In what is the biggest clusterf#%k of gender policing, misogyny, pseudonostalgia, and political misdirection in recent memory, The Dangerous Book for Boys has appeared on the American market. This book that's supposed to be a guide for boys, with information on famous battles, how to build a treehouse, how to tie knots, that sort of thing, and has already been a huge success in the United Kingdom.
There's really nothing wrong with a book that tells kids to go play outside instead of in front of a television, but it always seems like something like this has to be injected with patriarchal gender roles. It's been heralded by social conservatives as an answer to "social engineering" to get back to the more "natural" times where "boys will be boys". Fox News heralds the book with:
In celebrating old-fashioned boyhood and providing a blueprint on how to reclaim it, The Dangerous Book is revolutionary. It discards decades of social engineering that approaches children as being psychologically gender neutral. The book implicitly rebukes school texts that strip out gender references. Instead, it says 'boys will be boys'; they always have been, they always will be, and that's a good thing.
Thus The Dangerous Book achieves social revolution without preaching or politics; it does so in the name of fun.
Well, I don't really see anything revolutionary about gender roles, especially when we live in a society where even dishonestly arguing gender roles
are hard-wired will lead to economic success. These authors hit on an old formula, wrote a book based on it, and cashed in. This book is about as revolutionary as a John Grisham novel.
The response to the book has been centered around the fact that girls are excluded from the title, which is a legitimate argument, but my initial, instinctive problem stems more from the fact that all boys are falsely included. It doesn't take long for arguments about boys naturally being hard-wired a certain way to turn into boys should be a certain way, and if they are different, then they are just fighting against their hard-wiring, and they should be the recipients of violence to bring them back to their natural state.
In fact, one of the authors can barely hold back his misogyny when interviewed:
Another school banned paper airplanes. Honestly, it's enough to make you weep, if I did that sort of thing, which I try not to. Reading Jane Austen is still allowed, however.
I would estimate that about 20-30% of the books I read in high school were written by women, but these social commentators find that to be too much of a female presence in schools. Of course, this is coming from people who won't be satisfied until there are no more women in academia at all, so I'm not really surprised
, I'm just offended that they would co-opt the language of social upheaval to support an idea so ubiquitous that it is violent and hegemonic, or maybe so hegemonic and violent that it's ubiquitous.
The authors say, "Boyhood is all about curiosity," but I don't think they're referring to that kind of curiosity. And while I can't fault them for trying to make a quick buck, I do have a problem with social commentary that makes this book part of a battle of political misdirection. Everyone from Wendy McElroy, who said, "Condemnation arises because The Dangerous Book breaks the dominant and politically correct stereotype for children's books," to Albert "If a successful treatment to reverse the sexual orientation to heterosexual is ever developed, we would support its use" Mohler, who said, "Boys want to be taken seriously as boys, and taught how to become men. To reach this goal, they will need far more than the fascinating lessons found in The Dangerous Book for Boys -- but this is a good place to start," has praised this book. These commentators' estimation, the stresses that many American families are facing today and the loss of the "good ol' days" when father knew best are a result of queers, feminists, and anyone else who didn't want to fit in the mold of traditional gender roles speaking out. Those stresses, they so often argue, are the result of that homosexual agenda that pulls fathers out the home and that feminism that told women they are deserving of equal pay for equal work, instead of putting the blame directly where it belongs: with the massive redistribution of wealth that has made the richest 1% of America own twice the percentage of American pie it did in 1979. Dreaming of playing stickball and building a treehouse while playing Nintendo or whatever it is the kids are playing these days, for some reason, is blamed on the second-wave instead of economic pressures that force many parents to work more jobs with longers hours to live in neighborhoods where running outside and playing in the woods just isn't possible.
But, of course, they scapegoat uppity women because any sort of real criticism would question their privilege and make people wonder why these commentors can live in houses with huge backyards and why they're economically able to have more leisure time to spend go-karting with their kids while so many others can't. The reason these boys can't go out an play in the mud isn't just because progressives have worked to give them the option not to if they don't want to, it's because conservatives have been hard at work making sure that not everyone can afford the ability to do so.
Then again, the publisher says, "This book teaches [boys] it's OK to play and explore," and I can't really disagree with that.