Christina Hoff Somers on the Boys in the Back.

In fact, Dr. Somers is the step-mother of a colleague of mine, and so I won’t dwell on the possible motives for her friendly voice for feminism in today’s NY Times. It would be very mean to suggest she has her eye on sales of the book she is about to reissue. (That book is called The War Against boys.) So let me just note that she relays some interesting ideas about why boys do less well in school than girls, as it seems. She does seem to think its due to universally shared male characteristics, like being feckless and lazy.

As our schools have become more feelings-centered, risk-averse, collaboration-oriented and sedentary, they have moved further and further from boys’ characteristic sensibilities. Concerns about boys arose during a time of tech bubble prosperity; now, more than a decade later, there are major policy reasons — besides the stale “culture wars” of the 1990s — to focus on boys’ schooling.

We addressed the research behind the idea that boys and girls have brains fundamentally different in the way Somers described. Cordelia Fine, who will be speaking at the Central APA in a few weeks, has recently made the idea even more implausible.

Still, we can probably all get behind her closing sentence: The rise of women, however long overdue, does not require the fall of men.

8 thoughts on “Christina Hoff Somers on the Boys in the Back.

  1. Heck, I’m feckless and lazy, and I screwed up in school. Sommers a few years ago phoned me, as I was cooking dinner and has a few glasses of wine, and tried to interview me without telling me what she was doing. When I finally figured out I told her that I’d sue her if she quoted me in her then forthcoming book, whether with or without my name.

    I’m furious at her. My feminism is simple. I hate being a woman. I want the stuff that men have, in particular, manual labor as a fallback position. Sex roles constrain us all because they make it difficult or impossible for men and woman that don’t fit their assigned roles. If I were 6 inches taller I’d have had a sex-change operation. But I don’t thing people should need to mutilate their bodies to live the lives to which they’re best suited.

    I am a woman. I am a heterosexual woman. I just like to to guy stuff and I believe that feminism is the business of organizing life so that we can do whatever we please regardless of our bodies.

  2. On the way the post ends: I only partly agree that equality is not a zero sum game. Some of the gains of women don’t have to come at the cost of men. However, given the systems of oppression, men have so many advantages that removing these systems and introducing equality will result in the loss of some avenues of unfair advantage, which can be seen as a ‘loss’ to men. But it’s a *FAIR* loss because it was an unfair advantage in the first place.

    So on the whole, I disagree with the closing sentence of the post: lots of the gains of women will come at the cost of men, but things like scholastic performance is *NOT* one of them. Things like privilege are, though.

  3. Nice observation, Rachel. I think I took ‘the fall’ to refer to things men do or should have fairly.

    It might be hard to separate out what’s fair. I wonder if we should discuss that here? Perhaps we already do.

  4. Excellent point made by Rachel above. If boys get more than their share of anything and it becomes possible for a fair distribution, then they will in fact lose. I think this is very important to point out and then to follow with the question of whether we actually really want liberty and justice for all. I have relied on a story told by Anita Hill in her talks about a second grade teacher who was determined to call on the girls equally with the boys so she kept track. It was a matter of just a few days before the boys began saying she was discriminating against them but what in fact was going on was actual equality. So if a privileged person has to share equally, there is a loss.

  5. Kathryn,
    Rachel McK raised the question of getting femphils together at the central APA. I wish I had responded more enthusiastically, but there’s no money, etc. now I’m thinking maybe we could use a smoker for getting together.

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