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Men--It's in Their Nature
The American Enterprise ^ | Sept 2003 | Christina Hoff Sommers

Posted on 07/31/2003 6:16:54 AM PDT by Valin

This past spring, my son spent a month in Israel with his senior class. Only one activity disappointed him. While camping in the Negev Desert, special counselors from a progressive-socialist kibbutz paid a visit and led the students through a sensitivity exercise. The students were told to walk out into the desert until they were completely alone. The counselors (mostly American-born) supplied them with a pencil, paper, matches, and a candle and instructed them to absorb the quiet calm of the desert, to record their feelings, and to “find themselves.”

The girls happily complied. Most of the boys did not. They scattered into the desert, quickly became bored, and sought out each other’s company. Then they threw the pencils and paper into a pile, and used the candles and matches to start a little bonfire. The boys loved it; the sensitivity trainers were horrified. They viewed the boys’ behavior as an expression of primitive violence—a lethal masculinity straight from The Lord of the Flies. Later in the evening, the students sat in a circle while the girls read their impassioned reactions to the “haunting loneliness” of the desert; the boys could barely suppress laughter—confirming once again the worst fears of the sensitivity trainers.

Gender equity experts in America’s schools, universities, government agencies, and major women’s groups would share the distress of the kibbutz counselors, having spent more than a decade trying to resocialize boys away from “toxic masculinity.” In a great number of American schools, gender reformers have succeeded in expunging many activities that young boys enjoy: dodge ball, cops and robbers, reading or listening to stories about battles and war heroes. A daycare center in North Carolina was censured by the State Division of Child Development for letting boys play with two-inch green Army men. The division director described the toys as “potentially dangerous if children use them to act out violent themes.”

Activities deemed “safe” by the gender equity experts and the teachers they inspire include quilting, games without scores, and stories about brave girls and boys who learn to cry. The goal is to resocialize boys, freeing them from male stereotypes, and, ultimately, to promote genuine equality between the sexes—which for the reformers means sameness. But decades of research in neuroscience, endocrinology, genetics, and developmental psychology, strongly suggest that masculine traits are hard-wired. There are exceptions, but here are the rules:Males have better spatial reasoning skills, females better verbal skills. Males are greater risk-takers, females are more nurturing. Boys like action, competitive rough-housing, and inanimate objects, and they are the one group of Americans who do not spend a lot of time talking about their feelings.

Try as they may, parents, teachers, and gender facilitators have not been successful in rooting out male behavior they regard as harmful.An “equity facilitator” tried to persuade a group of nine-year-old boys in a Baltimore public school to accept the idea of playing with baby dolls. According to one observer, “Their reaction was so hostile, the teacher had trouble keeping order.” And then there was Jimmy. At age 11, this San Francisco sixth grader was made to contribute a square to a class quilt “celebrating women we admire.” He chose to honor tennis player Monica Seles who, in 1993, was stabbed on the court by a deranged fan of Steffi Graf. Jimmy handed in a muslin square festooned with a tennis racket and a bloody dagger. His square may be unique in the history of quilting, but his teacher did not appreciate its originality and rejected it.

American classrooms are full of Jimmys. Efforts to change boys like Jimmy or my son and his bonfire companions will be difficult if not impossible. Nature is obdurate on some matters.While environment and socialization do play a significant role, scientists are beginning to pinpoint the precise biological correlates to many typical gender differences. A 2001 special issue of Scientific American reviewed the growing

evidence that children’s play preferences are, in large part, hormonally determined. Researchers confirmed what parents experience all the time: Even with counter-conditioning, boys and girls gravitate toward very different toys. (See the article by Iain Murray on pages 34 and 35, which lays out some of the new scientific findings on sex differences.) The entire anthropological record offers not a single example of a society where females have better spatial reasoning skills and males better verbal skills, where females are fixated on objects and men on feelings, or where males are physically docile and females aggressive.

In the face of what we know, it is altogether unreasonable to deny the biological basis for distinctive male and female preferences and abilities. Does this mean biology is destiny? As anthropologist Lionel Tiger (who is part of the male symposium beginning on page 24) says, “biology is not destiny, but it is good statistical probability.” There is still room for equity. A fair and just society offers equality of opportunity to all. But it cannot promise, and should not try to enforce, sameness. The natural differences between men and women suggest there will never be mathematical parity in all fields; far more men than women will choose to be mechanics, engineers, or soldiers. Early childhood education, family medicine, and social work will continue to be dominated by women. Boys will prefer bonfires to diaries and any teacher who requires them to contribute squares to a quilt should brace herself for insensitive images of monsters, dangerous animals, and weaponry. The male tendency to be competitive, risk-loving, more narrowly focused, and less concerned with feelings has consequences in the real world. It could explain why there are more males at the extremes of success and failure: more male CEOs, more males in maximum security prisons.

Of course, boys’ natural masculinity must be tempered. Social theorist Hannah Arendt is believed to have said that every year civilization is invaded by millions of tiny barbarians—they are called children. All societies confront the problem of civilizing their children, particularly the male ones. History teaches that masculinity constrained by morality is powerful and constructive; it also teaches that masculinity without ethics is dangerous and destructive.

We have a set of proven social practices for raising young men. The traditional approach is through character education to develop a young man’s sense of honor and help him become a considerate, conscientious human being. Sociologists make an important distinction between pathological and healthy masculinity. Boys who exhibit aberrational masculinity define their manhood through anti-social and destructive acts; instead of protecting the vulnerable, they exploit them. Healthy masculinity is the opposite. Males who possess it—the vast majority of American boys and men—strive to be helpful and to achieve. They sublimate their natural aggression into sports, hobbies, and work. They build rather than destroy. And they do not exploit women and children, they protect them.

Efforts to civilize boys with honor codes, character education, manners, and rules of good sportsmanship are necessary and effective, and fully consistent with their masculine natures. Efforts to feminize them with dolls, quilts, non-competitive games, girl-centered books, and feelings exercises will fail; though they will succeed in making millions of boys quite unhappy. Dissident feminist Camille Paglia is one of the few scholars who values maleness: “Masculinity is aggressive, unstable, combustible. It is also the most creative cultural force in history. When I cross…any of America’s great bridges, I think—men have done this. Construction is a sublime male poetry.”

This sublime poetry has been unappreciated in American society for more than a quarter of a century. But that appears to be changing. The awesome display of masculine courage shown by the firefighters and policemen at Ground Zero, the heroic soldiers fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, the focused determination and exemplary leadership of President Bush,Vice President Cheney, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, and General Tommy Franks, have rekindled in Americans an appreciation for masculine virtues. Many courageous and even heroic women took part in all these endeavors. But fighting enemies and protecting the nation are overwhelmingly male projects.

The gender activists who fill our schools and government agencies will continue with their efforts to make boys more docile and emotional. But fewer and fewer Americans will support them. Maleness is back in fashion. And one reason is that Americans are increasingly aware that traditional male traits such as aggression, competitiveness, risk-taking and stoicism—constrained by virtues of valor, honor and self-sacrifice—are essential to the well-being and safety of our society.

Christina Hoff Sommers is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and the author of Who Stole Feminism? and The War Against Boys.

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Extended News
KEYWORDS: christinahoffsommers; genderequity; waragainstboys
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To: KCmark
LOL- My two nephews do! Ages 6 & 7. Classic good-vs-evil will never die.
201 posted on 07/31/2003 4:26:02 PM PDT by ClearBlueSky
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To: maxwell
Okay, my free time is pretty much spent watching Law and Order and listening to country music stations, and FR is as close as I get to any kind o' culture, so I'll bite: What in the name of Sweet Zeus is a "metrosexual"?

See Post 61

202 posted on 07/31/2003 4:37:04 PM PDT by Polybius
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To: Valin
But decades of research in neuroscience, endocrinology, genetics, and developmental psychology, strongly suggest that masculine traits are hard-wired.

Duh? These researchers are so brilliant. This is right up there with their brilliant research from a few years ago, "Golly gee whiz! Horrors! Girls really ARE different than boys!"

I saw some TV news show report on this subject years ago. They interviewed some dad, who said he had raised his son to be an anti-gun pacifist who played with dolls. One day, he caught him with a piece of bread he had shaped into a handgun, going "Bang! Bang! Bang!" with it. LOL. Researchers, don't let COMMON SENSE get in the way of your big fat intellect. LOL!

203 posted on 07/31/2003 5:17:34 PM PDT by FlyVet
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To: headsonpikes
"Shopping with my mate as an enjoyed shared activity???" They have got to be effing kidding!!!

Nope. It just doesn't work. Even if you are shopping for a sailboat like my wife and I did last year......

Polybius: "Diesel engine instead of a gasoline Atomic 4. Low engine hours. Roller furling. All lines leading aft to the cockpit so you can reef the mainsail from cockpit in heavy weather. Crisp sails.....Great!"

Mrs. Polybius: "I don't like it. The one we saw yesterday had prettier curtains in the room towards the pointy end of the boat and it smelled nicer."

204 posted on 07/31/2003 6:05:09 PM PDT by Polybius
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To: savagesusie
And I am to yours. My wife's name is Susie, and she is also quite savage. Music soothes me. Does it you?
205 posted on 07/31/2003 7:37:24 PM PDT by Savage Beast (Vote Democrat! Vote for national--and personal--suicide! It's like being a suicide bomber!)
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To: Polybius
Nope. It just doesn't work.

Actually, it can work, depending on what you're buying. My wife and I have bought several used cars lately, and we have it down to a routine.

She gets in the car and checks out the creature comforts, while I'm under the hood and under the car, making sure all the important stuff works. In ten minutes, we know whether the car is worth having.

That way, I don't have to check the stereo and the reading lights, and she doesn't have to check the fuel injection, alternator and serpentine belt. Use the skills that each has, and it's easier for everyone.

206 posted on 07/31/2003 8:34:32 PM PDT by Steve0113
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To: Savage Beast
Music, plus painting, does, but jogging is also needed. Otherwise, I think I would go mad in a world such as this!
207 posted on 07/31/2003 10:53:50 PM PDT by savagesusie
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To: savagesusie
Yes, me too. I work out regularly at the gym, and on off days I hike and go mountain climbing et al. with my wife. She loves the outdoors but will not go to a gym.
208 posted on 08/01/2003 5:17:47 AM PDT by Savage Beast (Vote Democrat! Vote for national--and personal--suicide! It's like being a suicide bomber!)
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To: Valin
Good article, although it has one or 2 missteps. For instance, I am not too convinced that females have better verbal skills. I do notice that they surely talk, gossip and chatter alot, but, seems to me, most great literature has been written by males.
209 posted on 08/02/2003 4:22:13 PM PDT by Sam Cree (Democrats are herd animals)
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To: Darksheare
I think the traditional term is "fop"


210 posted on 08/02/2003 4:29:11 PM PDT by correctthought
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To: Fintan
or maybe the wide receivers
211 posted on 08/02/2003 4:30:57 PM PDT by correctthought
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To: correctthought
I was under the impression 'fop' only counted if they wore powdered wigs and codpieces.
But, it may actually be applicable, yes.
Especially if tehy use face creams and moisturizers.
212 posted on 08/02/2003 4:34:22 PM PDT by Darksheare ("I didn't say it wouldn't burn, I said it wouldn't hurt.")
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To: Darksheare
When I first read the description of the metro sexual, I thought fop. Its amazing how many women fall for this sort of stuff here in NYC.

Luckily for me, I found and married a woman who appreciates someone who shoots, fishes and likes to build and fix things.

Now, we just have to tough it out a few years till we move to someplace decent.


213 posted on 08/02/2003 4:40:16 PM PDT by correctthought
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To: correctthought
NYC, I forgot how many men fell into the 'sensitive' pit.
(To tell you the truth, I thought 'fop' as well, but I already get called an anachronism for being polite and holding doors open for women...)

Got a few of them out west of you here in Orange County.
And most of them are in management out this way.
214 posted on 08/02/2003 4:44:30 PM PDT by Darksheare ("I didn't say it wouldn't burn, I said it wouldn't hurt.")
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