Time for a Gender War Truce?

Cathy Young wrote a column for the Detroit News a few weeks ago on her impressions of forums held by opponents in the gender war — the American Association of University Women panel, “Beyond the Gender Wars,” and the Independent Women’s Forum’s, “The XY Files: The Truth Is Out There … About the Differences Between Boys and Girls.” As she deftly put it in her column (It?s time for a truce in gender wars), “Perhaps the clearest fact to emerge from the two panels is that both feminist and conservative ideologies offer a blinkered view of reality.”

One of the things Young is very good at is highlighting the hypocrisy of feminists who tend to think some social phenomenon is disastrous until the discussion turns toward men at which point all bets are off. Young writes, for example,

The leitmotif of the symposium was that instead of pitting girls against boys in a victimhood contest, we should make the schools better for everyone. Sounds good, but isn?t it a bit disingenuous to trumpet girls? victimization and then shout, “Let?s not play victim!” when boys? problems are mentioned? As some IWF speakers noted, the AAUW played a key role in starting the “gender wars” it now decries.

The AAUW angrily denies this. One of its panelists, Barrie Thorne, a women?s studies professor at the University of California, Berkeley, declared that gender equity is not a zero-sum game in which one sex wins at the other?s expense — which is true. But the protestations that girls? advocates never tried to deny or minimize boys? problems are less credible.

The 1992 AAUW report, “How Schools Shortchange Girls,” called for programs to boost girls? achievement in math and science while warning against targeted efforts to remedy boys? deficits in reading and writing. At the symposium, some speakers downplayed the fact that women now get 55 percent of college degrees by suggesting that women need college to earn as much as male high school graduates (which may have been true 20 years ago but certainly not for the current generation).

Young, on the other hand, also sees the dangers in turning around and framing such issues entirely in terms of boys’ needs. Rather, she takes the rather obvious, commonsense view that educational programs should be geared to helping children succeed regardless of sex. Of course that proposal is too sensible to be taken seriously by the radical feminists or their conservative anti-feminist counterparts, except when they are forced into that position as the AAUW has been thanks to new educational research on boys’ poor educational performance.


It?s time for a truce in gender wars. Cathy Young, The Detroit News, September 28, 2000.

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