Feminists' Prejudice Hurts Boys
by Isabel Lyman
30 June 2000
Boys are sooo bad. Packs of males grope females in Central Park; others celebrate NBA championships by rioting; still others shoot fellow students.
Some are barbarians, no doubt. But there are also the heroes who come to the rescue of the groped women and gunned-down pupils. Understanding how to curb the destructive tendencies of Mr. Hyde-acting males into calmer Dr. Jekylls is a never-ending quest for parents, police officers, clergy, and educators.
One social critic has joined the cadre of concerned citizens by offering a new twist to a centuries-old problem by arguing that hard-line feminists harbor an anti-boy prejudice that is aggravating their adjustment problems.
Christina Hoff Sommers' just-released book, The War Against Boys - How Misguided Feminism is Harming Our Young Men, is as controversial as her previous work, Who Stole Feminism? - How Women Have Betrayed Women. Sommers, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, blames women's advocacy organizations, like The Ms. Foundation and the American Association of University Women, for exacerbating uncivil behavior in boys by advancing fables about male privilege.
In her words, 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.
Sommers, a former Clark University philosophy professor, builds an airtight case against public school programs designed by gender equity experts. These busybodies' mission is to rescue girls from becoming Ophelia the victim, while attempting to turn boys into wusses. To boost the girls' self-esteem, boys are prohibited from romping and competitive play. Case in point: the kindergarten boys who were suspended from a New Jersey school for pretending to be cops and robbers at recess.
Boys are also discriminated against with Take Our Daughters to Work Day. Teachers' assignments routinely probe students' feelings on any given topic. Thanks to this type of institutionalized nonsense, boys drop out or are expelled from school in higher numbers. Male students are also three times more likely to be enrolled in special education programs.
Concurrently, Sommers exposes the sloppy research advanced by girl-crisis advocates, like Harvard University professor Carol Gilligan and clinical psychologist Mary Pipher, that the fairer sex is cheated by a partriarchal education system. In reality, boys may dominate in sports, but girls make better grades, take more Advanced Placement courses and are likelier to attend college. Given that the majority of school personnel are females, it seems that martriarchs, not partriarchs, run the schools.
Sommers applauds academic programs which allow boys to be boys. British educators, she notes, are experimenting with all-boy classes where adventure tales with male heroes and war poetry are read. In Baltimore, one inner-city elementary school holds all-boy classes taught by men who favor a traditional fare of phonics and grammar, as well as sports-oriented math problems.
Sommers has launched a one-woman blitzkrieg against the advances of the leaders on the front lines of the gender politics war. Her book contains valuable information for parents of sons, as well as taxpayers who fund the government schools. If the theories of the Gilligan et al. are a sham, as Sommers' information from the National Center for Education Statistics indicates, then it's unethical to foist this propaganda upon impressionable children. Further, American students' education should not be compromised by social engineers who are either too dumb or too lazy to offer them a traditional, liberal arts education.
I have, however, one reservation about Sommers' book: her belief that by implementing the British method or the Baltimore method or any other method, then boys' masculinity will remain intact and their interest in schooling will not wane.
Frankly, a good chunk of the teenaged-male population have no business remaining in the sit-still-and-be-quiet classroom, whether it's a former Marine or disciple of Gloria Steinem who's in charge. A restless, young guy should not be force-fed an education by adults who feel obligated to hand him a high school diploma, no matter what the cost. That mindset is a disservice to teens who would be more productive working at a job or doing volunteer work. Unfortunately, compulsory attendance laws, which should be loosened, limit a universe of choices for kids who just aren't meant to be institutionalized in a school on a daily basis.
Still, Christina Hoff Sommers, a mother of sons herself, is a sensible, savvy apologist on behalf of the significant differences between boys and girls. She deserves the last word: Boys need discipline, respect, and moral guidance. Boys need love and tolerant understanding. They do not need to be pathologized.
This column appeared in The Daily Hampshire Gazette on June 30, 2000.
Isabel Lyman lives in Edmond, Oklahoma. A former editorial columnist for the Daily Hampshire Gazette of Northampton, Massachusetts, her views have appeared in various national publications, including the Wall Street Journal and Investors Business Daily. She may be contacted via e-mail by clicking here.
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