Certainly America, and in large part the profession of psychology, advocates for fair treatment and equal opportunity for women in the Church and society. But even despite laws and efforts of many people of goodwill, inequities exist. The 20th century was replete with movements across the globe to ferret out injustices and create equal Human Rights for all. In dealing with glaring and chronic inequities, can we become desensitized to other injustices? Valerie Goswick Heywood, a mother of two, recently wrote: “Whether or not you agree with its principles (the Feminist Movement), I have, over the past few years, come to believe that not only did it disempower men on many levels, it has had a trickle effect on our young sons.”
At the beginning of the decade, Christian Hoff Sommers startled readers of Atlantic Magazine with her article, "The War Against Boys." “It is a bad time to be a boy in America,” said Summers. “Boys dominate drop-out lists, failure lists, and learning disability lists.” Boys are typically less likely to go to college. Girls read more books than boys and outperform boys on tests of artistic and musical abilities. Boys are three times as likely than girls to be labelled Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and seven times more likely to commit suicide. (Sommers cites a year in which there were 701 female suicides between the ages of 5-24, while there were 3,782 male suicides.) The article by Sommers offers an extended discussion and rebuttal to Carol Gilligan’s book, In a Different Voice.
More recently and across the Pond, Libby Purves, in the Sunday London Times, wrote “Neeeoww! Let’s stick up for boisterous boys.” Purves stated: “Education should reflect a happy synthesis, but it hardly does. In reaction against the days when bigots argued that educating girls caused sterility, and more recent decades when girls were denied sciences other that domestic, the system has swung over into a bias against boys. As fewer and fewer primary teachers are men (rightly scared of demonising as child molesters), a feminine culture arises.” Last week Kerry Weber moderated a discussion on possible reasons for there being an imbalance in the female/male ratio of teachers in Catholic schools; this speculation was not listed. What do you think?
Mother and pediatrician Meg Meeker, M.D. has written a delightful book, Boys Should be Boys. Meeker believes that boyhood in the United States is under siege and she offers seven approaches to raising healthy boys; she emphasizes that boys need activity, appropriate opportunities to rough-house, unstructured contact with nature where risks such as tree-climbing can be tried, and even considers the relationship between testosterone and cars. The natural aggression of boys needs to be channeled--learning about hunting, the great battles of history, as well as how to make a bow-and-arrow are all appropriate topics. “I’ve learned that when it comes to raising sons,” Meeker said, “what is politically correct and what is true are often at opposite ends of the spectrum.”
Again, we need not reiterate here the many injustices to girls and women throughout history as well as the present--inequities that deserve our full and undivided attention. But there could be more going on. In logic, the presence of A (bias against woman) does not negate B (bias against boys). As Christians dedicated to social justice and fairness toward each of God’s children, considering this entire continuum might be worthwhile.
“We need yin and yang, male and female, buccaneers and consolidators, nurses and surgeons, stevedors and embroiderers of either sex,” said Purves. “We should celebrate both.”
William Van Ornum