We Owe Our Sons What We’ve Given Our Daughters


Mark Sherman says that it’s time to give our sons the same attention and support we began giving our daughters 20 years ago.  

I’m on the mailing list for a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit called the Boys Initiative (for whom I edit a blog: Boys and Young Men: Attention Must Be Paid. On Sunday, February 3, my e-mails included a press alert from the CEO, Dennis Barbour, informing us that that day’s New York Times Sunday Review had a major article on “why boys are falling behind.”  And yes, when I opened my copy of the Times, there it was. You really couldn’t miss it. On the front page of that important section, with a graphic taking up more than half a page, was “The Boys at the Back,” by Christina Hoff Sommers.

The 1800-word piece started out discussing an important new study I had already heard about—boys’ grades in elementary school being negatively affected by their behavior—and went on to mention data, very familiar to anyone concerned about this issue, showing the large gender gap in colleges, one which is particularly acute for minorities.  “Black women are nearly twice as likely to earn a college degree as black men,” Sommers wrote. “At some historically black colleges, the gap is astounding: Fisk is now 64 female; Howard, 67 percent; Clark Atlanta, 75 percent. The economist Andrew M. Sum and his colleagues at the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University examined the Boston Public Schools and found that for the graduating class of 2007, there were 191 black girls for every 100 boys going on to attend a four-year college or university. Among Hispanics, the ratio was 175 girls for every 100 boys; among whites, 153 for every 100.”

I sent the link to this piece to friends, including one with whom I had lunch a couple of days later. He was shocked at those numbers, which shows, once again, that the problems of boys and young men are still, amazingly, barely on the national radar. But, as feminists told us back in the late 1960s, often the personal is political. My friend has two daughters and one granddaughter; I have three sons and three grandsons.

In 2000, Sommers wrote one of the first major books on the problems boys were having, but her relative conservatism about feminism got in the way of a widespread readership among liberals – just those people who might make a real difference for boys. The book was titled The War Against Boys, and though her issues with feminism were evident in it, her data showing boys clearly falling behind girls in school and beyond was strong and should certainly have been convincing.  Many feminists might not have cared for the messenger, but there was no question that the message was an important one.

Since then, as she points out in the Times piece, many more books have been written on this subject (and, she could have added, countless articles). But still no tipping point has been reached. Having been concerned about this issue for years before Sommers’ book came out, I continue to be immensely frustrated by this. And I find it hard to believe that a problem so salient still has not been addressed at the national level. I myself have written about this many times and am always startled to find that so many people still don’t know, for example, that girls and young women are significantly outpacing boys and young men at every level of school, right into graduate school.

When it was the reverse, when men clearly outnumbered women in colleges, the women’s movement looked at this and countless other areas in which women and girls were on the short end of things, and worked hard to change it. Why has the same thing not happened for our boys and young men?

In a workshop I gave some six years ago on “Helping Our Sons Do Better in School,” a father said that the movement to help boys should model itself on the women’s movement.  A good thought, perhaps, but there is a fundamental difference in a movement to help boys and the one that’s been going on for years that encourages girls.The “girls’ movement”—special science programs for girls, the Sadkers’ work (Failing at Fairness: How America’s Schools Cheat Girls (1994)), “Take Our Daughters to Work” day, which started in 1993—didn’t start on its own but rather came out of the modern women’s movement.  In fact, if we take the publication of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique in 1963 as the birth of this passionate struggle, then it really was more than two decades before strong attention began to be paid to girls. What is crucial to understand is that the impetus for encouraging girls came from women who had genuinely felt restricted, if not outright oppressed.

I also believe that fathers of daughters, excited by the new opportunities for their children, joined in this support of girls.

A similar situation has not existed for boys. Men, as a group, have not felt especially restricted or oppressed, and so a men’s movement anywhere near the level of a women’s movement has never begun. The kind of filtering down that occurred with women and girls has never had a chance to occur for men and boys. And children themselves do not start political or social movements. We could hardly expect boys, on their own, to start a movement to, say, pull themselves them away from videogames and into libraries. In fact, perhaps it’s time for a Take Our Sons to the Library Day!

It seems to me that many adult women continue to feel a sense of unfairness regarding gender, even if girls do not. (I remember a female friend who had one child—a son—proudly wearing her “Take Our Daughters to Work” day button in 1994.)  And I suspect most fathers of girls continue to delight in the unprecedented achievements of their daughters.

I truly believe that the focus strictly on girls that began in the 1990s and has only begrudgingly made room for boys is one of the principal reasons that boys are struggling the way they are today. The “girls’ movement” didn’t care if a child was rich or poor, white or minority. If the child was a male, he was excluded. We are paying a high price for this.

Though I don’t have answers, I desperately hope that parents of sons can be supportive not only of their own children, but of all boys and young men—the way so many adults were supportive of girls and young women when they needed encouragement and support. This will mean, as leading educators like Michael Gurian tell us, not only supporting your own sons (and grandsons), but other boys and young men in your community; and I would add that it means beginning to lobby our elected officials too, to join in. In a phone conversation we had, Gurian assured me there is a robust boys’ movement out there, which he sees in community after community that he visits.  But I think this has to be supplemented by political action as well.

Soon after President Obama took office in 2009, he established a White House Council on Women and Girls. Soon afterward, major supporters of boys’ interests, led by Warren Farrell, pushed hard for a parallel council for boys and men. A suggested name for the organization was the Council for Boys and Men, and the proposal to establish it ended with these words:

“A White House Council on Boys and Men can…provide leadership toward helping parents and our culture teach our sons that the facade of strength is a weakness. It can provide leadership to help us help our sons row on both sides of the family boat—so our daughters may have equal partners. It can co-ordinate the nation’s best efforts to parent, mentor, and teach each of our sons to discover who he is. It can end the era of boys and men as a national afterthought. It can provide leadership to raise young men our daughters are proud to love.”

Unfortunately, as Tom Golden, a member of the group that submitted this proposal, wrote on the site’s blog—on September 12, 2012, “Our report met with interest at the White House—but three years of effort have resulted in nothing.”

I am grateful to those with only daughters who wholeheartedly support the aspirations of boys, and I applaud them—people like Warren Farrell, and Michael Gurian (whose books include The Minds of Boys: Saving Our Sons From Falling Behind in School and Life (2006)).  But I think the Farrells and Gurians are rare in this world.  Parents of boys will need people like them as allies, but the key is for these parents to wholeheartedly support a movement for their sons with the same passion that mothers (and fathers) of daughters supported a movement that is has helped to thrust their children into the forefront of achievement in today’s world. We have left half our children behind, and this cannot be good for America’s future.

This is a very slightly edited version of a piece that recently appeared on my blog on Psychology Today

Photo: Flickr/EaglebrookSchool

About Mark Sherman

Mark Sherman is editor of the Boys Initiative blog (www.theboysinitiative.wordpress.com), and also writes one for Psychology Today (Real Men Don’t Write Blogs). He received his Ph.D. in psychology at Harvard, and has taught, researched, and written on gender issues since coauthoring Afterplay: A Key to Intimacy in 1979. Having three sons and four grandsons, he is especially interested in how boys and young men are doing both in and outside of school.


  1. Why does it have to be either/or?

    Personally, as a man, I find it disturbing that so many men want to blame women or feminism for our own personal neglect. It infers that men can only prosper by subjugating women. If a society wishes to eradicate that subjugation in the name of equality, it is then measured by the poor performance of males. Is that the best we can do?

    We have a culture that has long neglected male ethics, and this has hurt our society immeasurably. Instead of looking to re-establishing these values for young males, as a culture should, we look to the rising success of young women and decide that they are to blame. The conclusion? If we stop working for equal opportunity for women, the problems with boys would end!

    If we really want to solve this problem, we must establish a male counterpart to feminism. This would go a long way in solving a lot of social problems, and the two genders would be able to flourish in a healthy and appreciative partnership. We (men) have to take responsibility for ourselves. We have to question how it is that our prisons are mostly filled with male inmates. Most murders and violent crime are committed by men. Why is that? Is that the fault of feminism? Or is it the fault of a culture that has neglected the necessity and richness of male values for a very long time?

    We should stop looking for scapegoats and tackle the problem for what it is. Male values are not so dissimilar to female values. They are complimentary, and we are better off as a species for having them both. This is not a competition. It is a partnership. If we want respect, we must first act respectably.

    • You raise one the foundational, strategic questions.

      Will men move forward with a spirit of partisanship or partnership with women?

      As Mark said, “…am always startled to find that so many people still don’t know…” We’re still at the infancy of awareness, in families and schools. I don’t think it has trickled down, YET, but it will soon. How we approach these male and female issues from here on out may chart the course. Dunno?

      I cast my vote for partnership.

  2. Ironically although girls outperform boys at school, they still get better paid in their jobs on general…just an observation

    • Selina- good observation. There has been some interesting research on wage satisfaction and yet it is still in its infancy of exploration. They find that delaying marriage and family has a negative impact on income and life satisfaction for both sexes, but has a more profound effect on women over time.

      I’ll copy-paste one finding…“The decision to forego or delay a relationship in favor of advancement at work can have a detrimental impact on life and job satisfaction. Men and women who delayed a relationship displayed significantly lower levels of life satisfaction. Women also reported lower earnings and more family stress, but also reported higher levels of job satisfaction. Overall, delay of marriage and family can lead a decrease in pay satisfaction, life and family satisfaction and an increase in stress.”

      What does this mean to us? I guess, it adds dimension to the larger discussion of education, careers, wage, and family and how it’s inter-related.

      Reference: Sex Differences in Delaying Family: Effects on Job and Life Satisfaction. Psychology Research, December 2011, Vol. 1, No. 6, 444-452.

    • Soullite says:

      The pay gap is a myth. That has been proven time and time and time again. Only feminism refuses to acknowledge that fact, so people pretend it isn’t true. No one has ever come close to proving that women get paid less for equal work — two people, a man and a women, doing the same job, will make the same pay. The pay gap only exists when you compare uncontrolled annual incomes.

      The dark little secret here? 80% of the pay gap is due to an unwillingness by women to take up dirty or dangerous jobs (which tend to pay more than clean, safe ones). The rest of it is due to the fact that women get maternity leave, but men do not get paternity leave in anything like the same proportion.

      • Soullite – not to derail the topic of schools, yes, wage is much more equitable than some suggest.

        As of 2010, over 90% of clerical and secretarial positions are still held by women and over 85% of trades and manual labor jobs are held by men. Manual labor positions often come with additional hazards such as weather, chemicals, noise, heavy lifting, or equipment that commands a higher wage. While clerical jobs do not.

        We’ve had EEO for quite some time and opened access to women, but we don’t see a large group of women entering trades or manual labor, nor do we see a large group of men entering clerical jobs. This is something schools need to consider, perhaps men and women are not interested in the same career fields.
        For example, I’ve never been interested in driving a truck for living, because my spatial-orientation skills, stink. But some truckers, who have been able to buy their own equipment, make a nice living and can earn up to $150-250k USD annually.

  3. Sami Carroll says:

    Firstly, it’s not a contest. And while the American girl is thriving in outpacing boys in test scores, admissions to college and athletic achievements, girls are facing challenges to their personal and professional potential. Recent studies show an overall decrease in girls’ overall confidence and self-esteem, an increase in media exposure and over-sexualization of girls and women, an increased pressure to be “perfect” and a rise in female aggression. Your article is very one sided and the truth is, both sexes are struggling and we need to address that as a whole and the inherent differences in the challenges our sons and daughters face and not as some ‘us versus them’. Secondly, you might want to check in on what Gurian is touting these days before citing him – Let’s just say, his latest research advocating hormone therapy for preteen girls is downright disturbing.

    • Soullite says:

      What is it with some people? The article is one-sided? Gee, maybe that’s because this is a one-sided problem. Girls just aren’t having these kinds of problems. Or maybe it’s because this is a site geared toward men, at least ostensibly. Would you go into Jezebel and leave posts about how they are too focused on the problems of women?

      You are part of the problem. You want everything to be about women. That disturbing tendency of feminism — far more than any deliberate attempt at malice — is responsible for the place we find our boys in now. It can’t call be about women.

  4. Dunno, I thought it was kinda pithy, the ultimate in minimalism perhaps. Imagine the heated disputes we could get into debating the merits of B, as everyone trots out their favourite story, as esoteric academic theory stolen from string theory competes with the anecdote overheard from the shaman in Toronto.
    If it is deleted, we will simply have little to debate, which reduces page refreshes, and reduces advertising revenue. If it is deleted, it will be nothing less than sabotage of the entire site, and the ultimate downfall of the project of reclaiming the species from the evils of testosterone and batman comics.

    • Mr Supertypo says:

      LooL let us make it the comment of the day 😉

      Jokes aside, I think this got posted while I was having my android in the pocket. I remember coming home (I went out to the grocery) hearing a plink…and I pulled it out, and the comment was there. The funny thing is I dont use my android to write on GMP. Maybe the dog touched the keyboard of my home comp? but why B? Bah however the B comment got there, is a mystery.

  5. With all the wailing and gnashing about on this topic there is one possible path forward that no one seems to want to entertain: separate classrooms. Let boys have more recess, 8 year old boys would probably love to drop down and crank out 10 push up every 30 minutes. Use boy friendly teaching approaches. Use rewards and competition based teaching techniques that boys respond to better.

    I know all of this fly’s in the face of 30 years of progressive educational theory, but that has failed a couple of generations of young men and is in the process of failing another even worse. Maybe some (perceived) radical changes are in order.

    Sadly, I don’t think anything in the classroom will do a lot to improve the futures of our failing young men. With 72% of African American youth born into single parent household (40% of the population as a whole) , you only have half as much parenting power to apply to assist these children as in the past, and that fact is driving more of this issue than what goes on (or doesn’t) in the classroom.

  6. wellokaythen says:

    Unfortunately, one all too common response is essentially the “payback” argument: men and boys had their chance for thousands of years, and now it’s the time for women and girls. Like: you guys dominated everything and didn’t give a damn about gender equality, but now that the shoe’s on the other foot you’re complaining. Too late, buddy. We have thousands of years of oppression which cannot be overcome overnight.

    You’ll see words like “whining” and “backlash” tossed around in support of this point of view.

    That basically punishes people in the present for the behavior of their ancestors. It’s really no different from the idea of “the blood libel.” The Constitution actually comes out and forbids laws or court decisions that punish descendants for the crimes of their ancestors, i.e., “corruption of blood” punishments. In the spirit of that, I don’t think boys today should be saddled with the punishment for things that men did in the past.

    (Besides, everyone has as many female ancestors as male ancestors. Didn’t many of those women fight for equality so that their *children* could have better lives, not just their daughters?)

    • “Didn’t many of those women fight for equality so that their *children* could have better lives, not just their daughters?”
      If your a staunch feminist like my mom, and already angry at “men,” you will only get more angry at “men” when your sons stop talking to you.

  7. I disagree with this, “Men, as a group, have not felt especially restricted or oppressed…” Men and boys are very restricted and oppressed emotionally. Any sign of emotion in a boy is stamped down, frozen off and deleted. It’s crippling and unfair, equally unfair as stamping and freezing out a girl’s intellect.

    I highly recommend Tony Porter’s TED talk on the subject. http://www.ted.com/talks/tony_porter_a_call_to_men.html

  8. I hear a lot of rhetoric and regurgitating of what needs to be done but I don’t hear any solutions?

    Louise, Thank you for the history lesson … all words that I’ve heard for the past 40 years. Whereas you went back to the stone age, I’ll just go back to the revolutionary war. In total, over a million and a half men dies in wars. WWI and WWII alone, we lost over a half million men. In the midst of the feminist movement of the 60’s and 70’s, we lost over 50,000 men/boys in the Vietnam war where many of these men/boys had no choice. I’d also like to point out that while these so called oppressed women were as you say, “tied down by babies” men were building roads, railroads and working ridiculous hours in factories, and mines.

    This picture of men having it good through history was painted by feminists who did not take an accurate accounting of the lives of the majority of men but simply picked out an exclusive set of males. These males didn’t represent the majority.

    And Louise, what did the feminist movement do for the women like my mother, my wife and now my daughter who chose to be “tied down by babies?”

    • TomB – Fair enough criticism. no proffered solutions.

      Here a few, but as matters stand they are not all that realistic in terms of getting implemented… and my examples are gonna be boy-centric, cause I am not gonna write a thesis.

      Premise – all kids originally are curious, and like to learn about things. Of course, kid A is interested in thing X, and Kid B is interested in thing Y. We cannot accommodate both now can we. Or can we?

      What happens when all roads lead to Rome?
      Lets take math and science. Suppose one kid is interested in sports – football, basketball, baseball, and um snooker. (Well some claim it’s a sport.) The scores can give you the basic of multiplication. The players performance can give you the basics of statistics. The paths of baseballs can give you the basics of quadratic equations and parabolas. Snooker can give you the basics of plane geometry.

      Another kid is interested in automobiles. Start with wooden box cars and address friction, kinetic and potential energy, acceleration and gravity, speed and distance problems, drag, weight. . .
      Another kid is interest in model rockets – chemistry, finishes and materials, control systems, payload design, wind drift and recovery determination . . .
      Another kid is interested in cooking. Teach them chemistry of colloids in reduced sauces, teach them the biology of parasites and infection, why do you add sugar when whipping cream, the action of yeast, the metabolic impacts of proteins vs fats vs carbohydrates, Kreb’s cycle vs ketogenic states…
      Another kid is interested in wars. Teach them the development of weaponry, materials, stored energy ion crossbows, the economics of manpower and water as causes, lead into history of the Mongols, the speeches of Cicero, Henry IV, Charlemagne Sun Tzu. . .
      Construction leads to english grammar (building blocks, clauses are pre-fab plug-ins) . . .
      Ancient myths lead to Ceasar, Machiavelli, and philosophy . . .
      Instead of teaching THESE 3 specific works in grade 7 to all students, let them choose from a list of 100 different works – there can be teachers who provide support to those reading Ender’s Game, and different teachers providing support to those reading Sabriel. And those teachers do not need to be collocated – they could be 100 miles away. Some of that support could be archived discussions, debate, lectures, clips . . . Since the student has a mentoring teacher, the one-on-one support comes fro the teacher helping to navigate those support aids.

      Now instead of the process being found in the table of contents in a conventional text (assuming they are still in many classrooms), you are more moving from the index at the back of the book, through the things that actually interest you. But the path can jump from text to text to text across disciplines, following the student’s path of interest.

      The point is to leverage the KID’s interests as a guiding pathway to learn things – it is ALL connected anyway, and ANY interest pursued enough will lead to ALL fields. The problem is, curricula are not designed that way. Teachers can’t present that way. Classes all have to learn the same stuff, the same way, at the same time. We can’t assess the student’s progress that way.
      Computer systems can be designed to provide a graph theory approach to learning, where each student can map a path through an education process that suits their interests, and their capabilities, at their maturation rate. Complicated to design, expensive to build in up-front capital costs, but far more cost-effective to operate, and potentially, far superior results.

      Teachers then become coaches. Instead of writing lesson plans and executing them, they monitor progress through the network system, do more one-on-one work suggesting new facets to the interests that help the student progress, pose challenges that help overcome resistance to areas of learning that the student does not see as relevant. Attach digital game challenges to the learning to turn acquaintance into strengths, place progress through the systems as a competitive endeavour. Add in points for peer guidance, if the student chooses to do so.

      Now you have leveraged interests, added competition (and since all paths are different, is carries less hurt to ‘lose’), placed a large measure of control into the student’s hands, turned the teacher relationship into a less adversarial role, reduced the stress on teachers, and enhanced the real mentorship role of teachers.

      Assessment comes from the system, plus the teachers appraisal, plus potentially, some conventional exams at periodic points. Instead of it being EXAM XYZ at month 59, it might be a similar exam, when the student has completed a relevant section. This reduces the impact of differential maturation rates of boys and girls in manual dexterity (cursive script), reading and vocabulary

      The system would be available from home, which means that the homework and associated management and pre-frontal cortex issues are reduced.
      School classes would include some P.E., game playing (RISK, chess, poker, GO) partly for the intellectual and cognitive development benefits, partly for the social skill development, argumentation and debate, music, dance, self-defense, all things that require groups of students.
      Once you free up the adult human resources from the mundane drilling of rote learning, they are available to provide these kinds of opportunities instead.

      Parents would be able to monitor online the progress of their kid. A kid’s interest could lead to a mentorship of another parent in the community who knows about cars, sports, war, cooking, dance, so their is a wider circle for the kid to draw on that JUST their teacher, and their own parent. And if that parent/mentor is from a different cultural, racial, or SES demographic, that is a benefit, too.

      As the student enters the last few years of high school, they may have a better appreciation of where their strengths and interest lie, they will have pre-existing ties into the adult community through the mentorship roles, and they can be encouraged to think more effectively on their career path, and what post-secondary education they are seeking (if any).

      You MUST keep the students desire to learn alive – that has to be rule one.
      Impossible? Not technologically. Will some teachers have a tough time adapting – yes, many others will flourish. Those who are more conventional can provide the subject specific support. Would it cost a lot of money… yesssss. But the private sector could take a lead role in generating that capital and organizing the development. Can this be done on a test-bed basis…. Perhaps if you tackled one discipline ( maybe basic math).

      Anyway, this tackles many of the problems I mumbled about in the first post I made at top…It does leave some aspects of learning out – having to learn material that you cannot find a way to interest yourself in, dealing with inter-personal conflict, overcoming emotional adversity in dealing with a rigid institution . . .
      But the benefits cold be very large indeed.

      Anyway, sorry to go on at such length.

  9. This is clearly a complex issue. First of all, most educational systems have problems (personally, I like the IB programs and the finnish public school system) because they are exam based and depressing. They are incompatible with biology when they dont give reasonable break times. They also cater to very specific personality types, people who sit still and listen, mainly, but who are also extroverts because they participate and do oral presentations. Girls are better at sitting still, which isnt great, because quite frankly everyone should be jumping around for their sanity and their health with certain regularity. There are a lot of depressed teens and physical exercise/dancing/what have you, would probably help a lot. That aside, I think the reason why there are more female teachers (who dont know how to deal with boys very well, because they themselves arent boys and its hard to empathize) comes down to gender roles and the fact that teachers dont get paid very well. Men are still portrayed as the main breadwinner, so those who are able, go for careers which make the big bucks. I think men still feel this pressure, so they dont become teachers, because who can raise a family on that salary? I think women think its great to make a lot of money, but their honor doesnt depend on it. Teachers should be paid like doctors, but the fact is they arent, and for some reason teaching is seen as a career path for women, perhaps because it is somehow seen to relate to raising children, a womans job. I think the first thing to do here, is for everyone to start working from the home. Boys can be vulnerable, just like girls, because they are human beings. Parents have to take an interest in their sons education. I think boys havent gotten help is because nobody sees them as victims, whereas women can be the eternal victim. Also, teachers have to have better salaries, they have to be made aware that theres a problem with boys performance, and they have to do something about it. Ofcourse, it would be great if there could be more male teachers and just better teachers in general, for everyone, so all children can develop their potential. Im sorry if you disagree with me, but please dont be rude, Ive read a couple of agressive responses on here.

    • OK, gently then.

      Have you ever asked a group of boys about their feelings about the school experience? Would you agree that those with aspirations to become teachers, enjoyed their experiences as students, and felt comfortable within the environment and processes and culture of schools?

      I did that. A group of around 25 boys, half related, half their friends. Every single one of them replied that they absolutely hated school, that they despised almost all of their teachers, that they loathed the student culture with its cliques, that they found the assessment process absurd, that the repetitive homework assignments were a disincentive, that the teachers played clear favourites, that the disciplinary code was ludicrous, and applied unevenly between boys and girls, and that a lot of the material offered in soft courses, like social sciences, english literature, and political philosophy was biased and politically skewed. They had a special revulsion for the required seminars and workshops on relationship violence, violence against women, and racial issues.

      My daughter, by the way has many of the same felings, except she did develop some decent relationships with some of her female teachers, and that seemingly, helped her a lot.

      Unsurprisingly, the boys would rather dig ditches than ever return to a school setting. Become a teacher – lunacy. A lot of boys know they are headed for careers that do not pay as well as teaching. They choose not to anyway.

      So a few boys do head into teaching – probably those who liked the process and the environment. Most boys, from what I hear, will never consider teaching.

      I suggest you ask the boys themselves.

  10. Louise: “I’m a mother of two boys and a girl, so I have nothing against boys or men. I love them and I want them to do well.”

    Then why poor so much energy, effort and resources into helping girls only if the intention was to make sure both prosper?

    Louise: “For ever, women have been tied down by babies and held back by death in childbirth. Consequently, they weren’t considered worth educating. Because they’d never use an education, all they needed to know was how to cook and keep house and raise children.”

    And how are these boys to blame? How are boys in general to blame?

    Louise: “If you don’t believe me, look around at the way stone age cultures still in existence today treat their women. The males are in charge, the lowest ranking male is superior to the highest ranking woman. Women are stoned to death for being raped.”

    So every male, even lower ranking, even every boy is superior to high ranking woman? Even your own sons?

    We don’t live in this stone age you’re talking about. Not when it’s hard for fathers to gain custody of their kids, when it’s hard for even boys to be taken seriously when they’ve been sexually or physically abused by women let alone men themselves, when a girl or woman can hit a boy or man and get away with it due to piggybacking on the expectation that men and boys don’t hit women or girls at all no matter the circumstances, when men can get falsly accused of rape and have their careers and reputations ruined, and where men are treated like perverts if they should happen to go into a career involving child care.

    Louise: “But the women’s movement also addressed the fact that women were considered inferior, second class citizens. The little woman. To the moon, Alice.
    So young women of that time were tired of being put down, and weren’t going to take it any longer.”

    And you stepped all over men and boys as collatoral damage, those who had never considered women inferior or second class citizens. Now here we are and men are tired of being put down. They’re not going to take it any longer either. Nor am I as a survivor of abuse.

    Louise: “I think this is because men’s brains mature slower than women’s, men are thinking mostly of sex at very critical times in their educational life and the fact that women now have more options and outshine men in school from a very early age has made many boys give up, not try so hard, and in fact seems to be holding boys back from maturing into men who are ready to get a job and support a family.”

    You ever consider the messages we give boys nowadays: “Girls are superior”, “Grrl Power”, yadda yadda yadda ad infintum? Imagine being a boy hearing this message. What do you think will likely happen?

    It’s not all due to biology. Unless you’re pulling the biology card where in the past, this wasn’t the case when girls were the focus in education.

    Louise: “There is an imbalance in gender accomplishment and society has not yet reached equilibrium.
    I don’t know how this is going to pan out.”

    It starts with admitting that the women’s movement messed up royally. With society admitting they messed up royally when both genders were in need of equal attention. Instead, women’s groups and society worked hand in hand to lavish all attention on girls needs, subtly blaming the other gender for their problems simply because, to them and you, even the lowest ranking man is still superior to the highest ranking woman which is yet another subtle way of saying “Boys are favored and to blame, girls are not”. Yes, you’re even lumping your own sons into that category whether you’re aware of it or not.

    Louise: “But women have proven they are not inferior to men.
    Regardless of what happens next in our society, I hope this will be remembered.”

    Mission accomplished.

    That’s all you care about: Women are not inferior to men.

    That’s something I’ll remember the next time I ever ask a feminist for support.

  11. Hi Mark. I agree we have a problem with boys, but I’m not sure it is because we promote girls. On considering what I just wrote, I have to say, okay it isn’t because we promote girls, it’s because we no longer suppress them.
    I’m a mother of two boys and a girl, so I have nothing against boys or men. I love them and I want them to do well.
    For ever, women have been tied down by babies and held back by death in childbirth. Consequently, they weren’t considered worth educating. Because they’d never use an education, all they needed to know was how to cook and keep house and raise children.
    If you don’t believe me, look around at the way stone age cultures still in existence today treat their women. The males are in charge, the lowest ranking male is superior to the highest ranking woman. Women are stoned to death for being raped.
    The women’s moment was made possible by effective birth control in the 1960’s.
    Before then, women had few career choices.
    But the women’s movement also addressed the fact that women were considered inferior, second class citizens. The little woman. To the moon, Alice.
    So young women of that time were tired of being put down, and weren’t going to take it any longer.
    Now it turns out women are outperforming men in school.
    I think this is because men’s brains mature slower than women’s, men are thinking mostly of sex at very critical times in their educational life and the fact that women now have more options and outshine men in school from a very early age has made many boys give up, not try so hard, and in fact seems to be holding boys back from maturing into men who are ready to get a job and support a family.
    This is not a good thing. But the times are changing and we must adapt.
    There is an imbalance in gender accomplishment and society has not yet reached equilibrium.
    I don’t know how this is going to pan out.
    In addition to girls outperforming boys in many fields, we have almost all our manufacturing jobs going from North America to China and India. Double whammy.
    But women have proven they are not inferior to men.
    Regardless of what happens next in our society, I hope this will be remembered.

    • “I think this is because men’s brains mature slower than women’s, men are thinking mostly of sex at very critical times in their educational life and the fact that women now have more options and outshine men in school from a very early age has made many boys give up, not try so hard, and in fact seems to be holding boys back from maturing into men who are ready to get a job and support a family.”

      What a load of bullsh*t.

  12. Joanna Schroeder says:

    I strongly feel both boys and girls’ issues need to be addressed together. Boys are falling behind for sure and it’s a HUGE problem.

    But there are still issues with the way we talk to girls about what matters in their lives, and that needs to be addressed as well. We can’t keep choosing just one gender to advance. We need to move both forward, together.

    Look at this NIGHTMARE – https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=424995154252320&set=a.284616091623561.69831.113626428722529&type=1

    • Absolutely true, Joanna. There is simply NO reason not to act for both (all) sexes, all genders. What on earth prevents that?
      The constraint is not financial, it is really not human resource based ( as in people’s time). It is not really opportunity based (college spots are readily expandable, for instance).
      So what is it?

      If you ever have some time ( you probably won’t, suspect you are very busy), track down the submissions to Australia’s commission on boys education – not the report itself, the submissions to the commission made by various stakeholders. Read particularly the submission from Australia’s education system stakeholders – the unions and the school boards, as well as the submissions form the gender faculties in some of the universities. They are filled with gender essentialism, a blatant refusal to acknowledge their own data, siting of boys problems in society generally, or in the boys themselves. Not once do they view themselves as contributing participants in the problem.

      If we want to simultaneously address the problems of boys and the problems girls confront, surely the world views that inform those submissions needs to be addressed.

    • Mark Sherman says:

      Yes, I agree that there are certainly issues that have to be discussed with girls, but, on the whole, doing well in school is not one of them. Having three daughters-in-law, I am personally aware that young women today know that it’s a very different world for them than it was for their mothers – in terms of opportunity, etc. (The three-hour PBS special tonight – “Makers” – is all about what women have accomplished in the 50 years since the publication of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, and that’s a lot of accomplishment!)

      To me, the most important thing you say in your comment is that “Boys are falling behind for sure, and that’s a HUGE problem.” Yes, but what is being done about it? In the early 1990s, when girls were already moving ahead of boys in all kinds of ways, there was a systematic effort to lift up girls (which I mention in my piece). I strongly believe that back then if we had done what you suggest, i.e., not “choosing just one gender to advance,” if we had encouraged our boys the way we encouraged our girls, we might not be facing this boy crisis now.

      And what about the fact that there is a White House Council for Women and Girls, but nothing like that for males of any age? We should at least have a White House Council for Boys. But have you ever heard any government official anywhere comment on the fact that boys have fallen so far behind? (If you have, please let me know.) These are half our children that we have ignored. I think we’re a long way from “mov(ing) both (genders) forward together,” which can only be rectified by finally – if not now, when? – starting to attend to our sons.

      • Dr. Mark, these education issues extend into the workplace as well.

        The human resource field has become highly feminized over the last decade. HR practicioners have been facing the tough gender issues for quite some time. Historically, they’ve been concerned about diversity and balance throughout the workplace, but recently they are challenging the female dominance in their own HR field.

        Since HR is heavily involved in compliance measures and employee training and development, they are on top of this issue too. (maybe not all companies, but most)

        This 2011 article and MANY others…should come as some relief to men and women about equality, at work.

        “The Feminization of HR” found at HR Executive Online

    • While we seem to understand that young boys and young girls need different things when it comes to education any attempt to create a gender-specific program suddenly becomes adversarial, less about educating the future and more about one-upping the male/female counterparts. How can we possibly educate children fairly when the older generations are so intent on dragging their sexist baggage into the mix?

  13. C’mon, let’s be honest here …. No matter how we want to paint new age feminism as being progressive in a sense that they want to be all inclusive, it’s not. We are a feminist society that will not relinquish any control.

    Whereas the feminist movement of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s focused on a perceived notion that men had it better and they oppressed women in other words laying blame on men for the state that women were supposed to be in, you won’t see them stepping up and admitting that it was the feminist movement that screwed men and boys over. Yet they continue to work (in many cases successfully) to pull men into their camp.

    For things to change, society has to take a real look at the adverse affects of feminism and that won’t happen. No matter how many studies show to the contrary, many still see “male privilege” as being alive and well.

  14. Interesting title for this article.

    Question: Maybe it would’ve been a better idea to give our sons and daughters the same level of attention from the beginning instead of pouring it all into our daughters alone?

  15. I first came across your material a few years ago on your blog at Psychology Today. I have enjoyed them, so I thank you.
    I hate to be gloomy, but I read the 609 comments attached to Hoff Sommers article at the New York Times. Given that any modification to the education system will require political will and some consensus, I have to say that there is no evidence that the issue will be addressed, or even that the public want it addressed. Perhaps it is just too complex.
    From my reading, here are some of the components that I think are at play, although opinions vary widely.
    Boys start reading a bit later in general than girls. Given the increased expectations particularly for verbal acuity placed on kindergarten and the first couple of grades, boys have more trouble meeting those expectations, and begin to view themselves as second class students ( see Kleinfield’s work).
    Schools, in part driven by school board administrations fears of being sued, have cut down sharply on physical outlets, both in terms of recess time, and P.E., and the activities that can be done. A lesser contributor to this is the efforts by some feminist groups to identify problems that girls have experienced ( see AAUW Hostile Hallways, and the Aussie report contributors that the only boys issue needing to be addressed was boys bullying).
    There are some teachers at the elementary stage (overwhelmingly female at this level), that are less than comfortable with boys’ behaviour, and have difficulty managing same. If a small number of teachers have this deficit, the boys they encounter will have a problem. Once a teacher has turned a boy off learning, the difficulty getting the kid re-engaged is significant. Of note, the study that Hoff Sommers discusses is on point, NOT because those kids care about marks at that stage (they do not), but because it demonstrates the existence of teachers who are clearly uncomfortable with boys, period.
    The transition into high school is a cusp, where the student is expected to take more responsibilty for their education. Here, the problem really starts to show up. The deficits from learning in reading and study habits really kick in. The changes in pedagogy – portfolio assessment, the increase of marks awarded to participation and homework, as opposed to testing, and the pushing of literacy into maths and science (as in the questions on homework and tests are designed to push literacy, instead of purely examining math and science knowledge) reduce a lot of boys’ engagement. Perhaps the worst is the excessive workload, which not only reduces the availability of free time after school, but also demands a level of executive function planning and monitoring from the pre-frontal cortex that these boys are not really ready for. ( We are all aware of the slower wiring of the male pre-frontal cortex, right? – roughly 18 year old females to completion, vs 23 to 25 for boys)
    What is the motivation for boys. To what are they expected to aspire? What life do they envision for themselves at age 13, 14, 16? Do they aspire to careers that will let them be fully fledged adults, own a home? have a family? be a father? get respect in the community? Not really. If they still have their biological father in the home, they have probably seen the uncertainty associated with the past 20 years of compression on male employment. They doubt that they will have a home, because what his parents have experienced is what they envision. Let’s not talk about the expectation of stable fatherhood. Respect in the community – not to a kid that has grown up watching most TV offerings, and the associated commercials.
    So what motivation do they have to put in the effort? What life are they hoping to build? Kleinfield reports on the utterly unrealistic expectations boys hold – rock star, athlete, professional poker player…
    Boys turn to games not because they are violent, but because in the utterly artificial environment of computer games they can experience some kind of control over their performance, and the resulting self and peer awarded accolades.
    They are not ready or able to do the detailed pre-frontal cortex work to plan a future, they do not grasp the significance of education for their futures, and they have not been taught to manage the anxiety driven waves of cortisol that shut down the working memory of their pre-frontal cortices.

    For an awful lot of boys, their futures have been constrained by grade 10, say 16. And they don;t really get that. What they do know is that they want desparately to get out of hell, and never set foot in a school again. Their sisters inhabit a quite different world. Sometimes it seems like they are almost a different species at that age.

    All boys? of course not. But more than enough for the data to be crystal clear. Simply look at the PARTICIPATION rate in high school graduation, and in post-secondary education. Both sexes, and all genders SHOULD have massively increased their participation rates over the past generation. Only girls have. The boys – it is actually falling.

    And no, society does not much care, and the few educators who do try to do something, become overwhelmed at the inertia, the power brokers, and the frustration of undoing the effects.

    Apologies for excessive length. Sure hope someone else contributes to your call….

    • This is such a sad commentary and so completely real. Boys are definitely getting the short stick, generally have a “non-present”, figuratively or not, father and need so to be nurtured and encouraged.
      In an oblique way it’s akin to awareness of breast cancer vs. awareness of prostate cancer. No comparison!


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