Integral Sex and Gender Studies: Beyond the Blame Game

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It is always important to recognize genuine cases of abuse and discrimination. But it sometimes seems like modern feminism simply claims the status of victimhood, wholly dismissing the masculine perspective. Both perspectives must be honored and accepted as having an essential role to play in furthering understanding within and between genders. Listen as Warren Farrell and Ken Wilber discuss a more integrated approach to sex and gender.

Dr. Warren Farrell is a founding member of Integral Institute and the author of six books, including the international best-sellers Why Men Are the Way They Are and The Myth of Male Power.

His book, Why Men Earn More: The Startling Truth Behind the Pay Gap and What Women Can Do About It, had an initial printing of 100,000 copies—an astonishing amount for any book, let alone one that integrates men’s perspectives. His findings include “25 differences between what men and women do in the workplace. Those differences lead to men earning more money and women having better lives….” Why Men Earn More, “gives women 25 ways to earn more, explains what each way is worth, and interviews successful women to discover which trade-offs were worth the increase in pay.” What is the startling truth behind the pay gap”While men still earn more than women for different work, women now earn more than men for the same work.”

Warren is the only man ever elected three times to the board of the National Organization for Women (NOW) in New York City. As he explains, this achievement reflects the fact that for a long time he made his living by only advocating the feminist point of view. He often received standing ovations—but the audiences were 95% women. In a moment of self reflection he wondered if he wasn’t simply, “being the biggest jock in the sensitivity group just to please all the females.”

From that point on Warren consciously endeavored to integrate the male perspective into his work. Instead of forming men‘s groups in which he told the men how to think, he started asking them questions. When he publicly started sharing what he learned from talking to men, the standing ovations dropped off and the audiences began to dwindle. Warren began to fear for his career, but he also saw that in this culture women were no longer the only ones who needed defending. In fact, in an attempt to balance an unbalanced system, Warren ran for Governor of California to raise awareness of men’s and fathers’ issues. He feels strongly, though, that “when either sex wins, both sexes lose.” Hence, an integral approach is needed to help men and women learn how to thrive together in a mutually enriching, supportive way.

As Warren and Ken agree, it’s clear that both women and men can live the life of economic and professional excellence with great success. But as Warren points out, many times women executives will exclaim, “I need a wife!” Traditionally, the wife is the person in a relationship who raises the children and creates a warm, supportive home environment. This function can be played out by a man or a woman, but many times what a society considers an “ideal man,” and therefore a man worth marrying, is not a man who would want to stay home and raise the children. Warren suggests that we begin to socialize our career-oriented daughters to look for a different set of qualities in a potential life-partner.

Ken goes on to point out that throughout history the roles and responsibilities of men and women have been co-created by both sexes, even if they haven’t been as flexible as they often are today. It is not that one sex has overpowered the other and forced them into fixed and subservient roles. To suggest that the patriarchy has systematically worked to oppress women is to suggest (at least) two things: 1. that men are domineering brutes, and 2. that women are weak enough to be domineered. This isn’t flattering for either sex, but it is crippling for any movement towards genuine female empowerment.

As an example of how an integral approach might look at the formation of gender roles in a society, Ken, drawing on feminist writer Janet Chafetz, illustrates how the transition from horticultural to agrarian modes of production dramatically changes how much each sex occupies the public sphere. In horticultural societies, where the earth was tilled using a simple digging stick, or hoe, women produced some 80% of the foodstuffs and nearly all of the deities were female. In agrarian societies, where earth was tilled using an animal-drawn plow, men took over the production of food and the deities became primarily male. Men became solely responsible for plowing for one main reason: pregnant women can easily handle a hoe, but they can’t handle a plow without risking a high possibility of miscarriage. Women weren’t forced out of the public sphere—they stepped out when they realized it was to their Darwinian advantage not to be a part of that process.

What is true is that even if yesterday’s models for a functional society had a good reason for existing, we must invent models to match the time and place of where we are now. A more integral understanding of sex, gender, relationships, work, and the human experience as a whole is needed if men and women are going to co-create the healthiest, most vital possible society for the 21st century.

We hope you enjoy this dialogue with one of the most balanced and insightful people in gender studies today….

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Warren Farrell

About Warren Farrell

Dr. Warren Farrell is the author of many books, including two award-winning international best-sellers, Why Men Are The Way They Are and The Myth of Male Power. His most recent books are Women Can't Hear What Men Don't Say, which is a selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club, and Why Men Earn More, which is about how the gap in pay between men and women really isn't discrimination and how women can earn more.

Ken Wilber

About Ken Wilber

Ken Wilber is a preeminent scholar of the Integral stage of human development. He is an internationally acknowledged leader, founder of Integral Institute, and co-founder of Integral Life. Ken is the originator of arguably the first truly comprehensive or integrative world philosophy, aptly named “Integral Theory”.

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