on June 9, 2000
I am a 37-year-old professional female who was raised in an all-female modern feminist household. Thus, I have been taught the established feminist doctrines from a very early age. I consider myself intelligent, but I must admit I never questioned my beliefs, until I read this book by Ms. Hoff Sommers. I found a great deal of her arguments (dispelling how girls are targets of our sexist society) to simply make sense. I am grateful that my mind has been opened to look at women's issues in a fresh way, although I am uneasy in that I am more cynical of those for which I previously had naive trust. I admire the author's guts for challenging such entrenched concepts, because she is certain to face a lot of anger. I would recommend this book for those of you who are not afraid to confront and consider ideas contrary to traditional feminist assumptions.
I graduated from Indiana University in 1990 - just as the 'girls are fragile' movement was gaining momentum. I was taught the 'facts' that Sommers refers to in numerous in-services (for all of you non-teachers, in-services are attempts at teacher training in which a speaker comes and entertains or horrifies us with a speech that usually has little or no practical value - when I taught in the inner city it was usually the horrifying type: "these kids are all failing and blah-blah percent of them will end up dead or in jail and it's all because you didn't teach them how to multiply fractions or diagram a sentence correctly!").
Anyway, I did buy into some of the stuff about girls being fragile and being overrun in the classroom. I have heard the statistics Sommers skewers so completely and thoroughly and I swallowed many of them hook, line and sinker because it was early in my career and as a young person I foolishly believed that if a Harvard PhD researched the facts they must be right. As a more jaded professional, I appreciate Sommers' meticulously endnoted work.
She embarrasses the 'fragile girl' theorists by burying their under-researched (and sometimes un-researched) theories in a blizzard of relavent studies and facts from responsible and trusted sources (for example, I've had the '4 million women die from physical abuse from a man' stat thrown at me in a diversity seminar. Yes, verbally thrown at me - as if I were the man who personally beat them all to death! Well, if it happens again, I'm armed with the REAL facts from the Centers for Disease Control, thanks to Sommers).
Sommers overwhelmingly makes the point that our 'touchy-feely' self-esteem oriented schools are a great big turn-off to most of the boys. (in my experience as a high school teacher, the girls don't buy into it much either). Schools are not designed for most boys, especially as we take away physical activities and recesses. Male boisterousness is seen as wrong - a mental disorder and/or a sign of ADHD. Boys have to be medicated specifically for their built-in attributes that they possess as boys.
Special interest groups such as NOW and the ACLU will fight for the rights of women since they are oppressed, despite the fact that their grades are better, they are much less likely to be in special education classes (4-1 ratio of boys to girls), girls are more likely to go to college (55-60% of college students are female) and boys are much more likely to be punished in school than are girls.
As I read this book while enjoying the first few days of my Christmas Break from school I found myself resolved to take a look at how boys are treated in my class and in my school. I also found myself thinking of ways I can provide the specific needs of young men that Sommers' experts identify. I'll refer back to those recommendations often and make a few changes in my classroom and lobby for changes in the school.
***This is a must-read for any serious-minded and open-minded educational professional.
On a lighter note, why do publishers insist on using endnotes when footnotes are so much easier for the reader to access. Sommers' research was overwhelming - she should have proudly showcased it through the use of footnotes.
on October 19, 2000
Christina Hoff Sommers has finally articulated what I have felt over the years as I have watched my three sons (I am their father) go through school and now college. The problem with feminism 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 our sons, it is shameful.
Hoff Sommers' research demonstrates that our schools , disproportionatly influenced by biased (and all too frequently suspect) feminist theory, are clearly engaged in institutional male bashing. From chastizing 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 artifically inflating those of girls and young women, to minimizing the role and importance of the male role model (ie 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 girls's turn", though the boys who are being sacrificed had not a thing to do with past discrimination agains females. Query whether this would be the case if the shoe were on the other foot. 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 to 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 Hoff Sommers advocates. More important, though, is Hoff 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(I do find it interesting that if women engage in aggressive "male type" behavior feminists laud this, but not so for men. Imagine the praise Hillary would have received from women's groups if she had "invaded" Lazio's "space")
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.
on August 7, 2000
I have six children -- three of each. I just finished this book and it confirms the differences I noted between girls and boys. My daughters were not ignored in school and didn't have self-esteem problems. They were all excellent students and the rave of the teachers. The boys were ignored because they were bored with school and the teaching methods. They would have been better off in boys only classes with a different approach to teaching. Sommers' book confirms to me that we need more choice by parents to direct the education of there children. Parents who don't want the "girl power" version should be free to choose the school that best fits the needs of their child.
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 June 21, 2009
Whilst a review is, by nature, subjective, one has to say that if you have not awarded this outstanding treatise five stars, then you have probably either missed the point or possess insufficient intellectual faculty to conceive and rationalise the truth Hoff Sommers presents herein; which is essentially nothing short of a Doctoral thesis. In reality the laymen seldom reads academia and so that could detract somewhat from what is ultimately a compelling and above all a flawlessly researched academic text.
Although the text is, itself a little old, the central thesis and conjecture undoubtedly remain as relevant today as it was when it first hit the press nearly a decade ago, back in 2000. That thesis being that feminist (female supremacists, as they should be called) will stop at nothing to advance their perverse agenda. Be it distorting the facts, engaging in 'truthiness' or whatever means are employed to justify the end. This text gives an impartial blow-by-blow account of the methods, the movement and the main protagonists in what is ultimately a fascistic and wholly repugnant charade that masquerades as a genuine concern movement which has the concern of girls at its heart. What it fact has at its core is a manifesto of supremacy and domination, playing God with Darwinian evolution and the history of biological development.
Without revealing too much to the potential reader, all I should say is please read this text, check the research and the references for yourselves, do some further research and read a few more texts. Then with a clear head and a clear heart arrive at your own conclusion. A conclusion which any sane individual (who is devoid of an agenda) will reach, arriving at a place called disbelief.
I also recommend that any educator read this text, to see how you may be unwittingly contributing to the greater problem by your personal pedagogical philosophy and approach to classroom management. I personally found chapter eight 'The Moral Life of Boys' to be a real treat,
This book works for a number of reasons, amongst which I would include the following:
i) It is flawlessly researched
ii) Hoff Sommers is a REAL academic, a real intellectual who, despite also having an agenda, is clearly sane and rational in her conclusions and suggestions.
iii) Its structure, cohesion and central thesis are all articulate and concisely presented, the author is professional and largely impartial.
iv) It is relevant to anyone who has a child, especially a male child.
v) It will make the reader think and consider what they have just read and hopefully want to go out and validate those arguments.
To conclude, this is a superb book, an outstanding argument coherently and concisely put forth. Although it is real academia it is a quick read and does not alienate the non-academic reader.
on July 10, 2000
I think this book hits the nail right on the head: American boys ARE being neglected in school in favor of girls. I'm an 18 year old male that just graduated High School, and I know for a fact that girls are given more opportunity to succeed in school than are boys: ie, special girls-only classes, special attention to women's issues in the classroom, etc. According to the feminists that post here, (hmm... mostly from the People's Republic of Vermont...) if you don't believe in women first, women always, women only, you aren't a feminist. I think that women in our society are mistreated far too many times, but that kind of radical feminism is no longer necessary. For years feminists railed about equality, and then turn the other way when the roles are reversed. How hypocritical. Fortunately Ms. Sommers realizes both sides to the situation. Excellent read, I highly recommend.
Christina Hoff Sommers deserves a lot of credit for calling attention to an educational crisis afflicting American boys before it was common to do so. As the years have passed since this 2000 study, declining male matriculation and graduation rates have made it clear that, just as girls require special focus on their educational needs, so also do boys. At her best, Sommers acknowledges that educational success does not need to be a zero sum game: Both boys and girls should be supported and enabled to succeed in school; programs that acknowledge their individual learning styles and needs (e.g., single-sex education) can be part of a solution that benefits both sexes.
Instead, as Sommers points out, some (though perhaps not as many as she indicates) educational theorists arrogantly impose their own notions of ideal male behavior, an ideal that essentially feminizes young men, in the classroom, making guinea pigs of little boys by discouraging their natural exuberance, competitiveness, and physicality. I'm a mother of two sons who would have done better with more recess, so I could easily see the commonsense basis of her argument, though I'm sure one doesn't have to be the mother of boys to stand with her on this point. Since the publication of this book, it has become much more common to encounter criticism of the repression and even medication of normal boy behavior. Not only grade schools and high schools, but colleges and universities are increasingly concerned about underachieving young men. Sommers has played an important role in facilitating the conversation that has allowed us as a society to acknowledge and address this serious problem.
But even as Sommers attacks the feminist "save the males" movement, she substitutes one of her own, ultimately claiming with a certain arrogance herself that she is the one who truly understands not only the complexity of male identity but also the range of educational practices that can help to bring a young boy to full maturity as a man. Would that she would apply her "plea for reticence" (152) to herself. Instead, she argues nostalgically for a very traditional educational framework that not only imposes specified academic standards on our schools, but that also insists upon behavioral conformity. To my eye, the "eleven be's" that she promotes in chapter 8 ("The Moral Life of Boys") are no less idiosyncratic and academically limiting than the behavioral restrictions on boys with which she disagrees earlier.
This inconsistency becomes an increasing problem. "The War Against Boys" begins by attacking those who would cast all American boys under the shadow of the Columbine killers. As Sommers states straightforwardly, "This book tells the story of how it has become fashionable to attribute pathology to millions of healthy male children." By the end of the book, however, Sommers herself is manipulating the Columbine tragedy into serving as an object lesson in the improper "socialization" of the two male killers. Current educational practice, in this argument, underestimates the "barbarism" of young males, which according to Sommers must be tamed by a "directive moral education." The main difference here between Sommers and her opponents is that SHE gets to specify what that education will comprise.
Some readers will appreciate the pithy, hard-driving quality of the argument and the prose in this book. But much of that energy is purchased at the cost of caricaturing Sommers's opposition. Carol Gilligan, for example, really plays an outsize role here. For a moment in time, to be sure, she was an important feminist figure, but she never stood for all of feminism, and she was never as key a player in feminist pedagogy as Sommers makes her out to be. No book that addresses a complicated issue like this one should devote, as Sommers does, two full chapters to one straw (wo)man.
Still, there is no gainsaying the importance and underlying intelligence of this book, despite its flaws. Sommers had the courage to stand up to those who would suppress a generation of boys in the service of a flawed utopian ideal, and her courage gave strength to many who followed. I only wish that conservative critiques like this one did not feel the need to stand so hard on polemics.
on June 13, 2000
Christina Hoff Sommers not only has seen the obvious but has had the nerve to report it without diluting indirection. Consequently, she has written the sort of book that will not be understood, much less be acceptable, for at least another fifty years. These days, too many "authorities" devoted to the romantic, counterintuitive dogmas which flourish within the educational establishment either will ignore her or unite, as dunces, in confederacy against her. In actuality, she is like one of those prisoners released from Plato's Cave who have seen the truths outside and returned to their darkened former abode to set others free. As a disturber of complacency, she can hardly expect a friendlier welcome than such types normally receive. In actuality, though, she deserves the highest praise for being so gloriously free of our age's cant and selective indignation in educational matters.
on June 26, 2005
A cultural mutilation of boys is underway, psychologically molesting them as young as three, perpetrated by radical feminists, sanctioned by academic and government largesse. Sommers' book chronicles America's national, institutionalized, federally funded cold, heartless, systematic crusade against males with data, references, names and institutions.
Sommers opens with data refuting the "girl crisis" concocted by Harvard's Carol Gilligan and promoted by the AAUW (American Association of University Women) in 1990 based on a survey funded by them of 3000 children. The media jumped to action without considering critiques, conferences multiplied, academics weighed in and soon Congress was passing laws to guard our girls against scholastic underperformance, through some miracle of mental acrobatics making small boys responsible, targeted as the evil container of that Y-chromosome responsible for so much damage. As legal injury multiplied careful reexaminations of statically superior numbers (70,000, 99,000 and 100,000 children from 40 states) showed the opposite - that boys were most at risk, under performing in schools, ignored by teachers, feeling rejected by the system - the AAUW buried it, including their own data supporting these results from a later study. Instead they conference-coached teachers and gender activists: "There will always be [those] who will insist the Holocaust didn't happen." And of all the laughs, "...revisionists so distort facts [that their] take on history loses all semblance of reality." By this time the U.S. Department Of Education had become the strong-arm and money stream for the AAUW and its team - NOW, the Ms. Foundation, WEEA (Women's Educational Equity Act), the Wesley Center, NCSEE (National Coalition For Sex Equity In Education). Legislation rode the wave and now school boards live under terror of costly lawsuits laying claim to ready abuses of Title IX and the ludicrous notion that small boys are sexual "proto-predators" to be subjugated. Like the now infamous story of Jonathan Prevette who in 1996 kissed a female classmate, then was punished for sexual harassment. He was six years old. Sommers notes the boy who performed the ultimate outrage of hugging a girl. His parents were told his punishment was due to the fact "He's a toucher", at age three. In 1997 a Glebe Elementary nine-year-old was cuffed, fingerprinted and charged with aggravated sexual battery for rubbing against a girl when he reached for an apple in the lunch line. Such zealotry is a matter of the weekly news now. And all of it funded with US tax dollars, the DOEd approaching $100M funneled to the AAUW for more nonsense, the teacher's guide "Quit It!" and whole forests felled for the over 300 different pamphlets, books and working papers on gender equity by the hundreds of thousands crisscrossing the continent, hunting for those dangerous boys one day to be "males socialized to destructive masculine ideals".
Here's how the laws get changed by a legislature as ignorant of science as Katherine Hanson and her WEEA (funded by the DOEd) when she reported: "Every year nearly 4 million women are beaten to death; Violence is the leading cause of death among women; The leading cause of injury among women is being beaten by a man at home; There was a 59% increase in rapes between 1990 and 1991". 59%? In one year? As Sommers notes, Hanson's first claim requires 11,000 women beaten to death per day. Wouldn't somebody notice? Not even the Taliban could commit such crimes. The FBI shows 3631 women were murdered in the same year - tragic, but slightly short of 4 million, by a multiplicative factor of 1100. The leading cause of death among women is heart disease (370,000), followed by cancer (250,000). Hanson is right about one thing, rapes did increase, but by 4%, just shy of 59. Perhaps she's refering to Ms. Magazine's study claiming 25% of all college girls as rape victims (even though they didn't know it) or Linda Ledray who tells us that even undress-you-looks and cat-calls are rapes. Such is the fodder to this day at Ms Magazine's website and others where telling the truth is somehow "insensitive to victims" (but in fact a threat to the money tree and their ruthless power).
What's happening to boys is played out at our universities under the guise of speech codes (The Shadow University) and Women's Studies where girls are unnecessarily scared senseless of males then learn to despise them as threats (Feminism And Domination), all the while as boys vanish from campus. As the PBS News Hour's Clarence Page said in his essay (March/05), noting the failure of young men in school, at jobs and relationships as young women excel, "The problem with we men is we're not women." The problem with Page and his elites is we are not allowing boys to be men, as they are ignored, vilified and grow up ingesting sit-coms and TV commercials that portray males as animals, vulgar, aimless fools with a woman in the background to save them from their monstrosities. The war against boys will give us just what we're getting, disaffected males laden with rage for reasons they can't even articulate. Sommers' book compiles the obvious into a critical mass.