fool Farrell’s dissertation was about?
    The thing is, there are academic studies about masculinity (eg RW Connell), but the mra can’t use them because for the most part they critique patriarchy and don’t heap the blame for the world’s ills on women.

  23. archaeoholmes

    @AK Similar story. I hit a boy in school who had been harrassing me for a long time. One day he was following me around saying horrible stuff at my back, with his friends in tow, all day. It was based on a very prominent physical disability I have, and he sure wasn’t the only one who would do it. I turned and slapped his face. I can still remember his expression. He said to me in this really cold voice, “I’ll let that one go, but next time you’re fucked”. The thing is, he had been doing this for weeks and weeks, and it had never occurred to me to say anything to anyone about it. In those days you were just expected to cop stuff like that. If some guy made you a target, it was pretty much tough luck. Things have changed, I’m happy to say, if my kids’ school is anything to go by.

  24. I don’t know much about analytic and algebraic topology of locally Euclidean parameterization of infinitely differentiable Riemannian manifolds (Боже мои!)

    Neither do I, but fortunately I have friends in Minsk….

  25. @archaeoholmes: Fuck, that anecdote just made me feel not very secure at all. Which is not to try and silence you, just … brr. What an entitled, scary-ass fucker.

  26. And I just realized I should have said, “I have this friend in Minsk….”

    Comedy: I failz at it.

  27. archaeoholmes

    @Falconer I still think about him and other guys like him I had to put up with, even though it was twenty years ago. Like I said, this sort of thing just happened, and too bad if it was you on the receiving end. They are relly big on anti-bullying in the public schools now – not to say it doesn’t happen, just that you aren’t expected to suck it up.

  28. In college, someone threatened to beat me up ’cause he thought I was moving in on his girlfriend. Got into my room and waited for me and everything. It’s been, Christ, 15 years and I still think about that occasionally. Most of the time it only makes me mad, but sometimes it makes me upset. I won’t call it anxiety, it doesn’t make me feel like I can’t breathe, but it knots me up inside and damages my calm.

    And then I remember a guy I knew who I suspect knew of this first guy’s intentions and didn’t tell me at dinner.

  29. Beat me up like, get three or four of his friends and kick the shit out of me.

  30. archaeoholmes

    @Falconer Jeez, that’s really scary. Glad it didn’t come to pass. Violence sucks, I don’t understand why some people make a deliberate choice to carry something like that out.

  31. If you’re interested in more about Farrell’s shoddy scholarship, perhaps a more relevant example than an obscure footnote is his citation of Charles McDowell’s “research” on false rape allegations in page 322 of “The Myth of Male Power”. This is in reference to an Air Force study supposedly claiming that 60% out of 556 rape allegations turned out to be false. Of course there are a number of glaring errors with this claim. First, the publication of the original study is so obscure that it doesn’t seem possible to verify today whether it had even been published at all:

    http://www.ncdsv.org/images/OCADVSA_RapeAndFalseReports_2010.pdf

    Second, McDowell tested the validity of each rape claim by use of a checklist of questions, in which respondents are scored between 0.5 and 5 points for each answer, with a score over 16 indicating that the woman’s rape allegation was probably false. There exists no documentation anywhere establishing the validity of this methodology, and indeed the questions themselves rely on outdated and disproven rape myths, many of which have exactly zero bearing on whether the account is true or not. The entire test seems designed to maximize the proportion of claims labeled false based entirely on McDowell’s prejudices about women’s dishonesty and has no methodological validity whatsoever, and yet this was the study Farrell thought to cite (I’m told; I haven’t read the book).

    More on the McDowell checklist:

    http://www.alternet.org/story/19134/rape_nation

    http://www.ipsnews.net/2011/02/rape-in-the-ranks-the-us-armys-dirty-secret/

    http://books.google.com/books?id=bKGsfOm3AmsC&pg=PA183&lpg=PA183#v=onepage&q&f=false

    I can’t find the original publication containing the checklist, but it’s been reproduced online in a number of places:

    http://servemycountry.blogspot.com/2012/08/rape-allegation-checklist-created-by-us.html

    http://www.veteranstoday.com/2010/03/25/military-restricted-reporting-does-not-put-rapists-away/

    http://www.opb.org/thinkoutloud/shows/women-military/

  32. SeleukosNicator13

    As an anthropology student I can tell you that for him to make that kind of mistake suggests outright fraud. He probably knew that nobody would check his facts; on account it was a popular book, so he felt he could actually get away with it. Had this been peer review it would have been savaged.

  33. @Ax

    Kudos for bringing up the McDowell study. I find it hilarious how places like RADAR say that it’s a very well-done and respected study even though it’s almost nowhere to be found. And that methodology? SMFH.

    Oh, and if you’re new here – welcome! ^_^

  34. I begin to wonder, in my nasty suspicious way, does Farrell actually have a PhD? I mean one that wasn’t issued by the NWOSlave University of Learnin’?

  35. You know those martial arts classes that guarantee a black belt in a few weeks that actually really suck? I bet he went to something like that. “PhD guaranteed in 5 weeks! *does not actually reflect learning*”

  36. This was in a math class. In front of a teacher. So, you’ve pretty much eliminated all forms of actual violence and are left with playful/social violence. Oh, there could be some kid who will punch another one in the middle of a class, but usually it is after school and away from the teachers.

    Yep. Great study you have there. Definitely showing how violent women are instead of men.

    Domestic violence by females is a problem. My father has been in and out of an abusive relationship with the same woman for the last 5 years. At one point she stabbed him in the arm. He keeps going back to her when she promises to get off drugs and get sober. Works for a bit and then she’s back off the wagon. So I 100% understand the need to have domestic violence support for men.

    But that isn’t what he’s doing. Not really. He’s trying to say that the men who are arrested for domestic violence are not really at fault because the woman probably started it. Which doesn’t matter. You don’t get to hit someone back unless it is self defense. That doesn’t mean they hit you first. It means that you were in danger and felt that you could not safely get away. There’s a weird theory that if someone wrongs you then you can get them back and it’s self defense. In real life it is much narrower (which is one reason Stand Your Ground has ended up being such a mess in Florida, but that’s another discussion).

  37. I begin to wonder, in my nasty suspicious way, does Farrell actually have a PhD? I mean one that wasn’t issued by the NWOSlave University of Learnin’?

    Oh god… the classes. I’m imagining them.

    YAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRGGGHHHH

  38. CassandraSays

    “Intro to punching everyone in the nose”

    “Advanced Illuminati studies”

  39. “Welcome to your first day of class, students. Today we’re studying Russia. And the Russian language. And the Spanish language.”

    “Professor, isn’t that a lot to go over the first day?”

    “Nonsense. That’s only the first hour. Once you know it’s all the same alphabet, it goes by quite quickly.”

  40. CassandraSays

    “But first, a quick introduction to the many ways in which fluoride kills. Girls, it doesn’t really matter if you die, so come line up to collect your regulation miniskirt and see-through shirt.”

  41. @Ax:

    That McDowell checklist is . . . fuck, I don’t even have the words. It’s awful beyond belief. The only good thing about it is that it hasn’t been used since 1997. Unfortunately, a “modified” version is apparently still in use, which makes me weep for humanity, because the only way to “modify” this kind of unreconstructed rape apologia into anything worthwhile is to set it on fire and use the ashes for compost.

  42. This is an OT comment, but:

    Incredible, the extent to which Warren Farrell has gotten to look like Lancaster Dodd. Isn’t it?

  43. emilygoddess

    I got so furious at the girls for ‘beginning the cycle of violence,’ as you put it,

    So apparently she’s quoting Farrell here. Anyone know what she’s getting at? Because maybe I’ve just read too much MRA bullshit, but to me, “beginning the cycle of violence” sounds like the sort of thing one would say if one was the sort who liked to claim that DV is mostly mutual or that women tend to start it. IDK, it’s just making me really uncomfortable.

  44. CassandraSays

    I still think he looks like Colonel Sanders. Having noticed this I will never eat Kentucky Friend Chicken again, even if it’s the only thing open.

  45. If Farrell and Elam both look like Colonel Sanders, I’m starting to wonder if Colonel Sanders is the Mr 90% of the MRM …

  46. Having noticed this I will never eat Kentucky Friend Chicken again, even if it’s the only thing open.

    Random anecdote time: once me and my dad and sister stopped by a kfc for a quick meal.

    Forty minutes later, we had our food.

    It was probably just that specific kfc, though, cuz the one by my mom’s old apartment never took forty minutes.

  47. thebewilderness

    In the MRA world view girls always begin the cycle of violence by saying no to boys.

  48. thebewilderness

    The wiki claims he has: Warren Farrell holds a Ph.D. from New York University, a M.A. from UCLA in political science and a B.A. from Montclair State University in the social sciences.

    Since the wiki has no particular interest in accuracy I wouldn’t bet on it being accurate.
    He wouldn’t be the first “expert” to fake his bio.

  49. Col. Sanders was a nice person. That Warrell looks a bit like him is sad. Thankfully he is dead, and can’t feel the shame of it.

  50. Fade – forty minutes?

    I guess that’s one way of proving they don’t do fast food!

  51. Warren Farrell to me is a fucking idiot. He focuses on men’s rights issues (questionably so) by using very absurd and ridiculous examples, to the point where they don’t even make sense. I’ve been to one of his talks at U of T and I have to say that it’s 80% full of stupid.

  52. ” I’ve been to one of his talks at U of T and I have to say that it’s 80% full of stupid.”

    That must have been one of his good days!

  53. @Kittehs

    Farrell’s credentials appear to check out – his thesis was, as best I can find, on changing male roles in society, back in his feminist or feminist-y days before the switch to wild misogyny/saying anything bad that happens to men is the same thing as rape, even if it’s not a male-specific bad thing.

    Unfortunately, education isn’t a guarantee that someone’ll be an ethical and conscientious person. Our Opposition Leader was a Rhodes Scholar, remember!

  54. CassandraSays

    Given the theories he ended up with I bet it was a relationship that ended badly that tipped him over from Kind of a Shitty Feminist into Bitter Misogynists R Us (with bonus incest).

  55. Given the theories he ended up with I bet it was a relationship that ended badly that tipped him over from Kind of a Shitty Feminist into Bitter Misogynists R Us (with bonus incest).

    Not enough cookies and the wrong frosting anyways.

  56. The only reason Warren is Faral is because no one would give him a good home.

    Adopt a Faral Warren today.

  57. “Our Opposition Leader was a Rhodes Scholar, remember!”

    Yeah, and remember the jibe from the time that was quoted in the SMH? “Second-grade footballer, third-rate academic and fourth-class politician.”

    They left out “fifth-rate human being.”

  58. /watch?v=P6w1S8yrFz4&list=PL4N­vroQMCiyyVkArhdhECZHwl97Q5OFL5­&index=10 (16:20, Warren Farrell) WF sayd men died earlier because they work full time more often.

    When I looked at statistics from the last 30 years I (Buntzums) noticed something. The death gap between men and women is closing so I contacted a friend in the medical field.

    The leading difference: Smoking. Because women started smoking later, there was 30 years where many more men died because of the various cancers caused by smoking.

  59. oops typo should be *said

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