In Appreciation of Karen DeCrow

June 11, 2014 by Warren Farrell, PhD, Member, National Parents Organization and Author, Father and Child Reunion; and Creator of the Commission for a White House Council on Boys and Men

Karen DeCrow and I were friends for more than 40 years. In the early 70’s, when she was President of NOW (the National Organization for Women) and I was on the Board of NOW’s NYC chapter, she asked me to run NOW’s Task Force on the Masculine Mystique. When others protested my incorporating expanding liberation toward men, Karen supported me.

Karen and I worked together on my organizing the men’s section of the Women’s Strike for Equality in D.C. She valued men as an auxiliary, but also sensed we had our own work to do — not as apologizing oppressors, but as fellow humans in a parallel straight jacket.

In the early 70s, Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, Karen and I would often say, “what the world needs is more women at work, and more dads at home.” This was N.O.W.s position until about 1973. However, as divorces increased, NOW started hearing from moms who were dropping their memberships because, as the complaint usually ran, “I know my child best; I know what she or he needs. If I don’t want the dad involved, it’s for a reason — he’s either a bad dad or we’ve had a bad experience and I just need to take my children away and start a new life.”

N.O.W. was caught between supporting equality versus jeopardizing its base. It chose to not jeopardize its base. Gloria and Betty, while not changing their position rhetorically, looked the other way as NOW intensified its efforts to portray men either as deadbeats or self-interested (“they just want the money”) or prone to domestic violence. Karen was the only other leading feminist who not only spoke differently, but agreed to speak at fathers’ conferences. Karen’s courage marginalized her from the feminist leadership and the millions of dollars of speaking fees she could otherwise have obtained.

I knew what Karen was enduring, because I took the same road she took. While my break was cleaner, Karen tried to walk the tightrope of the balance between integrity and retaining feminist colleagues and friends.

When she agreed in 2005 to write the foreword to my Why Men Earn More: the Startling Truth Behind the Pay Gap–and What Women Can Do About It, she shared with me some of her lifetime of worries about losing feminist support. It wasn’t just the lost speaking fees. It was the isolation. It was desiring to lead, but being kept at arm’s length by feminist leadership.

As Karen shared that, I recollect envisioning a devil and angel fighting inside her. In the case of the foreword and in other cases I witnessed, Karen almost always chose the angel of integrity. 

With Karen’s death passes a feminist who, were her leadership allowed to be the guiding light, would have allowed millions of children to have a dad to guide them and love them.


Why Men Earn More


It should come as no surprise that the lesson learned at an early age
is that females deal with people better. The myth still prevails that
men are rational, women intuitive. Anatomy creates destiny: Women
are well qualified for the jobs that pay less.

As an employment lawyer for the past 30 years, I represent corporate
executives who bring discrimination cases. For the men, the
issue is most often the failure of corporate America to accommodate
their requests for flextime, parental leave, and other issues related to
full participation in family life.

For the women, the issue is most often the glass ceiling (or stone
wall) they encounter when they seek to be promoted. They have
great performance reviews and terrific statistics; they work all the
time; yet less qualified men are making the leap to the higher-paying

One reason is that women are frequently not on the correct track
at the company. The top vice presidents are usually selected from
manufacturing, sales, or operations, and the talented women are
working in human resources. It is a challenge to convince them, and
the CEO, that women “want to play with the big boys.” Women start
out in human resources because they are “good with people.” I suggest
they are good with people as they move over to fast-track sales or

To further understand equality issues, read this latest work by Warren
Farrell. He reviews and explicates the facts and figures — and
more important, the history and philosophy — of the varying expectations
and gender role stereotypes that influence everything we do,
including at the workplace. He shows that men are not involved in a
nefarious plot to keep the female wage down there at $32,000, but
rather, as Betty Friedan taught us four decades ago, they are fellow
victims in the sex role wars. It was Friedans brilliant realization that
feminism was best not only for women, but also for children and men,
that made NOW the success it has been.

As Farrell described in an earlier book, Father and Child Reunion,
the recent generation of men is more involved than were their
fathers. Children of both genders can then observe sex roles that are
broad, not stifling. The task is to convince mothers, fathers, judges,
and employers, that parental leave, parental time off, and flextime are
as much the right and the responsibility of male parents as of female

We discussed this vision of the future at NOW meetings as early as
1967. Since 1974, feminist attorneys have been urging parental leave
(rather than maternity leave) for clients. We know that what brings
equality to women also brings equality to men
Am I hopeful? A pithy answer to why men earn more is that men
were there, in the workplace, earlier. They know more about navigating,
because they were there first. As we are convincing all who will
listen that women can do what men do, we must continue to press for
the concept that men can do what women do.

As Warren Farrell expresses it: “Our daughters deserve that.” So
do our sons.

We have been working for gender equality for a short time, given
the span of human history. Eventually, it will even up. I am very

Karen DeCrow
President, National Organization for Women, 1974–1977



National Parents Organization is a Shared Parenting Organization

National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved?  Here’s how:

Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting, and fair child support and alimony. Thank you for your activism.

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