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The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men Hardcover – June, 2000

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Editorial Reviews Review

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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (June 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684849569
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684849560
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.9 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (166 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #230,741 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

313 of 347 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 9, 2000
Format: Hardcover
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.
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247 of 276 people found the following review helpful By DWD's Reviews VINE VOICE on December 26, 2005
Format: Paperback
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.
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210 of 243 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 19, 2000
Format: Hardcover
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.
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55 of 64 people found the following review helpful By Sherman L. Doll on August 7, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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.
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