The Burdens Men Must Bear


by Leon J. Podles

February 1994 Crisis

The Myth of Male Power

By Walter Farrell
Simon & Schuster, 446 pages, $23


HAGAR THE HORRIBLE—a libel upon the noble Vikings who, in the spirit of modern liberalism, sought only a more just distribution of the EEC's wealth—stands between his wife and a storm of arrows, telling her, "Quick, get behind me." She responds, "There you are, ordering me around again." Le plus ca change, as the Gauls say. Men continue to protect women, and get small thanks for it. Such is the theme of Walter Farrell in The Myth of Male Power.


Farrell has studied his anthropology and looked closely at statistics about modern American society. Men have been socialized to be protectors and providers, women to be mothers. Both sexes have sacrificed themselves to the next generation, or else there would be no human race. Because of male protection and provision, since the Second World War many women in prosperous societies have been able to choose whether or not to accept the feminine role. That is, women can stay home to take care of the children, or work, or do some combination of the two; men can . . . work. If need arises, society compels men to fight and die. Men continue to bear the burden of the masculine role, while women can accept or reject the burden of motherhood.


Some of the statistics that Farrell has collected are surprising, but he assures us that they have all been carefully verified. Men continue to bear the burdens of society by occupying all the dangerous jobs. Of the 25 worst (i.e., most dangerous) jobs in society, 24 are 95 to 100 percent male. (The twenty-fifth, professional dancing, is half-female.) Industrial accidents are six times more prevalent in American than in Japan, and 94 percent of the victims are male. Garbage collectors die at a rate two-and-a-half times that of policemen; garbage collectors not only have to dodge traffic and rats, they are set on fire by chemicals and deluged with contaminated blood. These male-dominated jobs pay better than secretary and receptionist, not because of a masculine conspiracy, but because they are harder and more dangerous; as Farrell puts it, there is a death premium in the pay. "Every day, almost as many men are killed at work as were killed on an average day in Vietnam."


Both sexes have sacrificed themselves to the next generation, or else there would be no human race. But now men continue to bear the burden of the masculine role, while women can accept or reject the burden of motherhood.


Men take these jobs to support their families. Even when pay is not a question, men still take the dangerous jobs. Of the one million volunteer firemen, 99 percent are men. Men still bear the overwhelming burden of war; if the draft were reactivated, men would be drafted, not women. The gap between men's and women's life expectancies has grown since 1920. In 1920, women lived one year longer than men; they now live seven years longer. In the past decade the gap has decreased slightly as women move into the work world and suffer some of the same hazards as men, but it is still large.


The concept of comparable worth is also pernicious. A secretary is paid less than a fireman because a fireman has a much better chance of being injured or killed. Women want safe, easy work with the same pay as hard, dangerous work. What Farrell’s statistics suggest, although he does not say this, is that the increasing gap between male and female life expectancy since 1920 has been caused by the movement of women into the work force, where women have taken the safer, easier jobs. Thus the entry of women into the work force bumps men down the occupational ladder. We forget that secretary was a male position in the nineteenth century. A man who might have been a secretary is now a courier; a man who might have been a courier is now a rent collector; a man who would have been a rent collector is now a garbage man. The expansion of the work force also lowered wages and weakened unions, forcing men to work longer hours in more dangerous jobs to support their families.


YET FEMINISTS in their anti-male diatribes distort history and ignore the fact that, until recently, both sexes had to sacrifice their self-fulfillment to ensure the existence of the family. Feminists also create a victim mentality in which women do not have to take responsibility for their own sexuality, but can scream "date rape" when the lover of the previous night doesn't call back. Feminist-inspired laws and court decisions are remarkable. In Australia a husband and wife were making love; she asked him to stop, and she said it took him 30 seconds (he said he stopped immediately). On her word, he was convicted and sentenced to four years in prison. A woman can engage in premeditated murder and collect the insurance on her late husband if she alleges (without any proof) that he had at some time battered her. In general, women criminals receive light sentences or no jail time at all for crimes for which men spend long times in prison.


Military and civilian studies of rape allegations show that 30 to 60 percent are false. Yet in California juries are instructed that they can convict a man of rape on the basis of a woman's uncorroborated testimony. Women manipulate the justice system by pretending to be helpless victims. The daughters of Eve are as subject as men are to the cruel, selfish, and vengeful impulses of our fallen race. Not even in domestic violence are men the chief offenders. "The only two-sex surveys that have been done . . . find women and men to be equally as likely to initiate domestic violence at every level of severity."


FARRELL WANTS women to assume the responsibilities of men if they want the rights and privileges of men. He thinks it grossly unjust that a predominantly (54 percent) female electorate should choose leaders who are allowed to send only men, willing or not, to their deaths in war. Farrell does not state the obverse of his conclusion. Women, he says, should assume the same responsibilities that men have. If they will not or cannot do so, he does not say but clearly implies, they should not demand the same rights and privileges. This implication is what has so angered the feminists that they refuse even to debate with Farrell. Switzerland until recently restricted the franchise to men. Switzerland has universal and nearly lifetime military service for all men. Swiss men, unlike Swiss women, must serve in the military in order to vote. Since men will do the dying in war, men, the Swiss reasonably thought, should decide whether to go to war. Switzerland has not gone to war since Napoleonic times.


Like the controversial feminist Camille Paglia, Farrell argues that women are backing away from taking full responsibilities for their lives. Women have discovered that paternalism was protecting them from real hazards and dangers; women want the freedom that men have, but none of the inescapable dangers. Feminists, in pandering to this inconsistent desire, are making women into spoiled, over-privileged children. Farrell wants women to be both free and responsible; this involves shouldering the hazards of life and sexuality that are now almost entirely male burdens. But the reaction of the feminists who want Big Daddy Bureaucracy to protect them from all those nasty men with the pin-up calendars and crude language may not be simply self-indulgent; it may be a sign that the liberation of women has hit the hard wall of reality. Men and women are different, and whatever Farrell and Paglia want, it may not be possible for a society to perpetuate itself and to allow or to force the mass of women to accept their share of the roles that men have always been forced to play.


Radical changes in sex roles, such as Farrell calls for, could destroy our society. Still, his analysis of sex roles is intelligent, and therefore Farrell may perform a valuable service by stopping mindless anti-male rants. Men are almost always cast as the villains of society, as abusers of children and rapers of women. Paglia and Farrell will do feminism a favor if they can get it to tone down its criticism of men, to see the positive aspects of masculinity, and to cultivate sympathy for the burdens men, especially those in the working classes, must bear. What we need is men who can, without becoming self-destructive, develop the spirit of self-sacrifice and the willingness to risk danger to save others.