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 June 20, 2000
Ms. Sommers is a great researcher but falls a little short on the "great thinker" scale. I wanted more from this book. I wanted her to synergize her views with those of her opponents. She was too eager to have a "war" and "win it." She tried too hard to dominate her opponents and "win" the argument. I'm not interested in domination or winning; that's the problem we need to overcome.
The feminists and progressives who want to "re-define manhood" seem lacking in honorable methodology, but they *DO* have some good points. What does it mean to be a man in today's world? We buy our meat at the supermarket and have wars at the push of a button. Who needs valorous fighters and daring hunters any more? What are men supposed to do? She doesn't offer much guidance in this regard except a return to the tried-and-true harsh discipline of yesteryear. Yawn...
I recommend the book nonetheless and found it to be an enlightening read. She should give up the "war," as it isn't helpful in defining and re-defining what it means to be a boy, girl, man or woman in our age. Perhaps she thought that one more metaphorical "war" is what we need. She should get a clue from the Bible and "love her enemies." Instead, she falls into the same trap her opponents seem to enjoy --- victimology. She is victimizing boys as much as the people she opposes!
Who is to say that boys have not already adapted to this feminist "programming" and come up with their own solution? I think if you look hard enough you will find boys and men who already know how to deal with self-rightous feminist activists .... ignore them. We know better.
Eventually, when enough men say "NO" to the women who attempt to coerce conformity with feminist ethics, these women will begin to wonder if there isn't some better way to create a cooperative society. Of course there is; it's called "mutuality."
"Just say no" when the feminists come calling. Encourage them to think about what is "right and just" for ALL PEOPLE, not just for one sex. Back to basic virtues, please.
Machiavelli said "Divide and Conquer." That's a great tactic for warfare, but we aren't at war here. Sommers is as divisive as her opponents and should change her tactics to those of INCLUSION and MUTUALITY rather than DIVISION and DOMINANCE.
She makes lots of good points about how England is changing its educational system to improve its fitness for boys. I wanted to "click" on a petition to inform my legislators that I concur with what England is doing. Same-sex schools for boys and girls, especially at young ages, make a lot of sense to me. Figure out what works to enhance academic performance and "just do it!" That's pretty simple stuff.
Instead I'm left with a trite truism of "Boys will be boys." We are constantly redefining what gender identity and gender roles should be and in a world of 6 billion people we might want to consider that men have a higher calling than fulfilling their social expectations for heterosexual intercourse. How about some spiritual insights here? Most of the great spiritual leaders of the world have been men, but Ms. Sommers is very careful to avoid this fact.
Perhaps if men learned how to "nurture" better they would be less interested in proving their manhood and more interested in mentoring the millions of fatherless boys. That's the real crime; men walking away (or being locked away) from their children. Again, she touches on it but doesn't give us that "click" to tell our legislators what needs to be done.
on July 3, 2000
For ten years (the length of time I've been the mother of a son), I've heard increasingly alarming reports from "the media" about the treacherous ways of America's sons. Sorry but the miscreants they describe seem like anomalies to me, not the norm. I never see any of these murderous, hateful, misogynous traits in my son or in his buds. Hey, call me naive, but I believe unceasing and loving involvement in our kids' lives goes a long way to preventing the types of schoolroom and street-corner tragedies we read about in the paper and hear about in the evening news. In any event, I appreciate the message of War against Boys, and I admire the point-by-point evisceration of the emasculating feminist approach to raising and educating our sons. I just wish the argument didn't sound quite so shrill. That criticism aside, this is a worthwhile addition to the growing body of literature dedicated to reclaiming all that's wonderful about our kids (including all of their many differences). Let's hope it's not too late in coming.
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 September 3, 2000
As a social worker that works with at-risk teens (98% of them are boys), I have found Sommers reporting to be accurate and concurs with issues I find each day I come into contact with a male teen. It is egregious to think that a well-respected feminist such as Carol Gilligan has used her status to write unfounded, unsubstantiated facts about the lives of boys and girls. According to Sommers, Gilligan has failed to use empirical data in her writing; has refused to publish her findings; and, continues to write more and more about what and who boys are and need without a shred of evidence from well documented studies. The facts revealed in this book will undoubtedly anger many people who have put their trust in Gilligan. More to the point, Sommers has revealed the reality that boys do need our attention. Many teachers, from my perspective, fail to recognize the power they have in their role as teachers and the influence they have on the lives of boys, in general. Sommers is correct to state we need to begin to have REAL equality in education (which has been sorely missing) and begin to teach and treat boys and girls as people who have individual and collective goals, who express and experience life sometimes the same, but often in different ways. We need to appreciate the special natures of both boys and girls, and allow them to develop in a way that is true to themselves. Some will refute Sommers for her lack of self-studies on the issue, but she has certainly given substantial food for thought from those who have done studies that support her thesis while failing to support the purported findings of Gilligan and others. It does seem a simple solution that Sommers would suggest that boys just need moral guidance and discipline to help them navigate their lives; it's nothing new, but it does speak to the fact that we've thrown out the baby with the bath water when it comes to certain things that have worked in the lives of boys. I was disappointed, however, to note that Sommers didn't come to realize that boys need to learn interpesonal and intrapersonal nurturing skills, as well. Sommers would do well to do an expose of the reality that the lack of good father role models in the lives of boys has had a greater degree of damaging impact on their son's (and daughter's)lives. Revolving substitute boy friends as fathers in the lives of so many boys hasn't been working; men (fathers) need to work on their interpersonal and intrapersonal nurturing, communication, and problem solving skills that they might "stay" in the lives of their children where the greater "fatherly love" can affect the lives of their sons (and daughters). Thank Christian Hoff Sommers for a great book, it speaks with a thunderous roar!
on October 9, 2000
Sommers claims that boys (men) are now being unfairly discriminated against. Her proof? This alone: that girls get better grades and go to college more often than boys. What Sommers seems to ignore is that girls have always gotten better grades than boys -- in the heydey of male dominance AND in the current era. The difference between now and 50 years ago is that 50 years ago girls' grades would fall when they reached puberty. Many biological, deterministic explanations were given for this (of course!), mostly claiming that girls simply physically matured earlier (including their brains) so that when boys caught up with them physically, they also caught up and exceeded them intellectually (reaching their "natural" level as more intelligent than girls). Well, obviously those explanations are wrong. What probably caused girls to do poorly once they reached puberty was the knowledge that boys didn't like smart girls. It was even explicitly taught to girls: don't be smart or the boys won't like you. Sommers' book is based entirely on the fact that girls do better in school. Her assumption is that there is something wrong with our society's treatment of boys because they are doing worse. But here's another explanation: ADOLESCENT GIRLS ARE DOING BETTER THAN BOYS IN SCHOOL BECAUSE THEY ARE FINALLY REACHING THEIR FULL ACADEMIC POTENTIAL, NOT BECAUSE BOYS ARE SUDDENLY DOING WORSE IN SCHOOL. I don't know of any evidence that boys are doing worse in school than they did before the advent of feminism; girls are simply doing better. High school students who were given old SAT tests did BETTER than high school students did a generation or two ago. Kids are getting smarter, and that goes for boys as well as girls. Of course, this raises the interesting question of why girls are better than boys in school. That's a good research topic. But there's no reason to think that it has anything to do with feminism, since this difference was there way before feminism arose.
If Sommers wants to show that men are now being discriminated against, she needs to look at more than one arena, not just grades. Are the girls who get better grades actually earning more money when they graduate? If not, then all they got from their four years of college were a bunch of student loans and four years in which they didn't get any job experience.
A final thing that really bothered me about Sommers' book was a statement that is so reprehensible that she couched it in someone else's words. A friend of hers (or someone like that) said that women shouldn't complain about men because the great inventions, discoveries, etc. were done by men. The implication was that this was an innate difference. I thought "aha!" when I read this. I think that that's why Sommers (and many others) is so disturbed by boys doing worse than girls in school. She believes that boys really are superior, and if their natural affinities for aggression etc. are encouraged, then they will take over once again and lead civilization into greatness. Of course, if women never do anything important for the world, then it is a tragic waste if they do better in school. The people who are the movers and shakers aren't being trained for the job. Once again, women are pushed back into the role of being unimportant. I think it's great that girls have finally reached their potential in school. When will they reach their potential in the workplace? Not as long as people like Sommers have a secret belief that boys have superior qualities of strength and aggression which help them succeed in the world.
on June 6, 2000
With the pendulum of society swinging toward feminist ideals, it is easy to lose sight of the balance that our nation should strive to attain. In her book "The War Against Boys", Christina Hoff Sommers attempts to focus on the truth of the issues rather than the media hype which portrays girls as under-privileged citizens. Feminism is backed by a large group of people certain that women are getting the short end of the stick. Any evidence to the contrary is considered a threat to women, and is often silenced before it can be revealed. Even the "experts" are not immune from their own biased opinions, and as a result, we readers are often presented with shoddy research that supports untenable conclusions. Christina Hoff Sommers pokes some interesting holes in the feminist story. Hopefully this book can help slow the swing of the pendulum before it rises too far the other way, resulting in a community which is intolerant of boys and of masculinity. Of course the author has her own bias, but the truth is somewhere between the two opinions. Before you succumb to the popular idea that women are victims of society, read this book. If you are the parent of a boy, then definitely read this book.
on July 26, 2000
Christina Hoff Sommers craftfully refutes the new orthodoxy which asserts that girls are discriminated against in schools, and that boys should be encouraged to be more sensitive and nurturing. Sommers, using a wealth of data, shows that girls, in fact, do better in school, feel they are treated fairly more than boys do, sre less likely to be disciplined, are more likely to go on to college, etc. Even statistics that seem to favor boys are, in fact. skewed. For example, boys have slightly higher SAT scores than do girls. However, significantly more girls take the SATs. Boys who are likely to get lower scores don't take the test whereas girls, who are more likely to go to college, take the test even if they are at risk of getting lower scores. Therefore, the average SAT score for boys and girls give a false picture of how well girlas are actually doing relative to boys. Sommers also explodes the myth that boys are separated from maternal care too early to their detriment. In fact, Sommers demonstrates that a huge number of boys are raised without fathers and that it is a father figure who has a civilizing effect on young males. Sommers notes that normal, healthy male behavior is viewed as pathological. I heard Sommers interviewed on a radio show and she aptly pointed out, contrary to some viewpoints, boys involvement in cub scouts and little league does not make them potential batterers. These are activities that normal, healthy boys want to do, not the product of pressures of a patriarchal society. Sommers views alleged evidence supporting the new attitudes toward boys as part of a political agenda rather than the result of sound scientific research. I highly recommend this book.