The War Against Boys : How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men
By Christina Hoff Sommers
Simon & Schuster, Hardcover, 320 pgs., June 2000

Reviewed by Isabel Lyman

Boys are sooo bad. Packs of males grope females in Central Park; others celebrate NBA championships by rioting; still others shoot fellow students.

Some are barbarians, no doubt. But there are also the heroes who come to the aid of the groped women and gunned-down pupils. Understanding how to curb the destructive tendencies of Mr. Hyde-acting males into calmer Dr. Henry Jekylls is a never-ending quest for parents, police officers, clergy, and educators.

One social critic has joined the cadre of concerned citizens by offering a new twist to a centuries old problem. Christina Hoff Sommers argues that hard-line feminists are responsible for creating an anti-masculine prejudice in the nation’s schools which contribute to the boys’ adjustment problems.

Sommers’ just-released book, The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism is Harming Our Young Men, is as controversial as her previous work, Who Stole Feminism? Sommers, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, blames women’s advocacy organizations, like The Ms. Foundation and American Association of University Women, for exacerbating uncivil behavior in boys by advancing myths about male privilege.

In her words ... “This book tells the story of how it has become fashionable to attribute pathology to millions of healthy male children. It is a story of how we are turning against boys and forgetting a simple truth: that the energy, competitiveness, and corporal daring of normal, decent males is responsible for much of what is right in the world.”

Sommers builds a strong case against public school programs designed by gender equity experts. These busybodies’ mission is to rescue girls from becoming Ophelia the victim, while attempting to turn boys into androgynous wusses. To boost the girls ’self-esteem, boys are prohibited from tussling or playing games like ‘cops and robbers’.

Boys are also discriminated against with “Take Our Daughters to Work Day.” Teachers’ assignments routinely probe students’ “feelings” on any given topic. “ Thanks to this type of institutionalized nonsense, Sommers, marshalling evidence from the National Center for Education Statistics, reports that boys drop out or are expelled from school in higher numbers.

Male students are also three times more likely to be enrolled in special education programs than their sisters.

Concurrently, Sommers exposes the sloppy research advanced by “girl-crisis” advocates, like Harvard University professor Carol Gilligan and clinical psychologist Mary Pipher, that the fairer sex is cheated by a partriarchal education system. In reality, boys may dominate in sports, but girls make better grades, take more Advanced Placement courses, and are likelier to attend college.

Sommers applauds academic programs which allow boys to be boys. British educators, she notes, are experimenting with all-boy classes where adventure tales with male heroes and war poetry are read and homework checks are conducted. In Baltimore, one inner-city elementary school holds all-boy classes taught by men who favor a traditional fare of phonics and grammar, as well as sports-oriented math problems.

Sommers has launched a one-woman blitzkrieg against the advances of the leaders on the front lines of the gender politics war. Her book contains valuable information for parents of sons, as well as taxpayers who fund the government schools. If the theories of the Gilligans, et al are a sham, as Sommers’ statistics indicate, then it’s immoral to foist this propaganda upon impressionable children. Further, American students’ education should not be compromised by social engineers who are either too dumb or too lazy to offer them a traditional, liberal arts education.

I have, however, a couple of reservations about this book. First, Sommers believes that by implementing the British method or the Baltimore method or any other boy-friendly method in government-run schools, then their masculinity will remain intact and their interest in academics will not wane.

I am disappointed that such a sound thinker, like Sommers, never bothers to question if it’s right for the State to be involved in the business of educating children, at all. Further, she seems to have no interest in reforming compulsory attendance laws. Those laws are the whip that forces restless males to sit still and be educationally force-fed.

Second, I don't think East Coast feminists are the only women eager to release boys from the "straitjacket of masculinity." Some of the conservative Oklahoma ladies, who run the homeschool co-op my son attends, have displayed the same zeal for emasculating boys that Sommers ascribes to the feminists.

Skateboards, for example, got quickly banned from recess - a loss for a handful of well-behaved boys who decided that their break time would be more fun if they had something to do than just stand around gabbing. The co-op leaders also encourage a strict dress code, but, oddly, none of these ladies objected when several of the teen-aged boys showed up for class with frosted blonde hair and garish, metal necklaces.

In spite of these glaring omissions, which indicates to me that Dr. Sommers needs to get out of her own Ivory Tower more often, I think this lively book was a worthwhile read. And, Christina Hoff Sommers, a mother of sons herself, is a savvy apologist on behalf of the significant differences between boys and girls. Viva la difference!

Order this book today!

Isabel Lyman lives in Oklahoma. When she's not writing, she spends her time trying to mother her all-male, teenaged sons. She can be reached at ilyman7449@aol.com.

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