[(interview date 12 March 2001) In the following interview, Sommers discusses The War against Boys and the status of boys in the American education system.]
Philosopher Christina Hoff Sommers is an old-fashioned feminist who believes in voting rights for women and a level playing field for both genders, but parts company when it comes to radical feminism and its disparagement of men. Five years ago she took on the feminist establishment in her book, Who Stole Feminism? How Women Have Betrayed Women, which widely was pilloried by the establishment she eloquently attacked. "I know I became a feminist because I didn't like male chauvinism," Sommers tells Insight. "But I do not appreciate female chauvinism, either."
Last year Sommers brought out another deeply controversial book, The War against Boys: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men. Misguided feminism, she argues, is causing American education to focus on girls at the expense of educating boys in the mistaken belief that girls are behind boys and need all the help they can get from government and educators to set that disparity right, even if it means ignoring young males. But, as Sommers shows, girls aren't behind boys. Far from it: They're way ahead and will continue to be until American education strikes a fair balance between the needs of boys and girls and treats both sexes with genuine equity.
[Goode]: Did the idea for The War against Boys come out of your experience writing Who Stole Feminism?
[Sommers]: Yes, because one of the things I did in the first book was uncover a lot of careless research and dubious statistics. In fact, I found at the heart of establishment feminism this body of egregiously false information.
What is sad and unfortunate is that this information is driving public policy by driving funding. And the area in which I found the largest number of mistakes and the most shoddy research was in education. The idea that girls are second-class citizens in our schools is preposterous.
The exact reverse is true. Boys are behind girls significantly in most areas and falling further and further behind. The college gap [the fact that there are more women in college in America today than men] favors girls and threatens to become a chasm.
It's a huge issue that wasn't getting any attention because we were misled. The American Association of University Women [AAUW], the Wellesley Center for Research on Women, the National Organization for Women [NOW] were able to give an entire nation a false portrait of our children, showing girls as languishing in silence while boys thrived, when exactly the opposite was true.
There probably never was a time when girls had more opportunities and were more ambitious and successful. But, if you look carefully, our boys are being put on the back burner in their educational needs.
Will women dominate in the professions in the America of the future while men take blue-collar jobs?
There's going to be more of that. In Europe,...