Hail the Contrarian
I recently read over Christina Hoff Sommers‘ “The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism is Harming Our Young Men” and I came to a conclusion, it is bold. Sommers, a self described “Equity Feminist“, attempts to debunk “The Myth of the Fragile Girl” in her book with statistical findings, research, and simple facts.
Sommers tells us how the “myth” started, explains how and why it was supported, and why it should be reconsidered. Sommers argues that research showing that girls were “shortchanged” in Western society causing them to have a poor self image and fragile self-esteem is inaccurate and did more harm than good.
Sommers says that, in general, if either gender is foundering, it is the males. The reaction to studies claiming that girls were treated unfairly, she says, caused boys to be seen “as the unfairly privileged gender and as obstacles on the path to gender justice for girls.” Sommers goes on to say that “the more girls are portrayed as diminished, the more boys are regarded as needing to be taken down a notch and reduced in importance. This perspective on boys and girls is promoted in schools of education, and many a teacher now feels that girls need and deserve special indemnifying consideration.” Sommers argues that instead of creating an equality between the genders, the reaction to the studies caused the generally more proficient females to be held in even higher regards and the generally less successful males to be further scorned. In short, the best conditions got better and the worst conditions got worse.
In response to Dr. Patricia O’Reilly’s observation that “It is really clear that boys are no. 1 in this society and in most of the world,” Sommers quipped “It may be “clear,” but it isn’t true.” She explained that “If we… look objectively at the relative condition of boys and girls in this country, we find that it is boys, not girls, who are languishing academically. At the very time the AAUW was advertising its discovery… the Department of Education published the results of a massive survey showing just the opposite.” Sommers went on to say that in 1997 there were 4,493 total suicides of people between five and twenty-four years old. Out of those 4,493, 701 were female and 3,792 were male. If the females are so fragile and have such a low self esteem from being repressed in culture, why is are the males the gender with the largest number of suicides?
Sommers searched and found that “Students who dominate the drop-out list, the suspension list, the failure list and other negative indices of non-achievement in school are males at a wide ratio.” as a Pennsylvanian High School Principal that she asked put it. Sommers tell of how she met with the President of the Board of Education of Atlanta, Georgia. When she asked him “Who is faring better in Atlanta’s schools, boys or girls?” he did not hesitate in his response of “Girls, [in] just about any area you can mention.”
Sommers tells the story of a school in which the “girl-crisis climate” affected it deeply. She says that the school’s Gender Equity Committee presented the “standard girls-are-being-shortchanged fare” but mentioned it had one major difference in that one male student gave a presentation suggesting the exact opposite siting statistics that showed girls being “well ahead of boys.” The student’s presentation was responded to with disbelief until one of the faculty members, David Greene, reviewed and analyzed his recent grade reports and realized that, upon comparing it with his colleagues’ findings, the student was correct. ”They found that in Advanced Placement social studies classes, there was little or no difference in grades between boys and girls. But in standard classes, the girls were doing a lot better. Greene also learned… that its girls’ sports teams were far more successful in competition… than the boys’ teams were.”
She tells that “Greene came away with a picture flatly at odds with the administrators’ preconception: one of ambitious girls and relatively disaffected boys who were willing to settle for mediocrity.” If thinking that the reason boys aren’t succeeding is due to their own unwillingness to try rather than unfair treatment isn’t sexism then what is?