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Jewish World Review May 9, 2000/ 4 Iyar, 5760

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker
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Consumer Reports


Finding out where the boys are --
"SAVE THE MALES" was a moderately cute bumper sticker, once upon a time. Now it's a mandate.

Not for men, necessarily. I trust that most men can fend for themselves. But for years -- ever since becoming the mother of a boy -- I've worried about the new, Y-chromosome crop. Through maternal instinct, I've ``known" that the level playing field to which we aspired has become a farce.

Predictably, the pendulum of cultural correction went too far and now needs to come back toward center. Which is to say, girls are winning; boys are losing. Boys deserve -- and now desperately need -- saving.

In recent years, as girls have moved ahead in every field but sports -- and they're making huge, deserved strides there, too -- boys increasingly have slipped through the cracks. A few for-instances: Girls perform better in school; more women than men go to college; more women than men go to graduate schools; more boys than girls are diagnosed with childhood and adolescent health and behavioral problems; boys succeed more often at suicide, though girls try more often. And then there's Columbine et al.

Yet, we continue to hear that girls are doing badly. We continue to read headlines about girls losing their self-esteem, about girls being ignored in science class, about girls with eating disorders.

In selected cases, these stories are surely true. But in the main, according to studies that never made the news-media metamorphosis from research to throat-clutching headline, girls are well-adjusted, happy and thriving. Can we say the same about boys?

Not according to Christina Hoff Sommers, author of a new book in which she answers the question in profound and certain terms. In The War Against Boys, Sommers confirms what many of us have known in our mother-son souls. Using data rather than anecdote, she explains how the inequality myths came to be, why we embrace them despite our own contrary evidence and how we came to doubt our instincts.

By tracing each story to its roots -- to the original study, the original author, the original news-media reporting -- Sommers skillfully exposes how reality gets buried by myths that satisfy the moment.

Sommers also uncovers the studies you didn't hear about, the studies that might have diluted the mind-set that girls have been shafted.

For example, in 1982, at the same time a famous Harvard gender researcher was declaring that girls were drowning in the sea of Western culture, another University of Michigan study was finding that girls were pretty happy. Interviewing 3,000 scientifically selected high-school seniors, the researchers asked boys and girls whether, taking all things together, they were ``very happy, pretty happy or not too happy these days."

A whopping 86 percent of the girls and 88 percent of boys said they were ``pretty happy" or ``very happy.`` If these girls were drowning, Sommers writes, they didn't know it.

Sommers offers numerous such examples. If one were to summarize her findings, it would go something like this: The majority of studies conducted by agenda-driven ideologues often were poorly conducted, of small sample size, weren't peer-reviewed or published, and often disappeared so that other social scientists couldn't examine the hard data -- all sins against acceptable scientific protocol.

Yet, their findings made it into mainstream group-thought and persist because they suit the prevailing agenda that girls need extra attention.

The fallout from the propagation of such myths includes unnecessary or over-reaching laws and policies that have benefited girls at the expense of boys. More important -- and far more sinister -- they have contributed to a cultural attitude that makes boys feel that they're to blame for society's short-changing girls.

That's a burden no boy should have to bear. It'a a lie no society should tolerate.

JWR contributor Kathleen Parker can be reached by clicking here.


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04/14/00: Boys should be boys, not viewed as criminals in training
04/11/00: Oh, for a standard of what is socially, morally acceptable
04/06/00: Womyn's Contempt for Commitment --- and the bastards it creates
04/04/00: Sue-happy American society is out of control
03/30/00: Duct-taped baby serves as warning
03/28/00: Stay-home parents know that their kids need them
03/24/00: No 'Great Expectations' when schools shun the classics
03/21/00: It's common sense to restrict Internet usage in libraries
03/17/00: You want to be just a mom? For shame!
03/14/00: Colonoscopy: Important, but bad TV
03/10/00: I made a mistake about trigger-locks
03/08/00: After this school shooting, no easy target for our contempt
03/03/00: Car crash helps bridge our divide
02/28/00: Nasty politics? Americans like it down, dirty
02/14/00: College testing via Lego-building -- yeah, right
02/02/00: Bubba should spare us phony love theatrics
01/26/00: What sets off Those Who Speak for Women
01/13/00: Fools in love: Premarital counseling could help school kids
01/11/00: Who funds these studies!?
12/29/99: Grandparents' rights impinge on family autonomy
12/13/99: When did fathers become fair game?
12/09/99: Don't be stupid about at-risk kids
12/07/99: Pokemon is no substitute for a father
12/02/99: Blaming the victim --- men
11/30/99: Baby-killer's story has less-than-Precious ending
11/23/99: Pendulum swings back toward discipline, responsibility
11/18/99: Put the babies first in this mighty mess
11/11/99: Skip the applause for this baby news
11/09/99: Gore could benefit from a secret in Wolf's clothing
11/03/99: Who needs 'birds and bees' when we have MTV?
11/01/99: Women Can't Hear What Men Don't Say
10/26/99: Children's needs must take priority in divorce system
10/19/99: The deadbeat dad is less a scoundrel than an object of pity
10/15/99: Bullying boys ... and girls
10/12/99: Divorced dads ready to wage a revolution
10/04/99: A father's best gift? His presence
09/30/99: Sorry, guys, Faludi is no friend of yours
09/28/99: Science's new findings: Scary future for families
09/23/99: The great blurring of need and want
09/21/99:Focus on more than baby's first 3 years
09/16/99: Commentary from kids sheds no light on day-care debate
09/14/99: Fathers' group seeks to right inequities
09/09/99: Son now has a license to grow up
09/07/99: A slap in the face of domestic violence
09/01/99: No, ma'am: Legislation on manners misses the mark
08/26/99: For better boys, try a little tenderness
08/24/99:The ABC's of campaign questions
08/19/99: Male 'sluts'
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08/09/99: When justice delayed is still justice
08/03/99: Unemployment? Not in this profession
07/30/99: It's not about race -- it's about crack babies
07/22/99: Tragedy tells us what's important
07/19/99: Study denouncing fathers sends danger signals
07/15/99:'Happy marriage' belongs in the Dictionary of Oxymorons next to 'deliciously low-fat.'
07/11/99: 'Brother Man': An American demagogue in Paris
07/08/99: Only parents can fix broken families
07/06/99: America is home, sweet home
07/01/99: Tales out of Yuppiedom
06/28/99: Men aren't the only abusers
06/23/99: Is the entire country guzzling LSD punch?
06/20/99: The voice remains -- as always -- there beside me 06/16/99:Stating the obvious, a new growth industry
06/14/99: Calling for a cease-fire in the gender war
06/10/99: We owe children an apology

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