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The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men [Hardcover]

Christina Hoff Sommers
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (98 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 15 2000
It's a bad time to be a boy in America. As the century drew to a close, the defining event for American girls was the triumph of the U.S. women's soccer team. For boys, the symbolic event was the mass killing at Columbine High School. It would seem that boys in our society are greatly at risk. Yet the best-known studies and the academic experts say that it's girls who are suffering from a decline in self-esteem. It's girls, they say, who need extra help in school and elsewhere in a society that favors boys. The problem with boys is that they are boys, say the experts. We need to change their nature. We have to make them more like...girls. These arguments don't hold up to scrutiny, says Christina Hoff Sommers in this provocative, fascinating book. She analyzes the work of the leading academic experts, Carol Gilligan and William Pollack, and finds it lacking in scientific rigor. There is no girl crisis, says Sommers. Girls are outperforming boys academically, and girls' self-esteem is no different from boys'. Boys lag behind girls in reading and writing ability, and they are less likely to go to college. The "girl crisis" has been seized upon by some feminists and has been suffused with sexual politics. Under the guise of helping girls, many schools have adopted policies that penalize boys, often for simply being masculine. Sommers says that boys do need help, but not the sort they've been getting. They need help catching up with girls academically. They need love, discipline, respect, and moral guidance. They desperately need understanding. They do not need to be rescued from masculinity.

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The author of the provocative bestseller Who Stole Feminism? returns with an equally eye-opening follow-up. "It's a bad time to be a boy in America," writes Christina Hoff Sommers. Boys are less likely than girls to go to college or do their homework. They're more likely to cheat on tests, wind up in detention, or drop out of school. Yet it's "the myth of the fragile girl," according to Sommers, that has received the lion's share of attention recently, in hot-selling books like Mary Pipher's Reviving Ophelia. When boys are discussed at all, it's in the context of how to modify their antisocial behavior--i.e., how to make them more like girls.
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. No one denies that boys' aggressive tendencies must be checked and channeled in constructive ways. Boys need discipline, respect, and moral guidance. Boys need love and tolerant understanding. They do not need to be pathologized.
Sommers eviscerates feminist scholarship by Harvard's Carol Gilligan, the American Association of University Women, and others. Hers is feisty, muscular prose and fans of Who Stole Feminism? will delight in it. "There have always been societies that favored boys over girls," she writes. "Ours may be the first to deliberately throw the gender switch. If we continue on our present course, boys will, indeed, be tomorrow's second sex." That rhetoric may err on the side of alarmism, but Sommers' ideas are full of common sense. She essentially urges parents and educators to let boys be boys, even though their "very masculinity turns out to be politically incorrect." The War on Boys is sure to set off a fiery controversy, just as Sommers' previous book did--but it should also find a big audience of readers who become fans. --John J. Miller

From Publishers Weekly

Sommers (Who Stole Feminism?) pulls no punches in this critique of the current crop of "crisis" studies about boys. Methodically analyzing and dismantling what she calls the "myth of shortchanged girls" as well as the "new and equally corrosive fiction that boys as a group are disturbed"Atheories she calls "speculative psychology"Ashe bolsters her findings with extensive footnotes and data from such sources as the U.S. Department of Education. Sommers's conclusions are compelling and deserve an unbiased hearing, particularly since they are at odds with conventional wisdom that paints girls as victimized and boys as emotionally repressed. "Routinely regarded as protosexists, potential harassers and perpetuators of gender inequity, boys live under a cloud of censure," she writes, going on to show how they are also falling behind academically in an educational system that currently devotes more attention to the needs of girls. Pointing out that "Mother Nature is not a feminist," she also dismisses the current vogue to "feminize" boys, calling social androgyny a "well-intentioned but ill-conceived reform." Instead, Sommers champions "the reality that boys and girls are different, that each sex has its distinctive strengths and graces." Sure to kick up dust in the highly charged gender debates, Sommers's book is at its best when coolly debunking theories she contends are based on distorted research and skewed data, but descends into pettiness when she indulges in mudslinging at her opponents. Perhaps the most informed study yet in this area, this engrossing book sheds light on a controversial subject. It deserves close reading by parents, educators and anyone interested in raising healthy, successful children of both sexes.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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IN 1990, CAROL GILLIGAN announced to the world that America's adolescent girls were in crisis. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars About Time Oct. 17 2005
By A Customer
Many of the objections to this book written here make her point for her. People object that she should focus on poor or black people etc. The fact is in every demographic group the boys are doing worse in school. A position is not refuted by saying another issue is more important. I am a male teacher and for years I have heard how girls need to be "empowered" and boys need to be changed. Well the numbers show girls have the power and all the teacher attention in schools and boys can only change so much.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still a telling work June 4 2003
I am happy to see that people are still commenting on this book after a number of years. I have shared it with a number of friends of various persuasions and get any number of thoughtful comments. If nothing else, Sommers, suggests that we can all make mistakes, even when we have the best intentions, and perhaps even more so when we espouse a political cause. Social scientists need to be held to account for their data, and she asks questions about much of its validity. She asks how can we better educate boys. Perhaps the greatest unanswered question to which this book led me was a policy question on how much of the traditional gender roles must we preserve and what should we attempt to modify. Putting it another way , "What's wrong with boys being boys?" And I mean that seriously as in: "What's wrong with girls being girls is that they passively set their sights too low." And we are led to agree with a final implication is that all children, boys and girls, deserve our best efforts.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent Women Are Catching On March 28 2003
At long last, 40 years into second wave feminism, intelligent women are catching on to the fact that the male of the species is in a confused freefall. Sixty percent of North American college students are female. Projections surmise that women will be 2/3 of students on American college campuses by 2010.
Sommers points out that a pair of psychotic boys made headlines for the Columbine massacre at about the same time the U.S. girls soccer team did so for becoming international champs. Is this a coincidence, she wonders, or emblematic of how it's going for the two sexes?
The dropping percentage of males on college campuses, a plummet if one considers the last 50 years, only parallels men's growing lack of interest in churchgoing and parenting. It's about time somebody blew the whistle on this and suggested that something is wrong!
We live in a world geared to women: Schools and churches that ask us to sit still and listen rather than explore, compete, or seek adventure; a service sector economy that calls for deference and cooperation rather than energy or rivalry. Many men don't want to be Mr. Mom, our wife's junior partner in child rearing. Many men have a jazz 'em up and let em' run approach to child-rearing, which might be too hands-off for a baby, toddler, or 10-year-old but is well-suited to prurient, rambunctious, and liberty-starved adolescents. How many fathers are divorced and tangential to families by this point in their childrens' lives?
The Tyler Durden character of the 1999 movie "Fight Club" represents what is missing in the domesticated modern man: risk-taking moxie, masculine swagger. These are not trivialities. They make men vital and useful, not to mention...sexy to women. The rugged independence of the male mind has benefitted everyone.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Junk Theories That Did Great Harm April 14 2003
Like her earlier book, Christina Hoff Sommers exposes the intellectual fraud of certain feminist extremists who proposed radical theories about childhood development, dishing up data utterly fabricated and studies that had no scientific merit (studies that have not been peer-reviewed, and could not be validated), which the cooperative media and education establishment accepted as gospel simply because they were politically correct. As a result, schools were inundated with advocates, programs and teaching material that treated little boys as suspect criminals, doing grave harm to their development.
The "gender feminists" are not swayed by the facts presented by Christina Hoff Sommers in "The War Against Boys", and earlier in "Who Stole Feminism?" They did not debate what she wrote; they attack her instead. Centuries ago, Bishop Bellamine refused to look through Galileo's telescope; he prosecuted him instead. Such are those who play the game of faith.
This book puts a magnifying glass on one facet of the harms done by the radical left: how the gender feminists used frivolous theories to support programs and practices that demise the development of boys, and their dishonesty in this pursuit. It is well researched and well written. Sommers treats you to some fantasy theories, to cite just one:
New born babies do not know anything about gender, and gender identities are therefore not innate but taught. Sommers: babies don't know anything about blood types either, but they still have one.
It never ceases to amaze me how these advocacy or junk "scientists", many of whom have lofty credentials - PhD, directors, and what not - are engaged in literal intellectual fraud rather than honest scientific inquiry.
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Sommers perpetuates inequalities in her trumped-up "war"
Sommers might feel a tad differently if by chance she was 'socially constructed' as a non-caucasian non-well-to-do little lady. Read more
Published on June 30 2004 by Anna
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is not making these things up
This book is not making these things up. Major educator textbooks are teaching teachers that they should make boys more feminine and that too much masculinity is not only a bad... Read more
Published on June 21 2004 by traderje
5.0 out of 5 stars compelling,disturbing and frightening
Its sad how boys and young men have been shortchanged because of feminist hate.These misandrists have continued to perpetuate the misconception that boys have been favored over... Read more
Published on May 20 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars He Said-She Said, Nature vs. Nurture
Sommers certainly paints a rather bleak and contrastingly different picture from what many institutions would have us believe. Read more
Published on March 4 2004 by Jason Nelson
4.0 out of 5 stars Informative
After just graduating with a degree in elementary education, I was surprised how much of how I was told to teach is actually the result of this "misguided feminism. Read more
Published on Jan. 22 2004 by B. Steele
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-read
This book is a solid work, very well written and relevant. It reads almost like a thriller. A must-read for parents (of boys or girls) who care about their children's academic and... Read more
Published on Oct. 16 2003 by NC
5.0 out of 5 stars Our sons are in trouble
This book is so true. We simply are not treating young boys properly. They are not responsible for how men have behaved in the past. Read more
Published on Sept. 23 2003 by lulu
3.0 out of 5 stars Just Sit Right Back and You'll Hear a Tale
Are young girls at risk in American schools? Are girls getting short-changed and left out in the field of academia? Read more
Published on July 28 2003 by Bryan Carey
5.0 out of 5 stars Tell Me Something I Don't Know Already
The problems detailed in The War Against Boys are no secret.
Boys will be boys and girls will be girls. Read more
Published on July 14 2003 by Bryce A. Walat
5.0 out of 5 stars Truer words were never spoken
Every mother of boys in America should buy this book NOW and read it from cover to cover, twice! Christina Hoff Sommers backs up with solid scholarship what I've known since my... Read more
Published on May 16 2003
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