Washington author Christina Hoff Sommers has a chip on her shoulder. Much of The War Against Boys—her first book since the controversial Who Stole Feminism?—attacks a series of American Association of University Women reports, “How Schools Shortchange Girls.” Another chunk criticizes Harvard scholar Carol Gilligan, who found that girls “lose themselves” in adolescence; Sommers even questions whether Gilligan has data to back up her research.
She goes on in a fruitless attempt to prove that boys and girls are inherently different and not raised “gendered.” This debate is alive and well in academia, but Sommers is foolish to think she can settle it by rehashing other people’s studies.
Her assertion that an entire body of research was “made up” to bring boys down borders on paranoia. Gilligan’s findings and Mary Pipher’s popular book Reviving Ophelia are pummeled and pummeled until Sommers makes her final point: Girls are doing great. This may be true. But it’s hard to trust someone who instead of conducting her own studies looked at raw data such as grade-point averages and percentages of women attending college.
Boys do need help, but Sommers’s claim that feminists are conspiring to take away their masculinity does them no good. The media, the government, and school officials latch on to the girl-as-victim mentality for a reason: Research backs it up.
The War Against Boys is good party-conversation material, but little more.
Christina Hoff Sommers
Simon & Schuster