Categories
domestic violence MRA reddit the myth of warren farrell violence warren farrell

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.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

133 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Julie Gillis
7 years ago

Out of control. I am not a scientist, but this actually pisses me off more than anything else you’ve written. I value real data, real studies, real information. That is not what was published. Shameful.

Cthulhu's Intern
7 years ago

Well, it’s still better than what I initially thought it was from his wording, the “three-year observation.” I thought for sure it was a teacher who taught for three years ranting something along the lines of “You kidding me? Girls are just SO violent. Like, at my school, the girls must hit twenty times more often than the boys.”

Also, does any serious academic take Farrell seriously? Really?

Julie Gillis
7 years ago

“you’ve written about him.” not what you’ve written. Sorry. I expect the nasty rape apology but this is so transparent. Ugh. Do real studies and deal with the real information.

titianblue
titianblue
7 years ago

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.

And absolutely no information on how the survey was done (independent observers? random straw polls? who knows?) so even the 20:1 is utterly worthless.

titianblue
titianblue
7 years ago

^ sorry, meant to say that the initial 20:1 is worthless as a starting point.

kirbywarp
kirbywarp
7 years ago

mostly girls hitting guys on the arm, occasionally slapping them.

So… Only violent acts between genders were reported, so boys beating up other boys aren’t included, and relatively minor things like hitting on the arm counted as much as beating someone up? I can’t even tell from the description whether playful hitting between friends counted the same as other types. How could you possibly think this was an accurate measure of violence, even if it were recorded correctly?

What infuriates me is the moral of the story… The teacher, furious that girls hit boys, did mini lectures on not being violent. My hunch is that this amounted to telling girls not to hit boys, rather than telling children not to hit others.

My other hunch is that the teacher did not address bullying within genders, and amounted to telling girls “boys are always told not to hit you, you should be ashamed for taking advantage of this and not hitting back.” I sincerely hope I’m wrong on this one.

BabyLawyer
BabyLawyer
7 years ago

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.”

Not only untrained in social science; also, undoubtedly, a neutral observer…

howardbann1ster
7 years ago

@kirbywarp: I doubt you’re wrong, especially since Farrell said she “helped me past the political cowardice that is PC.”

howardbann1ster
7 years ago

@BabyLawyer: Jinx!

Since this is the Internet, I’ll go buy myself a coke.

hellkell
hellkell
7 years ago

Farrell uses assdata? Say it ain’t so. His whole career is a monument to Assfax.

Stephen McArthur
7 years ago

Unfortunately, Warren Farrell still gets invited to state psychological association and other local and regional events to speak, give workshops, and hold forth from his misogynist perspective. What Farrell has never acknowledged, in any academically peer-reviewed way or even through his amateurish observations, is that there is a quantitive and qualitative difference between the impact, meaning and intent of girl’s (or women’s) “violence” (pushing, slapping a hand, punching an arm, etc) and the the use of coercive control, aggression, power, and physical violence and abuse men use to intimidate. threaten, and harm their partners. The impact meaning and intent of men’s use of violence and women’s use of violence are almost never the same. There simply is no equivalency between men’s violence against women and women’s violence against men, irrespective of how hard some men try to claim otherwise.

freemage
freemage
7 years ago

Wow. That’s… just one, giant, steaming load of crap, ain’t it?

BabyLawyer
BabyLawyer
7 years ago

@howard bann1ster

I always play that game with a beer instead of a coke. Have I been doing it wrong? Or have you been doing it wrong…? o.O

Fibinachi
Fibinachi
7 years ago

Farrell uses assdata? Say it ain’t so. His whole career is a monument to Assfax.

[Silence]

… What?

What? hellkell’s already said everything I was going to say. Got nothing. Just Assfax, The Loudly Mentionable, Most Pronouced In Statement Be, Glory To the Prophets “Andhat Itsreel” and “Swear Tugod”, Whom Brought For The Commandments, Thus Brought Peace to the Internet Most Full of Blatant Lies and Vile Citations.

Pro-Equality MRA
Pro-Equality MRA
7 years ago

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.

tarnishedsophia
7 years ago

What utter rubbish. I’m confident that my ninth grade science fair project relied on more data than this steaming pile.

Was play “violence” between friends counted as actual violence?

Did anyone keep track of how often girls hit girls, or boys hit boys?

How was the teacher able to know that she wasn’t getting multiple reports of the same situation?

Were names given of the victims/perpetrators so the data could be cross referenced?

In what way was the “data” collected in the first place…ballots, talking about it, giving specific examples, or simply saying “yeah, I saw some girl hit some boy today”.

The whole thing is suspect, but honestly…is anyone here surprised?

pecunium
7 years ago

PEMRA: I see you are here as if nothing has ever been asked of you elsewhere.

Are you going to renounce Terrorism?

hellkell
hellkell
7 years ago

PEMRA: No one cares what you’re surprised by.

howardbann1ster
7 years ago

AVFM cites Angry Harry as the father of the MRM, not Farrell.

…AVFM has a call to terrorism on their activism page.

howardbann1ster
7 years ago

@BabyLawyer: …I was raised by teetotalers. I think I get to reward for myself for this realization with a beer.

Pro-Equality MRA
Pro-Equality MRA
7 years ago

@Pecunium: I’ve answered that question multiple times. You might want to consider going back and reading my previous posts more carefully.

Pecunium, I want you to consider whether you’re a little out of your depth in this discussion.

kirbywarp
kirbywarp
7 years ago

Wait… what’s this about terrorism now? What thread am I missing out on?

howardbann1ster
7 years ago

@Pemmy: you answer in the most fundamentally dishonest way. You agree to denounce terrorism, and turn around and continually cite AVFM.

What the hell is wrong with you?

howardbann1ster
7 years ago

@Kirbywarp: well, the thing is, he says he’s for ‘moderate’ MRAs.

We’re trying to show him how the moderates he cites are hosting incitements to terrorism. But he can’t quite get through that second step.

hellkell
hellkell
7 years ago

Pecunium, I want you to consider whether you’re a little out of your depth in this discussion.

This is so precious. Just admit you have nothing, it’s better than seeing this fail/flail.

Pro-Equality MRA
Pro-Equality MRA
7 years ago

“You agree to denounce terrorism, and turn around and continually cite AVFM.”

No, I’m just noting that Farrell is not universally regarded as some kind of godfather of the MRM. As I’ve said many times, I have real issues with AVFM.

Amused
7 years ago

Frankly, I can’t imagine any discussion in which Pecunium would be out of his depth.

kirbywarp
kirbywarp
7 years ago

Yeah, so I took a look at Angry Harry’s website and found this.

[Context: attempting to demonstrate why equality between men and women is impossible]

Question: Should ‘women’ have more votes than ‘men’?

For those who think, Yes, (because there are more women voters than men voters) then it follows that they also believe that those in a minority should have less of a say in what affects them.

They believe that the largest group (women) should have the greatest power.

As such, ‘equality’ between ‘men’ and ‘women’ is already lost.

For those who think, No, (because this would be unfair on ‘men’) then it follows that they also believe that those in the majority should have less of a say in what affects them.

They believe that the individual vote of a woman should be worth less than that of a man.

As such, ‘equality’ between ‘men’ and ‘women’ is already lost.

In other words, there is no solution to this question.

[Source]

This is pretty poor reasoning, or at least a very strange equality straw-man. Draw a line between any two groups of voters that are different sizes. Ta-da! Equality is impossible between them!

There’s more on the same page, rambling about how feminists want women to have equal pay for less work, and all the other usual MRM nonsense… Whatever. This part I found kinda jaw-dropping, and it is his leading argument.

emilygoddess
emilygoddess
7 years ago

This pretty much sums up my thoughts on Farrell: he’s either suffering from a severe case of confirmation bias or he’s a liar, and anyone who takes his Thoughts On Gender seriously is, similarly, either willing to believe anything that confirms their views, or willing to pretend to in order to have “research” to back up their misogyny.

@PEMRA

Pecunium, I want you to consider whether you’re a little out of your depth in this discussion.

That’s the best thing I’ve seen all day.

Pro-Equality MRA
Pro-Equality MRA
7 years ago

My issue with Pecunium is that many of his comments (at least to me, I don’t read the others) are mostly nonsense, a non-sequitur, or rely on obvious misreadings of previous posts. He seems to have trouble expressing what he means to say in written form, and it’s frustrating. Which is why I would like him to consider, before he gets into another discussion with me, whether he’s a bit out of his depth.

hellkell
hellkell
7 years ago

HAHAHA, OK. Whatever, PEMRA. Keep fucking that chicken.

kirbywarp
kirbywarp
7 years ago

Seriously, where is this thread? Now I’m desperately curious as to what PEMRA thinks is “mostly nonsense, a non-sequitur, or rely[ing] on obvious misreadings of previous posts.” If there’s anything you can say about Pecunium, it isn’t that he has trouble with the written word.

pecunium
7 years ago

PEMRA:

@Pecunium: I’ve answered that question multiple times. You might want to consider going back and reading my previous posts more carefully.

You said you renounced it, but you continue to cite AVfM as a reasonable source.

Let me help you.

re·nounce
/riˈnouns/
Verb

Formally declare one’s abandonment of (a claim, right, or possession).
Refuse to recognize or abide by any longer.

Synonyms
relinquish – repudiate – disclaim – waive – abdicate

Pecunium, I want you to consider whether you’re a little out of your depth in this discussion.

But you come back with this:

No, I’m just noting that Farrell is not universally regarded as some kind of godfather of the MRM. As I’ve said many times, I have real issues with AVFM.

You “have issues”. Not strong enough to sever ties with a group that advocates the terrorism you say you renounce. Not enough to imply they are a good source for the shape, form, history and practice of the MRM.

So, you don’t renounce terrorism. You pretend to renounce it, in the hopes we will forget that you are a disingenuous… no, I shouldn’t mince words, you aren’t disingenuous, you are liar.

You don’t renounce it, you paper it over with the weasel words, “I have issues” (which anyone can see).

Own your shit.

pecunium
7 years ago

PEMRA: My issue with Pecunium is that many of his comments (at least to me, I don’t read the others) are mostly nonsense, a non-sequitur, or rely on obvious misreadings of previous posts. He seems to have trouble expressing what he means to say in written form, and it’s frustrating. Which is why I would like him to consider, before he gets into another discussion with me, whether he’s a bit out of his depth.

I have, I’m not.

Your problem is that I show how you are a weaselly little sham.

But go ahead, break down how I “rely on obvious misreadings of previous posts”.

Also, so the places in which I, “have trouble expressing what I mean to say in written form”.

Please. Educate me. Demonstrate the reading comprehension you feel I lack.

pecunium
7 years ago

Amused: Frankly, I can’t imagine any discussion in which Pecunium would be out of his depth.

I don’t know much about analytic and algebraic topology of locally Euclidean parameterization of infinitely differentiable Riemannian manifolds (Боже мои!) [for all the whimsy in that, math and I are not well acquainted].

Smudgy
Smudgy
7 years ago

Angry Harry is a tremendous hypocrite and this is coming from someone who used to read him. Having issues with AVFM, would you agree that being a self-proclaimed libertarian he often goes back on the beliefs he claims to have? Despite waving his flag of individuality he is really fond of gender roles and is a bit collectivist in my view.

Pro-Equality MRA
Pro-Equality MRA
7 years ago

@Pecunium- If you’ll read more carefully, you’ll notice that I didn’t “renounce” AVfM, I just said I had serious issues with the their methods. I’ll leave it to you to figure the difference there.

Even if I had renounced AVfM, this wouldn’t bar me from ever referencing them again. The fact is that love them or hate them, they’re a major voice in the MRA-osphere. And I was just noting- as a matter of fact- that AVfM seems to regard Angry Harry as the “father of the MRM”. Which was just to make the point that Farrell is not universally regarded as the “father of the MRM”… though of course I admit he is very influential.

pecunium
7 years ago

I do have to say my tab-bar is sort of scary/confusing. Three of them look alike, and they all say, Warren Farr…

howardbann1ster
7 years ago

@Pecunium- If you’ll read more carefully, you’ll notice that I didn’t “renounce” AVfM, I just said I had serious issues with the their methods. I’ll leave it to you to figure the difference there.

Even if I had renounced AVfM, this wouldn’t bar me from ever referencing them again. The fact is that love them or hate them, they’re a major voice in the MRA-osphere. And I was just noting- as a matter of fact- that AVfM seems to regard Angry Harry as the “father of the MRM”. Which was just to make the point that Farrell is not universally regarded as the “father of the MRM”… though of course I admit he is very influential.

THEY INCITE TERRORISM.

This is not hyperbole. This is literally true.

You can’t claim to renounce or denounce terrorism and still cite them. You can’t claim there are moderates in the movement and cite people whose site has a call to terrorism on their activism page.

To do so is to put the lie to ‘I renounce terrorism,’ again and again and again and again.

kirbywarp
kirbywarp
7 years ago

So, you don’t renounce terrorism. You pretend to renounce it, in the hopes we will forget that you are a disingenuous… no, I shouldn’t mince words, you aren’t disingenuous, you are liar.

You don’t renounce it, you paper it over with the weasel words, “I have issues” (which anyone can see). -pecunium

If you’ll read more carefully, you’ll notice that I didn’t “renounce” AVfM, I just said I had serious issues with the their methods. I’ll leave it to you to figure the difference there. -PEMRA

Soo… who has the reading comprehension issues again?

kirbywarp
kirbywarp
7 years ago

blockquotes, nooo! Why have you forsaken me?!?

pecunium
7 years ago

So you don’t renounce terrorism. Got it.

Even if I had renounced AVfM, this wouldn’t bar me from ever referencing them again.

But, if a group is advocating terrorism, in pursuit of their final aims, then the precis on which they base their overall agenda is suspect.

Futher, when you advocate people turn to them for advice; without qualifying them as a group which advocates for terrorism, you are doing those who are unaware the combined disservice of sending them to a group which advocates terrorism, and letting them think you are, at the least, unconcerned with their advocacy (unless you detail all of your “issues” with AVfM when you recommend them; which I find hard to credit, since you won’t tell us what those issues are; and it is to be presumed you think taking issue with them should serve you in some creditable way with us, or you wouldn’t bother to mention it).

. Which was just to make the point that Farrell is not universally regarded as the “father of the MRM”… though of course I admit he is very influential.

Who here has said he is the “universally regarded father of the MRM?”

Who is misrepresenting peoples words now?

AK
AK
7 years ago

I also wonder about the circumstances in which girls “initiated violence” against boys. I hit two boys when I was in high school; neither had hit me. However, both punches were in response to the boys groping me first. From reading that explanation of the “observations” of this teacher, it seems that my experiences might count as me initiating the violence (especially if I was self-reporting as a teenager full of shame and guilt who had not yet discovered feminism), as groping is not seen as violent by many people. But it’s not like I just struck them out of the blue. Both boys committed a physical assault that I just probably wouldn’t have realized was an assault at the time.

Seriously, there are so many problems with that “research” that I have to believe an even remotely educated person would realize that, which makes Farrell an outright liar in addition to all his other character flaws.

Aaliyah
7 years ago

AVFM cites Angry Harry as the father of the MRM, not Farrell.

[Content Note: abuse apologia, rape apologia]

Oh, wow.

I have learned that AVfM is cool with Warren Farrell, GirlWritesWhat, Erin Prizzey, and now Angry Harry.

Warren Farrell: He is known for erasing the experiences of victims of child sexual abuse, trivializing and condoning date rape, and being intellectually dishonest misogynistic asshole.

Erin Prizzey: She is an extremely intellectually dishonest, misogynistic MRA who engages in some of the most egregious abuse apologia ever, such as claiming that most abused women are addicted to abuse and that abused people are obligated to forgive their abusers if they want to heal.

GirlWritesWhat: She is known for being completely okay with Matt Forney’s article about domestic abuse against women being “necessary.”

Angry Harry: Like Prizzey, he is known for accusing abused women of enjoying and being addicted to their abuse. He is also known for his severe lack of reasoning skills as evidenced by his articles and being apologetic about a man firebombing his ex-wife’s house because the attack was an “expected” reaction to the injustice committed against men and boys.

Human rights movement Yay!

Aaliyah
7 years ago

“…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.”

The fact that this is what Farrell regards as a reliable methodology is just…wow. =S

Tulgey Logger
Tulgey Logger
7 years ago

Warren Farrell is a classic pseudo scientist. I can’t say I’m surprised.

howardbann1ster
7 years ago

@kirbywarp: Sorry about the blockquotes, probably my fault. I mentioned how to make them, out loud even. The monster is out for blood now.

pecunium
7 years ago

Howard: I might be to blame. I teased it with some really complicated tricks, and forced it to obey (the scribing the wards and sigils was arduous, but it worked, and I contained it). The least weakness in one’s practice, at this point, is probably going to be exploited to the fullest.

leftwingfox
7 years ago

As I’ve said many times, I have real issues with AVFM.

“Yeah, but at least they aren’t like SRS. That’s a HATE GROUP, man.”

leftwingfox
7 years ago

Aah! Blackqoute monster! Why have you forsaken me!?

1 2 3