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Boys Will Be Boys — Just Try to Deny the Obvious

Steve Sailer reviews Leonard Sax’s new book, Why Gender Matters: What Parents and Teachers Need to Know about the Emerging Science of Sex Differences in the current issue of The Claremont Review . Sax’s book is truly important, presenting some of the most recent scientific discoveries about sex differences — especially as these relate to boys and girls. Sax is swimming against the feminist tide, and he knows it.

Sailer makes some excellent points of his own. Consider these two paragraphs:

Sax speaks of “gender” when he means “sex”–male or female. I fear, though, that this usage battle is lost because the English language really does need two different words to distinguish between the fact, and the act, of sex. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg claims her secretary Millicent invented the use of “gender” to mean “sex” in the early 1970s while typing the crusading feminist’s briefs against sex discrimination. Millicent pointed out to her boss that judges, like all men, have dirty minds when it comes to the word “sex,” so she should use the boring term “gender” to keep those animals thinking only about the law.

Unfortunately, “gender” now comes with a vast superstructure of 99% fact-free feminist theorizing about how sex differences are all just socially constructed. According to this orthodoxy, it’s insensitive to doubt a burly transvestite truck driver demanding a government-subsidized sex change when he says he feels like a little girl inside. Yet it’s also insensitive to assume that the average little girl feels like a little girl inside.

He minces no words, and understands the nature of our challenge — how to rescue a true understanding of masculinity and femininity amidst the chaos. Sax directs much of his attention to the significance of sex differences with respect to education. He argues, for example, that both boys and girls would benefit from single-sex educational contexts just after puberty. Sax cites a study of the schools in Belfast, where the girls in co-ed schools revealed their level of self-esteem by the answer to one question: “Do you think you’re pretty?” Other questions failed to predict self-esteem with accuracy.

Sailer summarizes the challenge, with special respect to the schools:

Of course, American schools have long been taught largely by women, and boys and schoolmarms have not always seen eye-to-eye. But the rise of feminism has encouraged female teachers to view their male students as overprivileged potential oppressors. Further, feminism justifies teachers’ self-absorption with female feelings. Thus, a remarkable fraction of the novels my older son has been assigned to read in high school are about girls getting raped. I hope it hasn’t permanently soured him on fiction.

We’ve now achieved the worst of both worlds: the educational authorities are committed to anti-male social constructionist ideology, but the pop culture market delivers the crudest, most sexualized imagery. The irony is that when the adult world imposes gender egalitarianism on young people in the name of progressive ideologies, it just makes the young people even more cognizant of their primordial differences.

Sax sometimes pushes his point too hard, and his arguments about homosexuality are largely unhelpful. Nevertheless, his book makes an important argument in its main point. Steve Sailer’s review scores its own points, and deserves careful reading.