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Thursday, November 7, 2013

“The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism is Harming Our Young Men”, by Christina Hoff Sommers

256 pages, Simon & Schuster, ISBN-13: 978-0684849560

Christina Hoff Sommers articulates what is wrong with modern-day with feminism, and it is not that it has fostered achievement for women; rather it is feminism’s attempts to demean the roles and achievements of men and feminize boys that are problematic. To the extent that feminism has encouraged girls and women to strive for excellence, it should be lauded; to the extent that it has used our institutions – particularly our schools – as a vehicle to establish a so-called “new feminist order” at the expense of men, it should be called-out and combatted.

And combat Sommers does, as her research demonstrates that our schools are disproportionately influenced by biased (and all too frequently suspect) feminist theory and are clearly engaged in institutional male bashing, from: chastising boys for engaging in naturally aggressive play to attacking male oriented sports such as football (unless, of course a girl wants to participate) to denouncing fraternities (while saying nothing about sororities) to frequently ignoring the achievements of boys (while sometimes artificially inflating those of girls and young women) to minimizing the role and importance of the male role model (i.e. fathers). It appears that feminist-influenced educators seem bent not on leveling the playing field, but tilting it towards Venus; and if our sons fall off in the process, well, that's unfortunate.

Perhaps this is best seen in the way test results are viewed. When young women achieve higher scores than men in, say, verbal skills (which by the way are much more susceptible to subjective interpretation than tests for math and science), feminists attribute this to women’s perceived superior ability to communicate, and there is nary a mention of having to do more to eradicate the disparity. However, when young men achieve higher scores, say, in math, it is attributed to systemic discrimination that must be remedied, and not to any inherently positive male attribute (this despite studies that many feminists like to ignore showing that men perhaps have innate skills in this area that are superior to those of most women). Similarly, not much alarm is expressed either in schools or by our “leaders” at large at the inordinately high male dropout rate or relatively low level of boys attending college as compared to girls; indeed, at times one may believe that this is perhaps tolerated since it is now “the girl’s turn”, though the boys who are being sacrificed had not a thing to do with past discrimination against females. Finally, one need only look at how quickly school officials will recommend that a little boy be placed on Ritalin simply because he doesn't pay attention like a little girl does, rather than force the teacher (all too frequently a woman) to deal with the behavior, to see the war against boys in its most graphic terms. Again, imagine the outcry if our institutions tried to medicate a little girl out of a naturally female tendency.

Of course, the answer is to encourage both boys and girls to realize their full potential, which Sommers advocates. More important, though, is Sommers’ frequently stated belief, based on her research, that both genders be encouraged to achieve and develop on their own terms, rather than by transforming one into the other. Hopefully the PC police that currently wield inordinate power in our educational and social institutions will not ignore excellent research such as that presented by Hoff Sommers, or the eventual ensuing backlash may well trim the legitimate and necessary gains that women have made in the recent past.

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