Society and stereotypes affect the way children develop their ideas and, consequently it has a major effect in their futures. Opposed to that, Christina Hoff Sommers present her article “The War Against Boys” arguing that boys are facing a crisis that is directly affecting their scores in school, their propensity to violence and crime and their lack of motivation to go to college. According to her, the ones to blame are the feminist efforts to promote girls and create programs to boost their academic careers. These efforts are doing more than just improve girls’ performance in school; they are harming boys by diverting the attention from them. As a direct response to Sommers’ article, Michael Kimmel expresses his opposition with his article “A War Against Boys?” which refutes Sommers’ ideas of misguided feminism, and offers a different insight to the crisis that boys are facing. Kimmel effectively refutes Sommers’ article by offering different points of view and distinctive propositions to why boys are facing a crisis. Kimmel criticizes Sommers’ outdated idea of masculinity being naturally violent and aggressive. According to Sommers, “every society confronts the problem of civilizing young males” (Sommers 99). By saying “civilizing”, Sommers automatically admits that there is a problem with masculinity that needs to be changed. If it needs to be changed, it’s because it is not something positive, but instead a flaw. In direct response to Sommers’ statement, Michael Kimmel replies: “Are we not also hard-wired for compassion, nurturance, love? (Kimmel 104) Kimmel challenges Sommers idea of such an outdated ideology of boys being uncivilized, violent and aggressive. Those traits that Sommers mentions are not used anymore as adjectives for boys; Sommers is being politically incorrect by generalizing boys. Kimmel contradicts Sommers statement in which she states that Misguided Feminism is the cause that boys are lagging behind in school and overall academic programs. As she puts it, “The idea that schools and society grind girls down has given rise to an array of laws and policies intended to curtail the advantage boys have and to redress the harm done to girls” (Sommers 87) . Sommers intends to say that Feminist efforts to promote girls’ development has been taken to an extreme where boys are being left behind. Girls are provided with more help than they need because of that idea of them as the weak sex, but this extra help is in fact, harming boys’ development. In the contrary, Kimmel exposes Sommers’ error by refuting her idea that misguided feminism is the reason for boys to be lagging behind is school, he states: “The ideology of traditionally masculinity…keeps boys from wanting to succeed” (Kimmel 105). Opposite to what Sommers is saying, Kimmel points out a different idea that has even more validity. Boys are being driven by society’s definition of masculine. How the people around boys expect them to act is key in boys’ developmental characteristics. For instance, masculinity is erroneously defined as that idea of boys being aggressive, brave, competitive, and violent. And boys are trying to fit in this definition to achieve the recognition of society as real boys. Anything that has to do with being compassionate or nurture would take away that recognition of them as real boys. Kimmel successfully opposes Sommers’ idea by stating another indicator of boys not doing as good as girls. It has a different point of view and gives the reader a broader explanation of the facts. Sommers does not account for real issues related to gender inequality in the workplace, which Kimmel criticizes and successfully explains. In his article, Kimmel quotes sociologist Cynthia Fuchs Epstein on “deceptive distinction” (qtd. in Kimmel 103), which refers to “a difference that appears to be about gender but is actually about something else.” (qtd. in Kimmel 103). In his article, Kimmel explains how in many occasions the differences between males and females have nothing to do with feminist efforts to alter the gap between genders, but with other factors. As an example Kimmel says: “A college educated woman earns about the same as a high school educated man” (Kimmel 103). In this case, the example that is being used is the workplace. The opportunities open for women are very different of those open for men. To extend Kimmel’s illustration, the positions open for men after high school are in construction, plumbing, and industrial areas. Considering the wages offered in those positions, there is a quite large gap when comparing it to the ones girls are offered. Those positions available for girls after high-school are mostly in retail, or as a secretary, and the salaries in those areas are very close if not equal to the minimum wage. There is quite a huge difference between the wages that girls can aspire to with a high-school diploma than of those that boys can obtain with the same degree of education. Kimmel, once again offers a different perspective, not focusing on feminist efforts as Sommers does throughout her essay, but explaining factual ideas directly related to the doses of reality people of both genders face every day. Kimmel points out the error made my Sommers by quoting one her sources: Gloria Steinem, incorrectly and out of context. In her essay, Sommers criticized Gloria Steinem’s idea that parents should “raise boys like we raise girls” (qtd. in Sommers 99), by saying that her statement is completely “disrespectful of boys” (Sommers 99) because it would mean to take away characteristics that are natural in boys’ behavior. On the contrary, Kimmel explains how Sommers is misusing the quotation, and corrects her by correctly quoting Steinem: “we’ve begun to raise our daughters more like sons—so now women are whole people. But fewer of us have the courage to raise our sons more like daughters” (qtd. in Kimmel 106). The real meaning behind Steinem’s quote is that, if people look around, the evolution of women is tremendous. Now, girls have more opportunities as going to school, get involved in the workplace, choose their ideas of life etc. The new way of raising a girl is not focused on her getting a good husband as it used to be in the last century. Now, parents have shown their daughters to be sweet but also confident, nurture but ambitious, caring but with a good personality. Girls have been taught to get out of the stereotype. On the opposite side, boys are still trying to fit into that old ideal of masculinity which expects boys to be violent, brave and aggressive and to hide feelings and emotions. And comparing both sides, girls are living the best of both worlds while boys are still trying to live up to the same conception of masculinity. Steinem’s intention which Kimmel favorably approves is to teach boys how to incorporate those traits called feminine and that are looked as wrong in a boy’s personality and help them beat the stereotypes. By clarifying Steinem’s quotation, Kimmel is successfully refuting her idea that boys should not be raised as girls because that is insulting, instead he offers a different input that entirely contradicts Sommers argument. Kimmel contradicts Sommers’ advice on how to solve the boys’ crisis. Sommers finds that misguided feminism is the problem that is harming boys to the extent that they are doing poorly in school, sliding towards crime and having smaller expectation of their future. As a direct solution to that problem, she suggests: “We should repudiate the partisanship that currently clouds the issues surrounding sex differences in the schools…we can longer allow the partisan of girls to write the rules” (Sommers 100). As a fact, she is empowering the idea that if the feminist efforts get ignored and eventually eliminated, then the problems on sexual inequality that schools face are going to be solved. Fair treatment for both sexes is necessary, but it is a condition that is not sufficient. Kimmel provides a different insight, arguing that in order to get boys out of this abysm, there is a need to “address the cultural-not natural-equation of masculinity and anti-intellectualism” (Kimmel 105). Putting his previous points together, Kimmel delivers a better proposal which attacks outdated chauvinist ideologist that prevent boys from succeeding in school. An end to the feminist efforts to aid girls is not synonym for ending the gap in gender equality. There is a need to take further action and eliminate the ideology that men do not cry or that men do not do homework because it is a waste of time. Change is what is needed, but the kind of change Sommers is proposing will fail to accomplish gender equality in schools. Now, as Kimmel proposes, the change of mentality in society would have a greater impact in the way boys behave. Kimmel offers a different stand point from what Sommers is saying, which provides a broader understanding of this crisis and better analyses the causes and solutions to such problem. Boys are facing a crisis, but the reasons behind can be found behind the outdated and old ideology that is embedded in the mentality of society. As Kimmel points out, there is more to it than just feminist efforts. There needs to be a change and that change does not mean that boys should reject their masculinity, but instead embrace femininity. Parents should them how to become men able to get out of the stereotype box and adopt some traits that are seen as feminine, but that will help them become better fathers, sons and spouses. Sommers’ approach focuses on blaming misguided feminism for harming boys while favoring girls in every aspect, and giving origin to the boy crisis. But looking at the big picture, as Kimmel does, allows the reader to have a more profound and broader reflection of such crisis.
“A War Against Boys?”: An Analysis of the Causes Behind the Boys’ Crisis.
By Grethel Jarquin
Monday, November 25, 2013