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Feb 20 2013

When Sommers met Kimmel

Michael Kimmel and Christina Hoff Sommers did a dialogue at the Huffington Post. It didn’t create a new bridge between feminists and Christina Hoff Sommers.

Sommers: Now I have a question for you, Michael. In the past, you seem to have sided with a group of gender scholars who think we should address the boy problem by raising boys to be more like girls.  Maybe I am being overly optimistic, but does your praise for my New York Times op-ed indicate a shift in your own thinking?

Ouch; that’s a Radfordesque question. “When did you stop dressing your son in frilly skirts?”

Kimmel: Not at all.  I’m not interested in raising boys to be more like girls any more than I want girls to be raised more like boys.  The question itself assumes that there is a way to raise boys that is different from the way we raise girls.  To me this is stereotypic thinking.  I want to raise our children to be themselves, and I think that one of the more wonderful components of feminism was to critique that stereotype that all girls are supposed to act and dress in one way and one way only.

Eww! Gender feminism! He said “stereotypic”! He thinks girls and boys are exactly the same! Ewww!

Kimmel: Our disagreement, I think, comes from what we see as the source of that falling behind.  My interviews with over 400 young men, aged 6-26, in Guyland, showed me that young men and boys are constantly and relentlessly policed by other guys, and pressured to conform to a very narrow definition of masculinity by the constant spectre of being called a fag or gay.  So if we’re going to really intervene in schools to ensure that boys succeed, I believe that we have to empower boys’ resilience in the face of this gender policing.  What my interviews taught me is that many guys believe that academic disengagement is a sign of their masculinity.  Therefore, re-engaging boys in school requires that we enable them to reconect educational engagement with manhood.

Sommers, you won’t be surprised to learn, isn’t buying it.

Sommers: I agree that we should raise children to be themselves. But that will often mean respecting their gender. Increasingly, little boys are shamed and punished for the crime of being who they are. The typical, joyful play of young males is “rough and tumble” play. There is no known society where little boys fail to evince this behavior (girls do it too, but far less). In many schools, this characteristic play of little boys is no longer tolerated. Intrusive and intolerant adults are insisting “tug of war” be changed to “tug of peace”; games such as tag are being replaced with “circle of friends” — in which no one is ever out.

Those are the feminists who say “all men are rapists,” aren’t they. They live in the same mist-shrouded part of the North Pole where no one can ever find them, don’t they.

7 comments

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  1. 1
    Anthony K

    The typical, joyful play of young males is “rough and tumble” play. There is no known society where little boys fail to evince this behavior (girls do it too, but far less). In many schools, this characteristic play of little boys is no longer tolerated. Intrusive and intolerant adults are insisting “tug of war” be changed to “tug of peace”; games such as tag are being replaced with “circle of friends” — in which no one is ever out.

    I believe the punchline to this late 1980′s anti-’PC’ comic routine is “What’s next? ‘Womanhole cover’?”

  2. 2
    A Hermit

    I saw the headline and expected Jimmy Kimmel and Suzanne Somers…The latter half of that equation might have been an improvement.

    Kimmel hits the nail on the head here: ” The question itself assumes that there is a way to raise boys that is different from the way we raise girls.” It’s funny how these “equity feminists” always seem determined to maintain these un-equal stereotypes.

  3. 3
    Xanthë, Amy of my threads

    From my personal perspective, Sommers is talking complete and unadulterated bullshit. I wish I were surprised by that, but I’m not.

  4. 4
    Your Name's not Bruce?

    When I was a kid, I encountered lots of “policing.” Even though I had no idea what a “fag” or a “lesi” was, I knew that being either was bad. Looking back more than forty years later I shudder at some of the appalling things I witnessed and (to my shame) participated in as kids taunted and bullied other kids. Scapegoats and targets were identified and vilified. One of the instigators made one of his sisters a public target of scorn and hatred.I wonder if he became (or indeed already was) some sort of predator or offender. I wonder just what sort of family life he was subjected to that could produce such a verbally sadistic bully. He was older than most of us and most of us just followed along.Whether or not we knew better to join in, we knew it was better not to be a target. I caught a bit of it myself on occasion, though not anywhere near as much as the prime targets got. I wasn’t really subjected to much more than taunts and name-calling, but those in themselves can be devastating to a child. That whole “sticks and stones” thing is utter bullshit.

  5. 5
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    games such as tag are being replaced with “circle of friends” — in which no one is ever out.

    Yeah, how horrible can people be?
    Not allow young boys to play games that allow and enable them to exclude, shame, and hurt other children.
    I mean, who cares for the chubby kid who is never “in”, or the small boy who is the easy target.
    And why would you assume that it’s a bad thing if kids come come back from recess being black and blue and bleeding?
    Equity means nothing but the status quo dressed up as justice.

  6. 6
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Oh, and on the whole “poor boys” trope?
    It’s not feminism that hurts boys, it’s patriarchal and old-fashioned ideas in a modern world that hurt them.
    As Kimmel rightly pointed out, boys, too get a very narrow range of options (those Hoff Sommers approves of), maybe even narrower than girls because while I girl might stride into guy territory and even get approval for doing the really good and interesting boy-things, it’s often a no-go for boys.
    And when they behave badly, it’s “boys will be boys”, the exact crap Hoff-Sommers favours, only that our world doesn’t actually tolerate that as much as it used to.* And you see it at the playgrounds, wherever there are children. As I have two fairly small ones of the female variation I get to see a lot of it. Girls are way more told to share, to play together, to take turns. And I do that, too, because those are good things.
    Many boys are allowed to run wild. If they hog the trampolin at the fun park, “they need to burn off the energy” (guess what, my girls, too, that’s why I paid to come here). If they bully a smaller kid off a playground thingy, the smaller kid has to “toughen up”, especially if he’s a boy. If they hurt another kid because they don’t pay attention, it’s “boys will be boys”. And then they enter places with rules like schools that are for all children and that are supposed to ensure that all kids are able to participate. And then little Ghengis Khan is in trouble and suddenly we have to do something because school hurts our boys.
    No, fuck, school doesn’t hurt our boys. People who raise boys in a way that is incompatible with modern society do.

    As for gender-segregated schools:
    I actually don’t give shit if they really do lead to better academic results.
    Why? Because school isn’t all about teaching kids facts for college but about raising children to be able to integrate themselves into society. And society isn’t made up of male and female worlds. Children taught in single sex schools have no chance but to grow up and see the other sex as the Other. And since they tend to increase stereotypes, that Other might now as well come from a different planet.
    In my study abroad I spent a year in Ireland where there are many single sex schools and classes with 1st years were aweful. Those kids suddenly found themselves in a world where they were supposed to communicate and interact and work together and they had totally no clue how to do that.

    *Things are changing. While still many peple will excuse sexual hrassment with “boys will be boys” we DO have harassment policy in many places. If you send your colleague pics of your dick you’re pretty likely to get fired. And yes, a whole life-time worth of experience, his whole childhood told this guy that this was acceptable. And then it isn’t anymore.

  7. 7
    eric

    The typical, joyful play of young males is “rough and tumble” play.

    Just for sake of argument, lets assume this is true. Kimmel is still right and Sommers is still wrong because what Kimmel is talking about is social pressure preventing academic achievement.

    Look, its very simple: when someone says “my kid gets teased every time he opens a book,” the response “we shouldn’t prevent him from playing baseball” is a complete nonsequitur.

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