Maybe Christina Hoff Sommers was a little right

My first reaction to “war against boys” rhetoric is to roll my eyes a bit–somehow, the war on boys doesn’t seem to be eroding male privilege overall in America. But, since–as you may have heard–we have a 4-yr-old boy, I do pay attention to such arguments a little bit more closely than I once did.

For example, this nugget in the new issue of Parents made me want to start slapping people (probably due to an excess of violent movies while growing up):

Boys who watch violent TV shows or movies (like Star Wars, Spider-Man, and Power Rangers) between ages 2 and 5 are more likely to be antisocial or aggressive at ages 7 to 10, according to a new study in Pediatrics.

I’ll let pass right by the obvious point that the three movies named aren’t equivalently violent, and the equally obvious opportunity to sneer at the vagueness of “watch” (under what circumstances? how often?) or the fascinatingly powerful causal mechanism implied here. (NB: I’m not necessarily indicting the research itself, which I’m too lazy busy to look up, and which I’m sure was voiced with at least some more nuance.) No, the point I’m after is coming up:

Surprisingly, violent programming had no effect on girls’ behavior patterns, possibly because the “violent” shows that girls chose to watch had more hostile language and threatening behavior than physical violence.

WTF? I love how the girls’ shows’ violence is bracketed in scare quotes. But, more seriously, anyone who thinks that the language of 7-10 y.o. girls isn’t “antisocial” or “aggressive” either needs to spend more time with 7-10 year old girls (or their former victims), or needs to re-think their definitions of aggression.

A pointed out that, in her experience, the only way this could be true–i.e., that violent programming has “no effect” on girls–is that girls in that age group are already maximally antisocial and aggressive, as necessary training for high school. (And she was popular in high school!)

I read the paragraph aloud to The Little Man: His take: “Violence *is* great. But you won’t let me watch Spider-Man, and the Power Rangers seem silly, so I’ll probably be ok. It’s just Star Wars. Star Wars can’t hurt. Plus, I’ll be 5 in May. Did you hear Mom’s thinking about buying me camo for my room?” So that’s nice.

Update: This picture from the Lego Store in Chicago seems relevant.

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