Real Reasons for the Pay and Gender Gap Part II

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[Editor's Introduction Chris]: This is Part II of a two part series on the real reasons behind gender pay differences. In Part I, Rochelle laid out the problem of gender pay gap differences. She brought forward Warren Farrell's work on the subject and began a thorough criticism of his perspective. Part II offers an alternative view as to the reasons for the pay gap and what we can do about it. If you have not read Part I, please do so. The link is here


What about power and pay?

So what kinds of factors do contribute to the increased pay certain fields have garnered? Mostly it seems to boil down to the evening out of power between owners and labourers. To wit, in the early 1900s loggers got paid the rough equivalent of minimum wage, as set by the logging outfit owner. Then, as tends to happen when power is hoarded into the hands of the few, a counterforce arose to provide ballast, in this case the labour movement. Labourers considered it unfair for industry captains to make huge amounts while labourers made next to nothing and some of the jobs they did for minimum wage had a life-expectancy of under two years. So they organized and fought to have some power to influence their rate of pay.

Here, the phenomenon of equipoise might better explain why there was such a wage imbalance. The man who would have owned the company would, according to research on equipoise, be biased towards himself in assessing his compensation (not unlike CEO’s and Company Directors, Senators, etc, today). And if workers don’t have the power to have input into setting the remuneration value, then the lack of equipoise goes unchecked. Back in those days, captains of industry reputedly hired men to kill the early labour organizers, possibly because as an Alpha the owner would not tolerate any infringement on what he egoistically saw as ‘his territory,’ and would literally fight to the death in face of challenge to autonomy of his power to set wages. (aside: The women suing for fair wages in the example Farrell gives at the beginning of his book could be understood this way also— she is challenging the CEO’s autonomous use of power over the workers. Hence democratization of power may be a way to reduce lawsuits against the misuse of autocratic power).

cesar chavezLabour Unions and Labour Standards came into being out of this turmoil as a counterforce to the concentration of power in the hands of the owner and not, as Farrell would have us believe, just because there was some inherently higher value to the work. If there were such inherent value, they would have been highly paid since the day the jobs were invented. Given that this is not the case, a better explanation to danger pay, rather than as something inherently of value, is that it rose up as a counter-force to the misuse of power and lack of equipoise in male business owners, as well as what was probably the cultural zeitgeist of that era to exploit immigrants (ie, less powerful members of society).

To emphasize the point: mining and logging are much less dangerous now than they were a hundred years ago, so by Farrell’s logic these jobs should get paid less now than they did then (adjusted for inflation, of course). With modern day advances in safer work practices and equipment, hence fewer injuries and fatalities in logging, fishing, mining and construction industries than there were 100 years ago, the wages earned if anything should be trending down relative to what they were in the past (adjusted relative to the era). But that isn’t the case, and in fact the opposite is true; the work that used to be far more dangerous was relatively speaking much, much lower paying back then than it is today. Farrell’s logic offers an insufficient explanation for how pay relative to danger has evolved. A better explanation is that the slow progress of Labour Unions and the worker’s safety movement gradually redressed the power imbalance between workers and company owners.

Gender and risk

A more useful way to look at physical risk in the workplace is why men take greater risks, and how we might leverage differences that women bring to risk assessment in order to make the workplace safer for men, if that’s what they actually want and are willing to help create. In my experience working with male fishermen for ten years, part of what they loved about the job was the element of physical danger.  It made them feel invincible when they could survive a raging storm, or do some daring feat on the boat to save their gear or another guy.

The feeling of being a hero is part of the attraction of the work, and the risk is what makes it appealing— to risk and survive is quite a rush. This is something that Farrell doesn’t talk about, but it’s important. There is an inherent payoff in the work, it’s not as if the men are suffering all the time. They often develop a lethargy and lack of meaning when they don’t have a chance to take these kinds of risks. As described earlier, overconfidence in one’s capacities is a strongly gender linked trait, so men go into dangerous jobs thinking they won’t die (i.e. they actually are not all that realistic), whereas women, being more realistically confident, are more likely to avoid those jobs. Or, they might do them in a way that’s safer, and get fired or passed over for promotion because they won’t do it like men do, and maybe because they provide an unwelcome reality check that men in the grips of heroism are likely to deny in order to be able to take the risk. So another way to look at it, if we use Farrellian logic, is that women may be financially penalized for being more realistic about their mortality.

Another pertinent way we can assess the structural integrity of Farrell’s ‘death profession’ and ‘exposure’ arguments is to see if they explain pay differences in typically female work. Let’s take work that women have a long history of being paid for (and enslaved for, but that’s a topic for another essay), often called the ‘oldest profession,’ since there is a reasonable body of data to work with: sex work, or prostitution. This work leverages certain gender-related capacities, so is a fair comparison to typically male work roles that likewise leverage gender-related capacities.  How do Farrell’s principles— that a higher death risk and also exposure to weather (such as the mine-worker and park ranger jobs that he gives as examples) result in higher pay— explain pay differences amongst women in the sex-work industry?

scorpion sexIn their book SuperFreakonomics, authors Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner research economics in the sex-work industry. In the sex trade, survival sex-workers are the bottom of the barrel: they are the lowest paid and the highest exposure to risks. They have the highest death risk, since they usually can’t screen their clients beforehand, often work alone, have little support, and are often psychologically the most damaged and powerless in the industry, hence easy prey to men who are looking for prey. Along with the usual physical and psychological dangers that accompany this line of work there is also a high exposure risk, as Farrell defines it. They work outdoors, hence are exposed to conditions of extreme cold, heat, rain, sleet and snow - depending on their country - poor lighting, long shifts, high risk of sexual and physical assault, high financial risk of bad debt (i.e. customers dumping them off without paying them for services rendered), as well as disease— from the uncomfortable, like syphilis, to the fatal, like HIV/AIDS. Throw in the odd unwanted pregnancy, low social status, drug addiction, etc., and you have a job that easily compares with the physical discomforts and dangers of the occupations Farrell earmarks as deserving of danger pay for their physically risky nature (forgetting for now that for many men, they’d feel horrible if they didn’t get the opportunity to face and ‘conquer’ these challenges regularly).

High-class call girls, meanwhile, can pre-screen customers for safety, can work indoors in comfortable conditions, and sometimes don’t even have any of the risks (disease, pregnancy, etc.) that attend sexual intercourse, because their clients are more likely want to talk and not even have sex. Obviously, the one who should get paid more, according to Farrell’s principles of death risk and exposure, would seem to be the survival sex-worker. Meanwhile, the comfy, indoor, lower death and exposure risk call-girl should be paid less. Well, Farrell’s economic hypothesizing falls short here: the survival sex-worker is often paid as low as $5–10 for sex acts, whereas the call-girl would make a range of a hundred times that amount, sometimes with no sex act involved at all.

So what gives with the danger rationale that Farrell gives? Why doesn’t it explain the same danger pay factors for what we might call the most womanly of women’s work? Nor does it explain why certain dangerous mostly male jobs are still paid relatively little compared to less dangerous ones. A more robust explanation takes into account that there are multiple systemic implications, as well as distribution of power that influence pay rates. The construction of economic value has at least as much to do with where power lies and how it is used, as it does with the inherent value of the work, or with risks associated with it.

Very obvious reasons for the pay gap, and reconstruction ideas

What Farrell essentially says is that career success in the male way of doing it is the baseline, and his solution is to get women to conform to that way. A systems view might take the perspective of how we can balance the overall situation, and actually value the contributions women make and seek to explore and learn how society might be changed by the different ways women already participate in it, rather than simply subsume them into existing—and by many indications crumbling—structures. Riane Eisler’s Caring Economics and the social choice theory work of Nobel Prize winner for Economic Sciences Amartya Sen are but a few examples of actually restructuring economies, not just working existing ones to our own advantage.

women posterAnd to back up a moment and tend to some blatantly obvious reasons for the pay gap that are worth putting on our map of understanding this phenomenon. One really simple answer to the question of why men earn more is because they ask for more money, and ask for it more often, than women do. This could partly be due to their lower equipoise on average relative to women— that is, that they do not see their own bias in how high they assess their capacities. Since they assess them higher, they might think they should be paid more, hence why they ask for higher wages. Another reason as author and business development coach Christopher Flett points out, and Farrell does too, is that women tend to pay employees ‘too much’, and don’t ask for as high wages as they could. Furthermore, in his book, What Men Don’t Tell Women About Business, Flett tells of his own typical experience in business development work: a man and a woman work the same job in nearly identical organizations. The man asks for raise from $50,000 to $97,000 and gets a raise to $67,000.  The woman asks for raise from $50,000 to $57,000 (thinking about the whole, rather than just herself), and gets that.

In an article on equipoise – the ability to assess our own bias - by New York Times columnist David Brooks, he reports data that shows men tend to be less able to see their own bias in assessing their capacities. He cites, for example, that men drown twice as often as women because they over-estimate their swimming capacity. This likely plays out in how much the average man thinks he should get paid, and hence in the amount and frequency of raises they ask for, also.

A concrete example from my first season working as a deck-hand in commercial fishing. I had to respond to a prospective boss’s question of how much pay I expected. I thought I would go way out on a limb and ask for 50 cents a pound, which seemed outrageously high to me. Without saying anything about my pay expectation, I asked several male colleagues how much they would ask for if they were me? The unanimous response: “I wouldn’t do it for less than a dollar a pound”.  I was stunned. Here I was with more qualifications than them (I had various first aid and life-saving certificates, as well as post-secondary education, experience and proven productivity) willing to do it for half what they expected and think that was a lot. Had I asked for fifty cents a pound, it is unlikely the skipper would have offered me more. As it is, with carefully masked incredulity I asked for a dollar a pound, and got it.

In their book Women Don't Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide, authors Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever show that 57% of men negotiate their salary when first hired compared to 7% of women. So a simple reason why men make more for doing the same work as women is that they ask for more. And they ask for it more often. This explanation probably has the most explanatory power with the least complexity. (Occam would love this I’m sure). 

Hilary Lips has written succinctly about this in her article “Blaming Women’s Choices for the Gender Pay Gap” explaining that the data shows that women who work 60 + hours per week still made 82% of men’s median weekly earnings in 2006, the year after Farrell’s book Why Men Earn More was published. She also shows how when more women enter a field, the wages in that field subsequently drop. So Farrell’s suggestion that we go into certain fields would seem to be at best a short-lived gain. There are deeper systemic problems that would need attention so that every work domain women enter does not become yet another receding horizon of equality as pay drops with women’s increased contribution and participation in that field.

Inasmuch as he addresses this receding horizon in Chapter 13, “Two Nagging Questions,” Farrell paints it as a situation where men make a field better, and have high admission standards which are then lowered so women can enter the field, get paid less, and thus force men out of the field. So even though he admits that wages go down when women enter a typically male field, he still writes a whole book telling women to do just that, setting them on a collision course with a receding horizon. In doing this, he also contradicts two earlier assertions, one made in the chapter prior, in which he states that men are “generally more accepting of the marketplace determining value rather than their values dictating value” (p. 198). So if the marketplace will pay women less for therapy, then according to him men would be accepting of this. The second contradiction is that earlier he claims that women would increase their pay by understanding the principle that “People [i.e. men] who get higher pay above all, produce more.” (p. 115).  Here again, he falls into his own trap— first he says it’s the high qualifications that earned a man more money, then he says it’s what’s produced.

taking riskAs we’ve seen a woman can over five years, produce more income for a company, but still be paid less than a man who produces less income for the company over the same five-year span, simply because of the way productivity is determined and measured— i.e. in annual or quarterly performance. Clearly this isn’t an adequate apparatus to capture the bigger picture of productivity. At any rate, it seems that Farrell is blind to the way the economic world that was actively constructed by males ultimately shoots themselves in the foot by leaving themselves open to being replaced by a less expensive workforce in the form of women, workers in developing economies, etc. Despite this, Farrell suggests that women keep entering higher paying male-dominated fields. I suppose the end-point of that logic is that eventually, every field will be equally low paying from women entering it, and thus the gender pay gap will cease to exist. It’s not the most elegant solution, but I suppose it would theoretically eliminate the pay gap, though not according to the mechanisms Farrell posits.

The economic system is constructed to reward certain kinds of risk in certain contexts. Men are more likely to overestimate their abilities, they take more risks partly because they don’t see the risks. Women tend to be more security oriented and Fortune 500 companies with women in the c-suite tend to do better longer term than ones that don’t. It seems plausible this is because women generally have a stronger capacity to assess risk due to less overconfidence than their male counterparts. So for long-term survivability of an enterprise, women may have a gender advantage. Overconfidence as a strongly gender linked male trait (relative to women, I suppose) can lead to long-term insolvency, as the Wall Street melt-down suggests. As Chogyam Trungpa said: Be yourself, and the world will give you feedback.  We could say, “Overestimate yourself, and reality will give you feedback.” Feedback like a global recession.


Farrell laments the tragic outcomes of men’s relatively higher risk-taking natures, but doesn’t make the connection that women’s relatively risk-averse predisposition is the source of a tension that might be more deeply engaged to inform and transform the work-place for both genders. Getting women to better adapt could be cheating both genders out of a whole new world of human flourishing. To allow women their gender bias towards better assessment of certain risks, and to allow the economic system to be altered by this, might actually be a boon to humanity, the economy, and even men’s lives.  As Robert Kegan says about these kinds of conflicting tensions, “conflict is a threat to our pretense to wholeness”, and the ‘solution’ is to let it resolve us, not the other way round. So I reckon by that logic we’re better off to let differences in gender change the structure of society, rather than try to fit women into the system, which by several indications will need a significant upgrade anyways.

Farrell’s portrayal of the gender pay gap lacks adequate depth and breadth to result in solutions that really matter. It’s like solving the problem of not-enough-food-in-your-fridge by taking food from your cupboards in a putting it in the fridge. Sure, for a few days you have more food in the fridge, you still haven’t solved the problem of not-enough-food-in-the-house. If you understand there isn’t enough food because people come in and steal it at night, then your best response is to buy a lock for your front door. If it’s because your teenage sons are going through a growth spurt and inhaling the contents of your fridge in one sitting, then your best solution is to buy more food. If it’s because you haven’t the funds to buy more food, then your best solution might be to arrange funding, get another job, or plant a garden. Regardless of the solution, the point is that if you have an accurate enough explanation for why the situation is that way, then you’re better able to respond to it. And as demonstrated, Farrell’s explanation is too shallow and inaccurate for the solutions he offers to be more useful than shifting food from the cupboards to the fridge.

man and womanFarrell pays little to no attention to the construction of economics in relation to gender pay differences.  Rather, he seems to use a less robust logic, wherein we don’t question why things are the way they are, or else we accept idiosyncratic explanations, such as his post-hoc-ergo-propter-hoc reasoning. Essentially, Farrell’s logic is: “Follow the rules that go with roles that make more money, and you’ll win more, too!”  Again, this is useful inasmuch as temporarily closes the gap, and also helps the world of work not have be altered by the differences women might bring to it.

However, if we don’t want to set women up on a new hamster wheel, we might want to look at more than how to improve the way they play the work-game, as Farrell offers. We can also and perhaps more importantly, engage equally in the construction of value in society, especially economic value. I’d rather put my energy into working out how women— and men for that matter— can more democratically participate in the construction of that value. This is a bigger project than just grooming women to play the game— that of successful worker— better. Constructing a better game is a more interesting proposition to me, and feels more worthy of my energies, not just as a woman, but as a human being.


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  • Comment Link James Barrow Wednesday, 11 April 2012 16:08 posted by James Barrow

    Hi Rochelle - Great articles, just finished reading both sections.

    I have a question which goes off in a different direction to your main arguments - if possible, can you please point me in the direction of reliable research info on the pay gap?

    I'm probably a little naive on this issue as I had understood that, in the UK at least, it was (is?) illegal for an employer to vary employees' pay based on gender. If this is the case in the north america too then I'm wondering, does this gap only happen where pay is negotiated one-to-one (as you described in your own personal experience) or when it is paid "cash in hand" or in kinds of "black market" employment. Does the gap still exist e.g in government jobs?

    In the UK one of the leading research organisations in this area is the Chartered Management Institute but unfortunately they don't make their research available very easily so I haven't had much luck finding good quality info.


  • Comment Link James Barrow Wednesday, 11 April 2012 16:54 posted by James Barrow

    Also just wanted to say how much I resonate with this part of your conclusion here: "We can also and perhaps more importantly, engage equally in the construction of value in society, especially economic value. I’d rather put my energy into working out how women— and men for that matter— can more democratically participate in the construction of that value. This is a bigger project than just grooming women to play the game— that of successful worker— better."
    Great stuff - thanks.

    BTW, re. the construction of value in society, interesting article here from the Atlantic magazine by Michael Sandel

  • Comment Link Rochelle Fairfield Thursday, 12 April 2012 00:00 posted by Rochelle Fairfield

    Hi James,
    firstly thanks for reading and for taking the time to comment, pose questions and share the Atlantic article link. (Sandel raises similar concerns to Raj Patel, who writes about the commodification of everything in a book called The Value of Nothing. I'm definitely glad the conversation is happening and both these authors are contributing to it.

    In terms of info on the gender pay gap, I'd point to the sources Hilary Lips lists (there's a link to that in part 2 of my article) as a start.

    And yes there's laws against gender discrimination in North America. I don't think there are laws that help with internalized discrimination, such as women not asking for higher wages might be a case of. There's also sub-conscious discrimination, which laws I don't think are helpful for addressing. For example, there's a fair bit of research that says that taller people on average earn more than people who aren't as tall. I'll go out on a limb and say that I don't think there's a conscious volition to pay them more, hence not an illegal act as there is not conscious intention (mens rea in Canadian law). Rather, it's an unconscious feeling that taller people will be better at handling things that leads to a taller candidate being chosen over a shorter one. (for eg:

    Super glad to know you resonated with part of my conclusion that you quoted. It means alot to me, as that's the vibe I'm working to increase in relations between men and women.


  • Comment Link Tim Winton Thursday, 12 April 2012 13:12 posted by Tim Winton

    Hi Rochelle,

    I enjoyed your two-part article here very much–more for your questioning and probing into the construction of economic value than in witnessing your arse kicking of Farrell's logic (fun as that may be). I agree with you about the fact that how we perceive and reward value creation is constructed. I also agree that it would serve us all if we could bring more of women's perspectives to bear on redesigning this construct. I'm interested in hearing more of your thoughts on the "multiple systemic implications" that created the construct in the first place and the 'construction' of the story we tell ourselves about it. While there are very real issues of male power being exercised historically (and now) to create and maintain this construct, by itself the "men as perpetrators/women as victims" narrative I felt in your presentation here, doesn't seem sophisticated enough, given the sophistication you have shown in deconstructing Farrell's work. What say you?

  • Comment Link Rochelle Fairfield Thursday, 12 April 2012 16:01 posted by Rochelle Fairfield

    Hi Tim,
    I'm glad you enjoyed the article and you got the point about value creation being constructed. And just when I thought my work was done - bam! you nail me on that nuance of the victim-perpetrator drama! Thank you, I do appreciate your invitation to speak to that : )

    Okay, let's see. . .I agree that historically and in the present there is often a sense that women have been the victim of oppression, and men as the oppressors have been the perpetrators. I'm actually glad you raise this. So my thinking on this: for starters, I think that in the victim / perpetrator narrative, there is an implied sense of will, or volition on men's part, in this case to oppress. And in a sense, it might be true that a certain volition is required and has been required historically to, for example, refuse women the right to vote and to resist their attempts to 'occupy' that right.
    However, stepping back a bit, I think we could clarify a couple things that free us from the feminist victim vitriol that has at times been leveled at men, (and which I think would be nasty to be on the receiving end of!)
    Okay, so first thing to clarify is that when I say 'men', I'm referring to the socio-cultural construction of the male, which to date has provided actual men certain freedoms and confidences yet also certainly some limitations. For example, this construction, in my experience, doesn't welcome men to freely show their doubt, their need for approval, nor to be comfortable with vulnerability or being less intelligent than (especially) the oppressed. When they do show these things, they can pay a heavy price, both in their own psyche (ie, through nasty self-talk), from other men (who'll chastise them) and from women. So it's like everyone has to be bought in to keep the constructions in place. In my experience, not all men fall victim to the limiting confines of this construction all the time. Yes, I did say fall victim! So yes, even though at one level you could call the oppressor - oppressed construction that humans have historically been so adept at (and not just with gender - we've done it at the level of gruesome spectacle with race - and pretty much all races have done so, as far as I know. We do it also with religion, political ideologies, etc, etc). So I don't mean for oppressor to be seen as a personal choice that every man makes vis a vis women, and thereby hold him personally accountable for perpetrating something on women. Men have as much to grow beyond in the socio-cultural construction of their gender as women do theirs (well, we might be a little up on the average guy in that department, but who's keeping score? : ). So, the point is that in a certain way, the oppressor is oppressed by the socio-cultural construct that is patterning their consciousness, they are victim to it you could say. While no individual oppressor of any sort is responsible for having created the construct, each has the power to move towards freeing themselves from it. (which includes that women have the power to free themselves of the construction of being oppressed, racists of their racism, Indians like Gandhi from the English, etc. And it's true that laws and culture have not always made this freedom easy to attain).

    Okay, so I've mostly responded to your question about the story we construct about the construction - I hope you'll let me know how this version of the story does / doesn't work (in general, or for you specifically).

    and thanks for slogging through the article, Tim, and the honor of your attention to areas that could use elaboration.

    R. : )

  • Comment Link Raúl Quiñones Rosado Thursday, 12 April 2012 20:55 posted by Raúl Quiñones Rosado

    Hey Rochelle,

    Great two-part piece! I love how you expose the flawed logic or Farrell’s analysis and solutions. I hope it is well received. Some time ago, I posted a critique of a dialogue between him and Wilber on the need for the liberation of men, and that didn’t go over too well. Of course, given my role as a librating transformation psychologist, educator and organizer, I promptly pointed out the inherently sexist nature of their arguments, something that tends to create a red alert—or should I say a “mean green” one—within the integral community.

    Given that the integral community, generally, appears not to have successfully embraced, included and transcended “green” (as evidenced by its inability to deeply understand or effective address oppression issues such as sexism, racism, etc.), I think it was strategically wise for you to focus on the flawed logic of these arguments and not to get deep into a debate on the values that inform or drive perspectives, ideologies, and behaviors that result in inequitable outcomes for men and women in a capitalist economy.

    But as we can see in Tim’s comment and your response to him: the cat is out of the bag!

    I don’t think that framing the problem from a “victim-perpetrator” perspective is particularly useful to this discussion. The “victim-perpetrator” frame speaks to the possible states of mind of both “perpetrators” (i.e., self-awareness, intentionality) and of “victims” (i.e., subjective interpretation and emotional impact of “perpetrator’s” behaviors) (UL). That’s an impossible trap, as it could be argued, as you effectively do in your comment to Tim, that men, too, can be “victims” of sexism — albeit ONLY in the sense that men, having been unwittingly socialized in the ideology of male superiority, are also “victimized” or dehumanized. But this is a conversation most appropriate and useful among men (and between men and women) who have already psychosocially matured beyond their reactivity to acknowledging our roles as “perpetrators” and beneficiaries of institutionalized sexist oppression of women.

    So, for the purposes of the primary question at hand in this essay— systemic/structural (LR) reasons the pay and gender gap—I believe “victim-perpetrator” is also an unnecessary trap, particularly for such a brief treatise of such a complex topic of sexism in the context of capitalism…mind you, not one, but the intersection of TWO major forms of oppression.

    I do believe, though, that using language frames such as “dominant-subordinated” “socially gendered groups” could or might lead the integral community to a useful and necessary examination of the socio-cultural dynamics of pay inequity between men and women, and sexism generally.

    So, someone’s got their work cut out for them…

    Big hugs!


  • Comment Link David MacLeod Saturday, 14 April 2012 19:01 posted by David MacLeod


    Thank you for the contribution of these two essays. Like Tim, I most appreciate the parts that discuss "the flaws in the current construction of economic systems" - paragraphs 7 through 9 in Part 1, and the last two paragraphs in Part 2. I hope you'll consider a Part 3 going into this issue more deeply.

    Indeed, why would one want to encourage more of the behaviors that are becoming increasingly unsustainable and even pathological? The Titanic Lifeboat and hamster wheel analogies are apt.

    I just came across the existence of a new book: Moonrise: The Power of Women Leading from the Heart (by Nina Simons and Anneke Campbell). I haven't read it, so I can't recommend it, but it looks to be relevant to the conversation here.

    Perhaps we can start here: instead of more competitiveness for more pay, how about reconstructing the value of More Fun?

  • Comment Link Rochelle Fairfield Monday, 16 April 2012 19:40 posted by Rochelle Fairfield

    Hi Raul - really good to connect with you here (feeling a wave of gratitude for technology and the gift of non-local conversations like this one that technology makes possible : )

    I hear you on the limited success within some (many, most - I don't know) sub-groups of the Integral community at integrating the relativity of power (ie, that any group of people is going to be the oppressor or oppressed relative to another group) as one of the forces at play in human consciousness. And truly, I'm tickled by your observation that it was strategically wise of me to focus on Farrell's logic rather than values - now that you say it, I can see what you're getting at. My motive consciously was simply to straighten out what looked a little messed up to my eye. I reckon Warren and I share an interest in improving men's and women's experience of themselves in the world and in relationship to one another. I think I didn't draw as much attention to this shared interest as I might have. And I do believe that Farrell is not wrong in his position that women are in a way served by learning to play the game better. I just think that women (or any relatively oppressed group) don't need to limit themselves to becoming better at playing the (relative) oppressor's game - they can also apply their energies to changing the game.

    And I really appreciate the candor and clarity of what you say about men's relationship to their historical role as beneficiaries - relative to women - of the oppressor / oppressed dynamic. It's a tough swallow, and to you and the men I know are working to and been able to take radical responsibility for what they can individually do with this aspect of collective human karma - I am infinitely grateful (like kiss the ground and sing hallelujah's from the smile of my whole being grateful). It's pretty major to admit that one has been the beneficiary. And the oppressed at that juncture - when the oppressed cops to their part - then has to face a very powerful pull to vengeful retribution. I can understand a hestinancy on the part of any oppressor to cop to their part at risk of being lynched by vengeful troups of the oppressed. It's a delicate moment, and i think women can help and hinder it in how they receive the gesture of admission from men.

    and damn, now that you point it out Raul, of course, capitalism (as well as communism as it has been enacted) engenders its own kind of oppression.

    I like your language frames. . and yup, you and I have our work cut out for us - and play! Play in the fields "beyond wrong and right", (to borrow from Rumi), fields beyond oppressor / oppressed, victim / perpetrator, etc. I reckon that's the most kick-ass play-space men and women are just now on the cusp of inventing / invoking : )
    meet you there, Raul.

    all love,

  • Comment Link Rochelle Fairfield Monday, 16 April 2012 20:03 posted by Rochelle Fairfield

    Hi David,
    thanks firstly for your thoughtful post, and for providing the specific paragraphs you appreciated. And re a part 3 - I'd love to. I'm curious what you'd want to see gone into in more depth, if you care to share more here or off-line, I'd love to hear!

    Thanks for the book reference - I'll check it out.

    I scanned the fun link - totally Love it. One of my teachers (Susan Aposhyan), explained the human responses to stress as the ones we know: fight-or-flight, but also, at the other end of sustainable resilience scale, bond-or-play. I've wondered if the preponderance of online / video gaming is an expression of the impulse in humans, taking what form it can in our contemporary techno-economic milieu.



  • Comment Link Rebecca BAilin Thursday, 10 May 2012 05:03 posted by Rebecca BAilin

    great great great great great great. i just did not have the energy to take this on and i knew it had to be done. thank you thank you thank you.

    that Farrell is given such uncritical center stage in so much integral dialog is appalling to me.

    you've pulled apart his arguments beautifully: with clarity, humor and the badassedness of the having done the ultimate guy-job. you've peeled back so many layers here, Rochelle, an true INTEGRAL job. a true integral perspective.

    in addition, it would be interesting to add the dimension of evolution to your analysis. one thesis of my gender paper was that in earlier stages of evolution sex and gender (biology and cultural role) were more tightly coupled and that, with evolution, they are coming more and more uncoupled. the relative influence of biology and hormones may be changing.

    i'm a huge fan of Michael Lewis, particularly The Big Short and most recently Boomerang (both about the global financial crisis.) he talks about how the meltdown in Iceland (pardon the pun) resulted in women taking over the country's financial structures. would be FASCINATING to look at how that has changed things (if at all) particularly based on your thesis.

    you rock, you rock and, incidentally, you freaking ROCK.

    i bow down.

  • Comment Link Rochelle Fairfield Wednesday, 16 May 2012 04:57 posted by Rochelle Fairfield

    Hi Rebecca! I'm quite honored that you read my piece - you're quite a force, so I appreciate your appreciation of my essay, and am just thrilled that it struck a chord for you! (I still remember your Adam Lambert piece - genius).

    And I love how you put it, that it had to be done but you didn't want to have to take it on - uh huh! It's like, I'll fold the laundry if you do the dishes (I'll take on gender pay, you take on gender evolution - and how they do weave through each other).

    And thanks for the intel on Iceland - I'll keep an ear open for what's going on there. The situation there as you describe it reminds me of a line from a song by the Cowboy Junkies: "They say that the son / must bear the burden of the father. / But it's the daughter / who's left / to clean up the mess".

    I'll clean the bathroom if you do the vacuuming? ; )

    bows and hugs dear Rebecca.

  • Comment Link Justin Tuesday, 05 June 2012 03:56 posted by Justin

    Hi Rochelle,

    I found these articles important in extending the conversation that Farrell chose to start. And it seems that while you share some goals, you both are choosing to emphasize different ones...and that seems important to name.

    You explicitly highlighting the nature and extensiveness of the social-economic construction of value...applied to gender. Farrell notes this in both of his books you quote, but then spends his time on simplifying the argument...and in ways that you clearly show...ends up distorting the full understanding of our options. ...That is, do we want the current choices of how value is allotted? Are these choices generative, humane, and sustainable?

    There is a thought experiment that I like to run when I critically evaluate something...specifically someone. That is, "would they agree with my critique...and on what level?" If they would, then how might I adjust my assessment in a way that does not set up a kind of 'straw man'.

    My point is, I really wonder what Farrell would disagree with in your articles. There are some places, but as a whole and most of the details, I really wonder how much. The question that then emerges for me is, "if he agrees with fundamental aspects with the critique of him...what then is the impetus-message...what is the 'other' message that he is intending on saying but may not be heard, and what is the message that if he does not say, I choose to...and vice versa.

    For you, it seems clear on one level that the message is that the factors are significantly more complex than what Farrell chose to focus his argument. For Farrell, based his book and his other writings, he seems to be writing for likely many reasons, including to address the issues that Tim is raising above and that you chose not to explicitly address in your articles yet...the ongoing narrative of oppression and victimization of men against women (male against female) (as a whole and as patriarchal systemic power).

    His particular argument seems to address..."that hey...this whole story line of men having greater income then women...that story is more nuanced than we think...and certainly more nuanced then men (without women's participation) have systemically set up a system for their increased benefit against that of women...that this story is not complete." His particular reductionistic choice was to address the victim narrative of women. When you read Myth of Male Power (another important and also simplistic book in my view) you can see his wider intention is that the current social-economic-gender game we have constructed together, is not 'working' for both men and women...but since the dominant narrative is that men are the patriarchal dominators, then he's going after that fruit.

    His choice to address his argument was actually about social construction of value in regards to gender. He is saying, 'no if the goal is money and power...then we need to socialize women to compete with men for the social-economic conditions currently available that enables those...and then lets socialize men having the choice not to choose those end-values if they do not want.'

    And your contribution was to then widely extend that opening...'hey...let's take an even bigger step back and ask if we even want to place the kind of value and privileged in the things we do? Maybe we shouldn't socialize women or men to want those things as standards of value...'

    So to then ask your sets of naturally need to go the route you did...a more integral sets of questions leading to a more integral view of how the pieces are coming together.

    I guess I sense that while your contribution is so vital to bring the wider picture into focus (so that we can have more generative choices for us all)...that I feel by not addressing his issue (the question of black and white narrating of oppression and victimization) you missed, at least one of his most important points.

    Here is a recently published book that actually, from the points in your article negatively takes its cues from the injunction from Farrell's book...telling women that if they want to be 'successful in the eyes of society's construction' then 'put on your black stilettos and your own power suit with a copy of Ms. magazine under one arm and WSJ under the other and climb your way up the beaten carcasses of failing men up the corporate ladder.'

    The Richer Sex: How the New Majority of Female Breadwinners Is Transforming Sex, Love and Family

    Lastly, this is a similar sentiment to Hanna Rosin's work (End of Men article, new book, TEDwomen talk, and the Slate debate...the tone is...with a smirk and a chuckle...'now that men have reached the apex of their evolutionary function and are experiencing their impotent decline...we can now get what's ours...cause they have had it coming to em' and its our turn.'

    I make that fictitious Rosin comment in jest, because this tone is fully a part of the cultural hubub right now...from the media to women's athletic advertizing to even supposed critically self-reflective thought-leaders of feminism. I think that addressing this subjective feeling of resentment head on with clarity of what is really happening and why...will be a kind of Cognitive Behavioral Theory to have more clean and ethical agency in evolving these systems.

    I say this in light of Raul's suggestion that the victim narrative should be kept out because it can confuse what is happening because it can trap the narrative in subjective meaning making. For myself, also a social activist and former community organizer, I get that and agree on a number of levels. But I don't think we really can leave it on the table when we are talking about Farrell and his book...cause that is the point he is at least in large part addressing.

    The question seems to be how do we cultivate a clearer understanding of the nature of our shared circumstances in ways that see how systemic limitations are embedded in ways that we want differently. Farrell's goal seems to want to clarify some of the details so that the narrative does not contribute incongruently to victimization.

    Your articles contribute toward that goal, but for those that hold the particular narrative he is critiquing, my sense is they would walk away from your article thinking that his point (men have designed a system for their gender's self-interest...against and white) is fundamentally bunk. You started to address this with Tim above...I'd welcome more. Thank you for keeping the conversation going!

  • Comment Link Tim Winton Thursday, 14 June 2012 23:57 posted by Tim Winton

    Hi Rochelle,

    It's been a while since we exchanged comments on your articles, but I feel like we had established a good base with our initial dialogue and that we might hike a little higher. Ok, your response showed me that you haven't fallen victim to the 'woman as victim, men as perpetrator' story, and that your understanding of the situation is nuanced and sophisticated. So, we are all, men and women, moulded by our culture. And this culture has a kind of inertia that is hard to stop or change. What I'm curious about is how we get the best traction in making necessary changes. I just listened to Cindy Wigglesworth talk about gender and leadership on Integral Chicks.

    She spoke about an inner androgyny that allows a flexible flow from more masculine orientated states/levels to more feminine ones and back again at will and as the context requires. Is there a clue here to a powerful strategy? How does this sort of thing become a cultural norm? Does leadership provide the key? What do you think are the biggest levers in changing the gender system we have now? I know it's a lot of questions, but I really do want to dig a bit deeper.

  • Comment Link Rochelle Fairfield Thursday, 14 June 2012 23:59 posted by Rochelle Fairfield

    Hi Justin,
    thanks for your sharing your thoughts and reflections on my piece. I appreciate how you take parts of Farrell's work and parts of what I wrote and weave meaning between these two positions.

    If I understand you, you're interested to pursue further the theme of man as oppressor, woman as oppressed? And particularly, what are we to make of the stiletto feminists who are out to swing the dominance pendulum in women's favor?

    If something like that is a topic you're interested in, I would love to add some thoughts and questions!

    One thought is that if many years of oppression means it has become internalized, how do men and women deal with the internalized aspects of oppressor / oppressed dynamics? (ie, within the psyche, not just through LR systemic interventions). If the quadrants co-arise, then there are individual psychological and physical (ie, UL and UR) leverage points here to use to gain more freedom from this dynamic.

    An observation is that what often happens in cases of oppression is that the oppressed want the stature, privilege etc that the oppressed have typically enjoyed, and can end up becoming oppressors in the process of acheiving these ends.

    And heck, if your options are to be the victim or be the oppressor. . . well, probably becoming an oppressor would be preferable to many people (granted the more masochistic you are, the less appealing it might be). I think Simon and Garfunkle captured the sentiment of preferring the dominant or oppressor role over that of oppressed in their song El Condor Pasa, with lyrics like "I'd rather be a hammer than a nail". So it seems like stiletto feminism is women opting to be the hammer rather than the nail. . .

    so, yeah, it leaves us in a bit of a conundrum. If a guy or gal doesn't want to be oppressed, then the first, obvious alternative is to be an oppressor. (I'm not saying i like these options! just trying to get a feel for the lay of the land).
    Another point is that the socially constructed male doesn't only oppress women. There seems to be a coarse to very intricate play of dominance between men, wherein the dominant males oppress subordinate males. For example, a smart younger guy not getting a raise or made partner because of the threat he represents to top management to be able to hold on to their dominant positions.
    The dominance or oppression ethos shows up in language, such as when a guy refers to another guy as his bitch. Or when a guy says of himself, "I'm not anybody's bitch", meaning that he's not willing to be dominated by another male (or female, presumably).

    I'd argue that we also can also oppress in the name of exercising our autonomy, as we learn the sometimes fine-line between the two.

    Does what I've said mean anything for you?


  • Comment Link Rochelle Fairfield Friday, 15 June 2012 21:17 posted by Rochelle Fairfield

    Hello Tim - so nice to hear back from you here, and what a great quiver of questions you've launched.
    I reckon Cindy Wigglesworth's androgyny idea has some traction. The limitation I see with it is that for people who are reasonably attached to their personality (ie, at the pre- or personal levels, but not yet transpersonal), they might be prone to identify with themselves as more masculine or feminine and not have the kind of fluidity Cindy speaks of. So, not sure what happens with those folk, but for the ones that have fluidity it seems like a good strategy. Maybe it will be a kind of cultural norm like tolerance - one that people can espouse more readily than they can actually practice or embody it? That'd be my guess. Much like democracy - it's an ideal that is more easy to claim adherence to than to actually deeply practice, as the politicorpocracy of the west demonstrates.

    So, in light of that, in response to your question 'does leadership provide the key?', I would say that leadership will probably be a part of it, but I am wondering to what extent 'leader-follower' as a polarity is helpful, especially if people are over-identifying with the leader side of that polarity. Hmm. . . I can feel a kind of depletion around the word "leadership". . . seems it's a bit overused these days. Maybe I could start by asking what you have in mind when you talk about leadership vis a vis gender relations?

    In terms of change levers, I have a hunch that our meaning-making and practice of the server - served polarity will be an important dynamic in the future of gender relations development. The healthy expression of server-served (and a few related dynamics) I think is one of the bigger levers.

    I also think that our habits of measuring value, productivity, contribution, etc will need a major overhaul, which I think is starting to happen (to whit, I heard that Unilever is recognizing that managing business based on Quarterly Reports can create a conflict of interest with long term Sustainability values, so they are revisiting how they use the Quarterly Report in the interest of being able to commit more fully to sustainability.(ie, less short-term testosterone focus, a little more long term estrogen thinking). Nike and some big sports good manufacturers are also looking at the carbon footprint of their goods and taking more of a cradle to grave approach - ie, the whole life cycle (typically a more feminine approach, taking cycles into account).

    all this talk makes me itchy to get out there and do something! (see you out there, Tim, where-ever 'out there' may be).

  • Comment Link Tim Winton Wednesday, 20 June 2012 00:51 posted by Tim Winton

    Hi Rochelle,

    I also think Cindy's 'integral androgyny' idea could be very useful as the seed for a new set of cultural norms around gender identity and roles. I'm not sure I understand a great deal about how to seed culture with a new norm, but maybe it is as simple as doing what Cindy has done: identify a new way of looking at things and then start a conversation about making this a new way to doing things.

    This brings me to your comments about leadership. I think, especially in Integral circles, the way 'leadership' has been approached and manifested has left a few people feeling like that topic has become somewhat overdone and therefor depleted as a strategy. Where I'd like to clarify some points with you is around the question of the helpfulness of the leader/follower polarity. To do this I'll have to explain my thoughts based on the way I'm seeing things these days, which is through the multiple lenses of various patterns or 'metatypes' that we find in all Natrual systems. I think leader/follower is a polarity related to the structural hierarchy pattern: a few leaders at the 'top' and many followers at the 'bottom'. We see hierarchy as a major structural element in every biological and social system (this is my assertion, at any rate), so I don't think we can question the validity of the polarity as such–it is going to be there–but we can ask ourselves how to adjust hierarchy so that it engenders the greatest ongoing health and evolution of the system it informs. That being the case, I'd have to say that if there is an over identification with the leadership side of the polarity, then it could be corrected by advocating for a shift to the 'followership' side. This gets us away from the adversarial right/wrong duality that is a current cultural norm and gets us to a more integrative approach where we try and assemble the useful distinctions from all sides and put them together in a better way of looking at things. One of those useful distinctions is still leadership, but instead of having to react against it because it is overdone or poorly executed we can just shift it to a place where it has the right amount of emphasis to serve the situation at hand.

    So, what I have in mind when I talk about leadership vis a vis gender relations is to recommend leadership initiatives that are adjusted to serve 'health and evolution' (greatest depth for the greatest span) with regard to gender issues. I think Cindy's idea of 'integral androgyny' has the potential to be one of those leadership strategies. By itself it may fall into the same trap as other leadership initiatives, which fail because all they focus on is leadership, but as part of a strategy where integral leadership is 'integrated' with other important patterns like 'followership', gender polarities, server/served polarities, production, value, life cycles ect., it may be quite important.



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