Summary and book reviews of The War Against Boys by Christina Hoff Sommers

The War Against Boys

How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men

by Christina Hoff Sommers

The War Against Boys
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2000, 256 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2001, 256 pages

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Book Summary

Sommers says that boys do need help, but not the sort they've been getting. They need love, discipline, respect, moral guidance and understanding. They do not need to be rescued from masculinity.

It's a bad time to be a boy in America. As the century drew to a close, the defining event for American girls was the triumph of the U.S. women's soccer team. For boys, the symbolic event was the mass killing at Columbine High School.

It would seem that boys in our society are greatly at risk. Yet the best-known studies and the academic experts say that it's girls who are suffering from a decline in self-esteem. It's girls, they say, who need extra help in school and elsewhere in a society that favors boys. The problem with boys is that they are boys, say the experts. We need to change their nature. We have to make them more like...girls.

These arguments don't hold up to scrutiny, says Christina Hoff Sommers in this provocative, fascinating book. She analyzes the work of the leading academic experts, Carol Gilligan and William Pollack, and finds it lacking in scientific rigor. There is no girl crisis, says Sommers. Girls are outperforming boys academically, and girls' self-esteem is no different from boys'. Boys lag behind girls in reading and writing ability, and they are less likely to go to college.

The "girl crisis" has been seized upon by some feminists and has been suffused with sexual politics. Under the guise of helping girls, many schools have adopted policies that penalize boys, often for simply being masculine. Sommers says that boys do need help, but not the sort they've been getting. They need help catching up with girls academically. They need love, discipline, respect, and moral guidance. They desperately need understanding. They do not need to be rescued from masculinity.

Chapter One: Where the Boys Are
The Myth of the Fragile Girl

In 1990, Carol Gilligan announced to the world that America's adolescent girls were in crisis. In her words, "As the river of a girl's life flows into the sea of Western culture, she is in danger of drowning or disappearing." Gilligan offered little in the way of conventional evidence to support this alarming finding. Indeed, it is hard to imagine what sort of empirical research could establish so large a claim. But Gilligan quickly attracted powerful allies. Within a very short time the allegedly fragile and demoralized state of American adolescent girls achieved the status of a national emergency.

I will be subjecting Gilligan's research on girls and boys to extensive analysis in later chapters. She is the matron saint of the girl crisis movement. Gilligan, more than anyone else, is cited as the academic and scientific authority conferring respectability on the claims that American girls are being psychologically ...

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Media Reviews

Booklist - Mary Carroll

Sommers argues cogently that boys are having major problems in school that must be addressed, but she may not convince all readers these problems are caused by the American Association of University Women, Carol Gilligan, Mary Pipher, and William Pollack. Her analysis of research on girls' adolescent loss of self-esteem reveals empirical inadequacies, and most readers will probably agree that some feminist teaching approaches are pretty silly. Ultimately, however, Sommers is as much of a crisismonger as those she critiques. It's a centuries-long struggle reformers who seek a different approach to gender socialization expect schools to help improve society; Sommers wants them to teach kids how to fit into the society we already have. In place of the feminists' Rousseauian philosophy of ethical romanticism, Sommers prescribes directive moral or character education, instilling a sense of responsibility and civility in all children, but particularly boys.

Kirkus Reviews

A sharp study that raises troubling questions about the integrity of the research underlying much current educational polemic--and the policies that these polemics have inspired

Reader Reviews

Mr. Ali Saberi

Hi ,

This is Ali , an English teacher in Iran .
I guess Dr . Sommer's book is defending boys from being labled as the " second sex ".

Frank

If you have a son or sons, this book will coalesce your feelings and provide moral support. For every meeting where your son's teacher explains patiently that he is not meeting his potential, you can ask the appropriate questions about the material ...   Read More

Rebecca

This book shows how what's really going on with our young people, especially boys. It has firm facts to dissprove any and all critics, and shows some of the awful things that are being done to our young men, along with solutions that are proven to ...   Read More

Lyndsay

It took everything in my power to read this book. Sommers opinions are all partial and not interesting.

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