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Book Reviews   |    
The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men
Reviewed by Arthur Middleton, M.D.
Psychiatric Services 2001; doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.52.9.1266
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by Christina Hoff Sommers; New York, Simon & Schuster, 2000, 251 pages, $25

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Christina Hoff Sommers wrote The War Against Boys while she was a W. H. Brady Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research in Washington, D.C. She has strong views about the feminist movement and suggests that feminism has embraced "pseudoscience" and promoted "advocacy research." This is an opinionated book and most certainly those in support of feminism will not agree with or appreciate all of the author's views.

As the title suggests, Sommers focuses her attention on the nation's young boys. She cites numerous statistics to support her argument that the feminist movement has been successful in promoting use of the nation's educational resources on girls, despite the fact that boys are lagging behind academically. She asserts that the feminist movement has advocated successfully for the educational system to attempt to restructure the natural development of boys, who had previously enjoyed a favored status in schools at the expense of young girls.

Sommers goes on to state that the women's movement has fostered an educational agenda that includes "resocializing boys in the direction of femininity." She says that the feminist movement is more than socially persuasive. It has dominated the views of the media, legislative bodies, and the educational establishment, and despite the growing body of evidence that boys are no longer doing well academically and are losing ground in the workplace, it continues to advocate in support of the advancement of young girls.

There are important points to be taken from this book. For example, Sommers reminds us that in social policy, research must be rigorous and based in science, and it must be reproducible. However, even researchers may be drawn by the media spotlight and attempt to fit their message into sound bites, which can rarely tell the whole story. Sommers also focuses on the family and the impact of its dissolution on the lives of young boys. She points to studies that suggest that violence among young men is often attributable to the absence of a father in the home. She emphasizes the need to reexamine our educational system, and suggests that a return to a directive teaching environment would lead to better scores for both boys and girls.

Although The War Against Boys offers a fascinating look into one aspect of the modern feminist movement, it is not entirely objective, nor was it intended to be. Sommers makes her case forcefully, and her statements are often strong and broadly sweeping. Nevertheless, her book is thought provoking, and it provides the reader with a focused discussion of the importance of the family construct as well as an examination of the psychological issues associated with the emerging male identity.

Dr. Middleton is chairman of the department of psychiatry and behavioral medicine at Hackensack University Medical Center in Hackensack, New Jersey, and clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-New Jersey Medical School in Newark.




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