Interview Transcript: Christina Hoff Sommers on The War Against Boys and One Nation Under Therapy

By April 16, 2013

[00:00:01] FIRE, what I love is its bi partisan because I don’t think that caring about liberty is a conservative issue or a liberal doctrine.  It unites conservatives and liberals as Americans.  I’m Christina Hoff Sommers, I’m a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.  I wrote a book called The War Against Boys and I did it in 2000.

[00:00:31] Now today, there have been a lot of books and articles and documentaries and 60 Minutes; they’re all talking about the precariousness of boys.  In fact, now people are talking about the end of men.  That’s the latest, but when I wrote this book it was news.  People weren’t attending to boys.  It was all about the short changed girl and her low self-esteem.  What I tried to do in The War Against Boys is show that the idea that girls were suffering from a self-esteem crisis was greatly exaggerated.  There was no evidence of any kind of pathology that fall on girls.

[00:01:04] In fact, girls were doing better than ever.  So I tried to tell that story.  Well, it was considered politically incorrect because it was said to be a backlash against girls.  Now I failed to see how pointing out the misfortunes of boys is backlash against girls.  The well-being of girls depends on the well-being of boys.  We are in this together. It’s not a zero sum game, but unfortunately there is a very powerful women’s lobby. 

[00:01:30] They are enthralled to a style of feminism that was popular in the ‘70s.  They’ve never given it up. So no matter how much progress women make, they’re still talking about women being an oppressed class and subordinate. So when I spoke up for boys, it was thought to be a challenge to that world view which it was. I wrote a book called One Nation Under Therapy with a psychiatrist Sally Satel. 

[00:01:57] We very much believe that there are people who are mentally fragile and people with mental disorders that need treatment. But the average child and average adult is not a mental patient. This therapeutic approach to normal men and women and especially to normal children is harmful. I feel that we’ve just raised a whole generation of kids who are kind of in a moral fog. Again, it’s misguided tolerance. It’s kind of the tyranny of niceness.

[00:02:30] People think well, I’ll be nice. But being too nice, being nice in the face of depravity is the opposite of nice. It’s being tolerant of callousness and cruelty. As a philosopher professor of many years, I saw that over the years students became more and more relativistic and more and more diffident about taking a moral stand. Ethics professors will talk about this.  They’ll sort of exchange horror stories about something you’ll propose to a class to try to get them confidently to speak against it. 

[00:03:02] In some classes, I found it to be impossible. They would not confidently take a moral stand against anything. What they are supposed to be doing is developing ideas and challenging them, learning how to debate. We have a generation of kids who can’t argue. They think that will create tension or there’s something wrong with it. Well, if you can’t argue; you can’t think.

[00:03:27] The ideal of liberty and freely speaking your mind is so quintessentially American.  So much of our tradition and how we raised a generation of students who don’t know that, don’t appreciate that. My basic belief is that kids are strong and resilient and smart. They will discover what is going on. I think we’ll see rebellion. I already see signs of it. 

[00:04:01]

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Duration: 4 minutes