By David Futrelle
I‘ve been rereading Warren Farrell’s Myth of Male Power — basically the MRA bible — and boy does my brain hurt.
If you haven’t had the distinct unpleasure of reading any of Farrell’s books, it’s hard to convey just how frustrating and infuriating his writing style is; it’s rambling and convoluted and weirdly evasive. It’s as if he faintly knows that what he’s saying makes no goddamn sense and is trying to do his best to cover up his leaps of illogic with sheer bafflegab.
Let me present you with some of his finest work in this vein, found in his discussion of sexual harassment.
As you might expect, Farrell is not a big fan of sexual harassment legislation, which he feels is discriminatory against men because how are they supposed to know when they’re sexually harassing someone? And also isn’t it unfair that women still get to dress all sexy at work, I mean, it’s like they want you to sexually harass them or something.
That is, as best as I can discern it, his basic argument. But the more closely you read his writing on the subject the weirder it gets. Let’s take this extended disquisition on the evils of miniskirts.
Many women ask, “What’s the big deal with a miniskirt, perfume, and a little flirting in the workplace?” It would not be a big deal for most men if no one were making a big deal of the man’s response.
In other words, it wouldn’t be a big deal if no one cared about men ogling women in the office and saying sexually suggestive things to them about said miniskirts.
But, he thinks, it sends out the wrong sort of signals to men, who see a woman in a miniskirt and think “there’s a woman who wants to get married and quit work.”
It is a big deal, though, for the woman—if her goal is to be treated seriously at work. Here’s why. Her indirect initiatives signal to the man her tendency to avoid direct responsibility. Indirect initiatives signal to him that he is dealing with a woman who is traditional. And traditionally, indirect initiatives were designed to lead to marriage and the end of her involvement in the workplace.
Yeah, maybe if you live inisde a sitcom from the 1960s
So the miniskirt, perfume, and flirting unconsciously tell the man that this woman wants an end to her involvement in the workplace—or, at least, an end to her involvement by obligation.
Because it’s so common for women to marry and quit their jobs. So common that in fact women make up the majority of those in the workforce.
If you were a boss who had to choose between promoting someone who had the option to work versus someone with the obligation to work (e.g., to support a spouse and three children), whom would you take more seriously?
Most women, miniskirted or not, don’t have the option to not work. Only about a quarter of mothers are stay-at-home housewives these days.
Oh, but he’s not done. If you thought wearing miniskirts was bad, consider lipstick. And/or flowers in the hair.
In almost all cultures throughout human history, women’s indirect initiatives were their way of signaling their desire for men to take direct initiatives.
If she smiles at you, it means she wants your dick pics.
A flirtation was an invitation. In some cultures, lipstick was a woman’s way of signaling her willingness to perform fellatio. In the South Sea islands, a fresh flower in a woman’s hair signaled availability. The purpose of the flower, lipstick, or the miniskirt is to put the signal out strongly enough to stimulate every man’s interest. It is only when she has every man’s interest that she has real choice—the choice of the “best” men.
What is it with these guys and lipstick? No, dude, women wearing lipstick aren’t “signaling” anything other than the fact that they think they look good in lipstick.
Also, I want to know exactly which cultures think lipstick means “she wants to give blowjobs.” Farrell has no footnote for that fun factoid; I’m guessing it was pulled directly from his ass.
Farrell then concludes that when women say “no” to the men attracted to them by miniskirts and lipstick and hair-flowers they really mean “keep going.”
What has been the historical importance of her barriers—her “no, noes”? It was her way of selecting a man who could handle life’s rejections and survive, who cared enough for her to take risks, and who would assume total responsibility should anything go awry.
Apparently the ladies are really into guys who do and say things that would get them accused of sexual harassment if they did or said them to someone else?
In a sense, sexual harassment lawsuits are just the latest version of the female selection process—allowing her to select for men who care enough for her to put their career at risk; who have enough finesse to initiate without becoming a jerk and enough guts to initiate despite a potential lawsuit. During this process, she gets a sense of his trustworthiness, his commitment, his ability to overcome barriers, the way he handles rejection.
I’m pretty sure that most women are far more appreciative of men who handle rejection by not hitting on them any more than they are of those who respond to “no” by escalating their “courtship” behavior.
Sexual initiatives by men toward women below them at work is the most frequent definition of sexual harassment. When it works, it’s called courtship. When it doesn’t work, it’s called harassment.
Huh. Maybe men shouldn’t be hitting on women they supervise in the first place. (Or vice versa)
Anyway, enough of that. Does anyone want to hear his defense of dirty jokes at work?
Although both sexes have their own styles of humor, we often heard during the Thomas-Hill confrontation that dirty jokes were the way male bosses exert their power over women. Hardly. Men share dirty jokes with peers, buddies, and with anyone with whom they feel comfortable. A dirty joke is often a male boss’s unconscious way of getting his staff to not take him so seriously and therefore not be intimidated; his way of creating an atmosphere of easier feedback, of getting his staff to bond. Men get confused when women say they feel left out when they’re not included, then sue when they are included!
Ah women, those mysterious creatures who for some strange reason don’t want to “bond” with their boss over some joke about a man from Nantucket.
Farrell, for better or worse, is the intellectual godfather of the Men’s Rights movement; his ideas have basically defined the ideology of the movement for nearly three decades. No wonder the Men’s Rights movement is so fucked up.
Send tips to dfutrelle at gmail dot com.
We Hunted the Mammoth relies entirely on readers like you for its survival. If you appreciate our work, please send a few bucks our way! Thanks!