The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism is Harming Our Young Men
by Christina Hoff Sommers
Reviewed by Rabbi A. Shneur Horowitz, M.D., Ph.D.

Three books have been published in the last few years which bear potential to begin re-molding the present cultural view of younger people in a way more beneficial to them and to those who love them. This overall attitude, called a “discourse” by phenomenologists, powerfully determines what people in general conceive of as the “nature” of children. A new or changed discourse often emerges first among the educated classes, and then gradually “filters down” and spreads to include nearly everyone. The inane reaction to Rind-Tromovitch-Bauserman convinced me more than ever that the fundamental pathology of this society is antipathy towards children themselves, and that the genocidal pursuit of boy lovers is, to a significant extent, “collateral damage” in a war to degrade, dehumanize, and continue the subjugation of young persons.

The first book of the trio is Judith Harris’s The Nurture Assumption. That book’s thesis, if taken seriously, breaks the putative strangle-hold of parents over the future personalities of their offspring, and shifts the locus of that control onto the children themselves, their distinct child-culture, and the associates whom they in part choose as “peers.” The second book is the present one, and the third is Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate.  Christina Hoff Sommers is a philosopher and polemicist, who now focuses her disenchantment with the “women’s movement,” previously elaborated in Who Stole Feminism? upon a largely successful, and totally spurious, campaign to represent girls as culturally “disadvantaged,” and to enlist the educational system, public and private, in turning the tables on supposedly overrated and overprivileged boys.

The author presents her charge clearly in her Preface:

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.... That boys are in disrepute is not accidental:... for many years women’s groups have been complaining that boys are benefiting from a school system that favors boys and is biased against girls.... The research commonly cited to support the claims of male privilege and sinfulness is riddled with errors,... yet the false picture remains and is dutifully passed along in schools of education, in ‘gender equity workshops,’ and increasingly to children themselves.
Thus, Sommers hails boys’ inherent masculine characteristics, their “boy-ness” if you will, and decries the feminists’ attempts to destroy it. “The belief that boys are being wrongly ‘masculinized’ is inspiring a movement to ‘construct boyhood’ in ways that will render boys less competitive, more emotionally expressive, more nurturing – more, in short, like girls.” Sadly, the author is not yet quite brave enough to name boys’ sexuality among their defining attributes, but I suspect it too was in her thoughts. One hardly can adopt a position of allowing and facilitating “boys to be boys” without accepting that sex and sex play are integral to who they are.

Part of what makes this book important reading is that Sommers competently attacks, as she did in her first book, the “junk science” that underpins much of the persecution of both boys and boy lovers, and that maintains an entire pseudoacademic community of faux-scholars, with their own organizations, journals, and copious meetings. Nobel chemistry prize-winner Irving Langmuir called this “pathological science,” or “the science of things that aren’t so.” Those of us reading this publication in prisons are painfully aware of how such effluvium can create and support a discourse of demonization. The author discusses past misuse of academic disciplines to reinforce women’ s inferior social position, and declaims: ‘‘The corrective to that shameful history is not more bad science and rancorous philosophy; it is good science and clear thinking about the rights of all individuals, however they may differ.” Well, we won’t disagree with that, but would she apply it to us?

To me, the link between feminist attacks on boys and hatred of youth-oriented adults is clear. “Getting boys to be more like girls means getting them to stop segregating themselves into all-male groups. That’s the darker, coercive side of the project to ‘free’ boys from their masculine straitjackets.” How much more so, then, must these “equity specialists” fear and loathe the erotic pair-bond between a boy and a man, which results in the boy identifying with and incorporating his mentor’s masculinity, and definitively excludes other, feminizing influences. Sommers recognizes that “anyone in close contact with [boys] gets daily proof of most boys’ humanity, loyalty, and compassion.” Anathema, then, to the feminizers must be a boy’s most intense and uncompromising expression of those enviable traits toward a man who has taken a special interest in his welfare, development, and pleasure.

Unfortunately, in her final analysis, Christina Hoff Sommers vacillates on her principles of individualism and respect when it comes to children. She properly condemns the “promoters of ‘gender fairness’” as being “far too reckless with the truth, far too removed from the precincts of common sense, and far too negative about boys.” She accuses them of “tampering with children’s individuality [and] intruding on their privacy.” She asserts that ‘‘most children respond to and respect civility and good manners." However, that old undercurrent of denigrating mistrust is still there, even in this stalwart crusader for dignity and individuality. After all the preceding, she then blames the Supreme Court’s modest extension of constitutional protections to children during the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, most of which have anyway been rescinded by now, for the “diminished… power of teachers to enforce order and discipline.

While it is correct that “if [children’s] own manners are wanting, it is because so little is expected (much less demanded) of them,” it is incorrect to equate “demands” with the use of force to obtain compliance. Neither children nor anyone else learns morality from being coerced to behave morally. When Aristotle said that we learn to be good by practicing being good, what he meant was practicing choosing the good. There is no incompatibility between setting high standards of behavior or teaching in a directive no-nonsense manner, and respecting children’s rights. Children study karate, join choirs, train in gymnastics, and in general apprentice themselves enthusiastically and completely voluntarily to many appealing endeavors that are inherently quite authoritarian. If schools are not enticing and stimulating places, if contrariwise they are “rife with incivility, profanity, and bullying... – a nightmare for many children,” then that is their fault, not the children’s. As this writer knows only too well, being committed for twelve years or more to an institution where one gets no respect, into the governance of which one has no input, and where choosing to opt out is a criminal offense, is enough to make anybody bitter and rather nasty.

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