on October 17, 2005
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.
on 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.
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. Or don't you value the airplane, the light bulb, the television, the cure for polio, and the very computer you're reading this on? Nowadays, though, Sommers claims, the very concept of masculinity is politically incorrect!
Daring to be politically incorrect herself, Sommers suggests the Brits may have it right with their partial return to single sex education. Boys can jockey for status and compete on teams which she claims (and I agree) they love. Boys can read war stories (but also anti-war poems) and tales of adventure and discovery with male protagonists.
I don't see what's wrong with gender segregation during the tumult of adolescence; in fact it's merely a counterbalance. Most boys already spend most of their lives deeply involved with women: their mothers, girlfriends, wives, and teachers. Sommers bemoans the liberal dispensation of Ritalin to male students as an attack on their fidgety but glorious energy. Girls enjoy recess, she claims, but boys need it.
Well, something's got to give. We're raising a generation of bullies and eunuchs rather than those in the manly but mannered middle ground. No one has established that male-only schools foster misogyny. There are even those like Richard Hawley, headmaster of a boys school in the Cleveland area, who thinks just the opposite: Misogyny comes from a lack of manhood training a single sex environment can best provide. I bet Sommers would agree.
on February 4, 2002
This book is one of the more important books that have been written in years.
Some people have stated, 'For anyone that cares about achieving true gender equality, read this book only to learn more about what you're up against.'
There is no reason to want or expect 'true gender equity'. Men and women (and boys and girls) are not equal. This is not to say that the sexes should not have equal opportunity, but to say 'Let's realize the differences and work toward letting each side use their strengths'. To diminish (or devalue) one's true nature, so that we can play nice is a dis-service to true equality.
It has been written that, 'she (the author) certainly isn't looking out for her sisters'. EXACTLY, she is letting her argument speak for itself. Christina Hoff Sommers is declaring that she is an intelligent, independent and confident woman. She does not need to reduce men to raise herself.
This may not be the end of 'boys being boys', but it's a road that we need to be avoiding. If many of the points are true in only 10 % of our schools, it is truly scary. (I think the percentage is much higher.)
The status quo can not be helpful for males or females. The feminization of boys is leading to a backlash that is much worse than finding 'creative' outlets for testosterone. To compare the mental games that are being played with today's youth to mind control is not as big a stretch as even a few years ago. We need to respect a person's nature in the same manner that we need to respect each other.
on February 1, 2002
There are so many excellent and positive reviews from others that I shant waste time saying what has already been said. As a Libertarian I will say that I found the writer to be articulate in explaining how the pendulum has swung to far to the wrong directions and that two wrongs don't make a right. That it is true that in the quest to assure that females/girls/women/lesbian what have you were and are treated in a fair and equitable manner that in many ways we thru the baby out with the bath water and that boys who will someday grow into men and many, become fathers, are being sent messages that in many ways are making them fear women and not respect them.
That it isn't women's fault totally, but that feminists like Dworkin etc who have sought to make men/males into the enemy. Not possible equal partners but the enemy. And that boys who are reared to feel that somehow they are part of a patriarchy they have never heard of nor wish to be part of, are the enemy nonetheless.
And then there is the whole disregard by many feminist's of the scientifically proven differences in the sexes. A fact that is overlooked and both young boys and young girls are the pawns. That boys who are seen as unimportant or the enemy grow up to see women in an almost apathetic way.
One need only see the negative aspects of the radical feminist hand to see that women aren't better off either when we target young boy and then men as the enemy and basically treat them as the outcasts or the enemy.
This is a must read book.
on August 14, 2001
While I do not exactly have any vested interest in either the promotion or dismissal of this book, I agree in most places with the author while I also think she could have added more insight and less ideology.
For example, she glides by the concept of "kindergarten" by ignoring what I see as the obvious: a garden is only as useful as it is cultivated. Ask any gardener what happens when a garden is allowed to go without pruning and careful tending. It no longer becomes a garden, but a wilderness. Dr. Sommers perhaps could not honestly make that connection as most academics tend their books and careers rather than their gardens. If she had only used the analogy of a "child garden" to a logical conclusion, her book would have been a lot stronger.
She does much the same way with other thesis-corroborating thoughts. Perhaps her passion and righteous indignation blinded her to the stronger arguments that could have been made. I have tutored college students in English composition enough to realize that those closest to their subject matter tend to get bogged down in the swamp of their convictions. This is a criticism Dr. Sommers levels against the feminist ideologues yet unfortunately fails to apply to her own work.
on July 18, 2001
This thought-provoking book lays down an implicit challenge for feminists and other social progressives to expand and modify our discussions of gender and child-rearing. As an openly gay male, I have lived through the consequences of belonging to a group which is still "pathologized" in various degrees around the world. While I was tormented many times as a young child by young males who fit more "classical" paradigms of masculinity, I cannot accept the idea that "pathologizing" the behaviour of many young men is in itself an answer. It would be really cheap for me to, after having been tainted as "wrong" and "defective" by that "other" group, to just turn around and label THEM as "defective."
If we really believe in unlocking the potential of all members of the human race, there is room in all our discussions for developing policies that are expansive enough to include all our children, male & female, gay, non-gay, and others. Anybody who conisders themselves to be creative thinkers cannot (without losing their integrity) fall into a new orthodoxy. This is a separate issue from that of raising concern about twisting social science to fit public relations strategies, which I believe is the strongest part of this book. This clear abuse of social science should be a concern for people of all political persuasions.
Finally, I wish the author had mentioned more details on what the British government is doing for young boys - she points to these policies as examples, but tells us very little about them. The book would have had a stronger meaning for political progressives had we learned more about the "meat" of the British policies. What a Labor government (with its assortment of progressive politicians in the Cabinet) is doing would carry more credibility towards the left of the American political spectrum.
on June 13, 2001
Christina Hoff Sommers' research and work on this book was impressive. As the father of a 3 year old boy and a 2 year old girl, I have seen through anecdotal evidence many of the points that Christina illustrates in her book. It was illuminating and enlightening.
CHS meticulously breaks down the "science" that those in the "feminist" camp use to justify their positions with respect to, well respecting girls, and shows that rather than basing many of their positions on science, it is often based on "junk science". Junk science is often driven by ideological goals as opposed to scientific objectives, and attempts to make the "facts" fit the ends.
Those who take this (junk-science) approach often and repeatedly report facts based on sloppy work that are not scientifically supportable, while labeling their conclusions (which were foregone) a product of "science". The media then carries these "news bites" out to an unsuspecting public. As a result, many individuals begin to accept these conclusions as facts. A final and important component is that the perpetrators of this fraud then attempt to stifle opposing positions (that ironically are based on scientific evidence) through the use of threats or personal attacks.
Hoff-Sommers' work is important, for a number of reasons. One, as a woman, she has a bit of a shield (not that that has stopped her detractors) from the "anti-female" venom. This book would have been fodder for the feminist minority had it been written by a man. Secondly, through the use of a scientific approach, itemizing all of her references and building, fact by fact, her theory (that nature has a large part to play in the differences between boys and girls), her position may only be attacked through a rebuttal that is as scientific in its approach. The best approach to rebutting "junk science" is through the use of facts and "real science".
Those on the "feminist" camp should do well, should they choose to post a rebuttal, to take the same approach. To my knowledge, none have taken up this challenge. Simply because they facts do not support their ideological biases.
on December 4, 2000
This book says much of what needs to be said about our femaledominated socialization system (aka "school", not to mentionhome and the mass media) and how it can negatively affect boys andyoung men. I see some of the results everyday in the college studentsI teach: some of my intro physical science classes have a 3:1 or 4:1girl:boy sex ratio; many if not most of the boys lack confidence anddirection, seeming to be very unsure about what exactly is expected ofthem. The girls are the exact opposite; for the most part they'vegotten the message that they're capable and valuable to society.Quite primitive societies pay careful attention to the initiation ofboys into manhood (none leave it to women), but we're failingmiserably on this basic task -- kind of like how we hardly know how torun an election any more.
While I basically agree with CHS's overallthesis regarding the anti-boy/anti-male/anti-masculinity forcesrampant in our culture at this time, I'm marking this book down onestar for a couple of reasons: 1) All the material on Carol Gilliganand her "In A Different Voice" schtick, and feminism ingeneral, while quite reasonable and plausible, seems like overkill andstarts to reek of a vendetta at some point; 2) I'm no moralist, so theend the book veers off in a direction other than what I would havewanted to see. She might ultimately be right on her points here, andthe several pages on all-male schools are almost worth the price ofthe book all by itself, but I kept waiting for her to get back and doan investigation of, say, the high suicide rate among boys. But itnever came. I just would have done the book a bit differently. 3) Alittle bit of attention to the difference between the needs of pre-and post-pubescent males would have been nice. 4) Many others in themen's lib/rights area have also written on Sommers' topic and it mighthave been nice to see their ideas brought into the picture and perhapsblended in; as it is we're left with the impression that the only wayto make progress is to battle nefarious feminist forces. This ismaybe not a terrible idea, but most people (ie, teachers, parents,school administrators) are not as strident as CHS makes them out tobe.
These are not serious enough criticisms to recommend not readinga books which stands very well on its own and makes its points simplyand strongly. The critique of Pollack's work (which I hadn't read buthad heard all about) was both surprising and enlightening to me: Isuppose it's a measure of how low we'd sunk that at some point anyattention to a topic which is crying out for it seems better than noneat all. My fear is that this too will turn out to be a fad and thatwe'll be rediscovering the same things all over again a decade or twolater. Perhaps CHS's book will have hit so high on the visibilityscale that the topic will be impossible to dismiss in the comingyears. At any rate, reading the book made be grateful that I got myown boyhood in just under the wire before things went amuck.
on November 25, 2000
Sommers' book has two main themes. First, in concentrating on and emphasizing the needs of girls and young women and in attempting to ensure that they have the fullest of possible opportunities, American society has been downplaying the needs of boys and discriminating against them. That may be true, though whether the treatment of boys is worse or better than in the past is not really established, nor that real harm is being done to them by the educational or "feminist" establishments. Adolescence has never been easy for either sex and it is not now. But what can be done to make the passage from childhood easier while improving the preparation for adult life for males or females isn't very well established, and Sommers is in no position to assess the problem adequately. She is far stronger on pointing out the weakness of some trendy approaches than in suggesting what a balanced approach should entail.
Part of the reason for this unsatisfactory state of affairs is the second main theme of Sommers' book. This is the shoddy state of social "science" research in the relevant areas. She picks on one of the most egregious examples, that of Carol Gilligan, whose cavalier approach to data and to drawing inferences from them is mind-boggling. But more disturbing is the large number of people who apparently take her nonsense seriously and the total failure of peer review and appointment at major research universities to prevent shoddy work being taken as providing firmly grounded information. In area after area related to the situation which Sommers considers, the real answer to important questions is "we don't know and it is going to be very hard to find out. Until we do, we really have to proceed with great caution and humility." We aren't likely to see this happen. (Researchers usually only indicate ignorance in conjunction with the dubious proposition that simply throwing a lot more money at them will disperse the ignorance quickly.) Thus while The War Against Boys is an interesting and important book, I would not be surprised to see equal needs for similar books in the decades ahead. At least Sommers writes engagingly with a minimum of jargon. Even though the subject is highly depressing, reading her book is not; instead it is good fun.