Dangerous Boys

Woodlief and son Among the blessings of the Internet, one often stumbles across people you wish you had known about long before.  Another blessing is the ease by which to pass along these gems. Here’s one for you:  Tony Woodlief’s blog Sand in the Gears.   I stumbled across him via Opinion Journal ,  The Wall Street Journal’s online editorial portal, when Woodlief wrote a piece about fathers  for Father’s Day.  That led me to his blog, and from it I pass along another gem, his blog entitled “Snips and Snails and Puppy-Dog Tails” , which begins like this:

Cathy Young, whose writing I sometimes enjoy, suggests in her Reason Magazine essay  that the wildly popular Dangerous Book for Boys  is dangerous indeed, because it reinforces traditional sex roles. Why couldn’t it have been titled “The Dangerous Book for Kids”? In service to this question, Young quotes a female friend to great effect: “‘Where is the book for girls who did stuff like make their own chain mail as kids, or cracked rocks with sledgehammers in the driveway both to see what was inside them and to see if you could get sparks?'”

Woodlief proceeds to give an answer to this question, and it’s definitely fun to read. 

While you’re at it, take a look at Young’s essay  .  In it, she reports that “On blogs and Internet forums, readers complaining about the book’s exclusionary message have been dismissed as angry feminist whiners …”  Am I the only one who finds this sentence to capture the essence of feminist whining? 

Is this a whining feminist? Here are more things Young finds in The Dangerous Book for Boys to complain about:
“Yet the gender-specific nature of the message, which includes a chapter on how to deal with the alien creatures known as girls, is quite deliberate. Indeed, The Dangerous Book… is being treated as something of a political manifesto—a repudiation of the idea that boys and girls are basically alike.”

And,  this:

“While it encourages respect for girls, it does seem to treat them more as ‘the weaker sex’ than as equals. In one grating passage, boys are encouraged to carry a handkerchief, among other things, for ‘offering one to a girl when she cries.’ ”

And, also this:

“The trouble with The Dangerous Book for Boys is not that it seeks to restore the old-fashioned charms of adventurous boyhood but that it’s being treated as a restoration of old-fashioned wisdom about boys and girls.”

Woodlief provides a helpful analysis of Young’s pique.  Read it.  For now, I wish to comment on this observation by Woodlief:

Part of the problem here is the mistaken notion, perhaps due to an overactive sense of grievance, that the title of the book means that the knowledge therein is exclusively for boys. A more generous reading reveals that the authors, Conn and Hal Iggulden, simply wanted to include the stories, games, and skills that a great many boys (and men) want to know. Does that mean no girls should want to know these things? Of course not.

By men, for boys from eight to eightyI wouldn’t fault Woodlief too much here, but I think he has blasted right past the Real Affront that The Dangerous Book for Boys delivers to feminist feelings:  the book is addressed to boys only.  The back cover text includes this outrageous statement:  “The perfect book for every boy from eight to eighty.”  This, I submit, is what riles feminist sensibilities – that someone (especially males) would have something to say to other males, and expressly to ignore females in the bargain.

There are two books in the Bible which are written by men and for men.  Christians with an orthodox view of the Bible must confess that God wrote a couple of dangerous books for men and placed them in the canon.   The woman’s perspective is entirely missing in these books.  Though women are mentioned in these books, it is always from the perspective of men.  In these books you find information and opinion about women (though women are far from being the central subject of either tome) conveyed to men by other men.  

Do you know the name of these books of the Bible?  I’ll blog about them later.



Filed under Feminism

14 responses to “Dangerous Boys

  1. Truth Unites...and Divides

    Young writes: “Indeed, The Dangerous Book… is being treated as something of a political manifesto—a repudiation of the idea that boys and girls are basically alike.”

    Whenever I read egalitarian nonsense masquerading as a serious assertion, I’m facially challenged. I’m challenged not to roll my eyes heavenward, I’m challenged to not audibly snicker, I’m challenged to not wince in utter disgust and to maintain a poker face of serenity, I’m challenged to be creative in finding ways to be kind and gracious and loving whilst caring enough to confront error. In short, I’m challenged to surrender more of myself to the Holy Spirit. Sometimes I’m not up to it. 😦

  2. Ooooo, trivia question, although not trivial. Would it be Titus and 1 Timothy because those books give specific instructions about the men as to how to minister and qualifications of a minister and all that stuff. They also include instructions about women in the congregation and how they are to be related to.
    Have you ever had the patience to read some of the stuff on Jesus Creed about women? There is also an interesting blog (though she doesn’t write much anymore) — adventuresinmercy.wordpress.com. It is a woman who started out in quite a strict form of patriarchy and is now making the swing over to egalitarianism. I knew her when she was still firmly planted in the comp. camp, then she started reading more emergent stuff and things started to change. I engaged her in discussion many times and it saddened me to see where she was going. Anyway those are some interesting, head shaking reads.

  3. Hello, Daniel and Leigh Ann,

    Once back in the 80s, I was reading someone (I *think* it was Stephen Goldberg, who eventually published The Inevitability of Patriarchy . later republished under the “improved title” Why Men Rule) … anyway, this fellow was commenting in his essay on people who say things that Cathy Young says here — that boys and girls are “basically alike.”

    His commentary went something like this: “If people who have reared boys and girls can say something like this, they have already dismissed the most powerful evidence anyone could marshal against such a notion. The evidence I provide below [referring to the remainder of the essay] is paltry compared with the obvious evidence sitting around in piles on every hand.”

    At any rate, I always urge people like Young to read Goldberg, who writes as a secularist sociologist/anthropologist who makes a very clear-eyed case that patriarchy of some variety is inevitable, and then goes on in an attempt to explain why this is so.

    Leigh Ann, 1 and 2 Timothy (and Titus) are certainly a man writing to another man, and otherwise fit the bill. But, I’m thinking of something more general, and I’ll say that the two books I’m thinking of are both in the Old Testament.

    I’m up to my eyeballs in a kitchen-counter tiling project, and if I can get on top of THAT in the next 24-48 hours, I’ll pull together the blog that answers my teaser question.

  4. Okay, How about Proverbs as one. It certainly contains stuff about women, and he keeps saying “my son”. But I’m drawing a blank otherwise. Of course, I am packing for a vacation, so I will blame it on that:-).

  5. I’m thinking Joshua has to be a “men’s only” book. Conquest. Honor. Strength. Etc. And maybe and Judges?

  6. Truth Unites...and Divides

    “Dangerous Boys” indeed. Fr. Bill, I think it’s dangerous just to be a bible-believing Christian!

    I bounced over to the Green Baggins blog per your link and saw a lot of comments about something called Federal Vision within the PCA.

    I check out the “conservative” Anglican blogs and there’s a lot of back and forth.

    I contribute on MereComments and discussion gets heated over there too.

    You’re heavy into your kitchen tiling project. And there’s a saying, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” I can stand the heat, but that doesn’t mean I like it.

    Why is there so much friendly fire among Christians? I don’t want to be a wimpy liberal progressive Christian who has hazy notions of what divine love is, and has even fuzzier doctrine. But anytime a Bible-believing Christian speaks out on something, there’ll be another Christian ready to criticize you.

    Bill, you’re a complementarian and a polemicist. Have you not received your share of unjust criticism and false accusations? Was it worth it? Do it all over again?

    Is it worth the price? I’m not only asking you Bill, I think I’m also asking myself.

  7. Ralph

    Hey truth unites… and divides, with that kind of handle you’re just waiting to get it. Only kidding :).

    I can’t speak for Fr. Bill, but think about this for a minute… when you meet another Christian in person, what do you find yourself talking about? Even if you might get into a conversation about some theology, do you think that you would start to criticize them?

    The world of on-line discussions, unless one is fully convicted about being a listener first, is about answering another person without knowing that person, and in reality answering letters on a page with a very judgemental reply, for it’s not really a true relational way of communicating. How many times have you typed a reply to someone, and wondered, did they really read what I had written?

    In other words, there is no restraint in many of the comments people make, unless they have truly thought them through, and answer them in total humility and truth, thinking of the other person as being more important than themselve. Gee, now that’s a strange thought, sound familiar?

    You would think that by now we would have learned how to better communicate on this medium… I’m thankful for writer’s such as Fr. Bill who can go beyond some of the mindless chatter, and get to the truth of things.

    The true motives of most internet writers will come through easily enough, but it is difficult never the less to communicate with someone, if we really don’t know them, and so it is with the internet.

    I’ve been convinced that to me it is more important that I understand someone, then for them to understand me… at least that way I will know how to communicate wtih them, even if they don’t know how to get through to me.


  8. Truth Unites...and Divides

    Hi Ralph, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    BTW, have you ever heard of Stephen Covey and his “7 Habits of Successful People”? He says the same thing in one of his habits: Seek first to understand, then be understood.

    Pax in Christ.

  9. Ralph

    Yes I have heard of Covey… though I thought him to be LDS, but I could be mistaken.

    Never the less, I’ve lived by this for quite some time, but not because of Covey… I just looked for his book, which I also had a copy of, given to me by my employer about 20 years ago. I remember the classes that were given, and the golden eggs that were given as you finished one.

    Unfortunately I have never taken a class, just read a little of the 7 Habits book… wherever it may be hiding.


  10. Truth Unites...and Divides

    Yes, Covey is LDS. But his mormon theology is not really part of his book…. thank goodness!

  11. Why is there so much friendly fire among Christians?

    I addressed some of the reasons in this blog.

    Additionally, I’m not so sure there isn’t as much today as there has been since the Reformation, and probably longer than that. So many of the Fathers’ writings are polemical against heretical Christians (heretical in the sense that a subsequent council of the Church anathematized their false teachings).

    Today, there is no possibility of an ecumenical church council. Those disappeared in 1054 with the Great Schism, and in the West, they became even less possible with the fractures at the Reformation. Protestants have made ecumenical councils even more impossible (yes, it’s oxymoronic to say this). The best that can be done now is for a denomination to hold a council to settle a controversy within its own denomination borders (you report you’ve discovered the Federal Vision controversy within the PCA, for example).

    Anyway, councils focused the controversies among Christians and, in principle, resolved them. That’s not possible any longer. Hence, sustained “friendly fire” among Christians.

    Ralph has provided another reason. I won’t repeat his observations, for they are pretty complete. I’d only add that the Internet has afforded the irresponsible as much empowerment as it has the responsible debaters. Also, it has made any debate far more widely and easily accessible to the Christian public. More and more people can debate and argue; more and more people can observe it.

    I’d offer this too — there is a re-alignment going on within Anglicanism that you’ve followed on sites such as Titusonenine and Stand Firm. The rise of evangelicalism in the 40s is a sort of realignment that has been going on within American Protestantism for almost 70 years now. It crosses denominational boundaries, and there for gives rise to debates which are spirited to heated among those who profess a common sub-stratum of belief, and that across denominational boundaries. Among these controversies in the last 50 to 75 years has been these:

    Charismatic vs. non-Charismatic
    Women’s ordination
    Inerrancy of the Bible

    All of these controversies have occurred among those who make credible claims to the label “Christian.” All occurred across denominational lines. All resulted in alliances of those otherwise separated by denominational loyalties. All resulted in often sharp and acrimonious contention within a number of different denominations at the same time.

    The point: you see lots of what you style “friendly fire.” Or, as you put it so well,” … anytime a Bible-believing Christian speaks out on something, there’ll be another Christian ready to criticize you.”

    Have you not received your share of unjust criticism and false accusations?

    Is the pope Catholic? If one is going to speak up in public on the internet, even as a commenter on a blog or in a forum, one will find an abundance of unjust (actually, ignorant is a more accurate characterization) criticism as well as false accusation. If someone accused me of having three arms and twelve toes, someone would believe it.

    Was it worth it? Do it all over again?

    I hope so. Doing this sort of thing arises first from a settled conviction that what you defend is true and that what you attack is not merely false, but perniciously false. You don’t correct others’ children in the grocery store, but you’d certainly step in if an errant child began pelting one of yours with foodstuffs from the vegetable aisle.

    Is it worth the price? I’m not only asking you Bill, I think I’m also asking myself.

    That puts the issue in economic terms, which only takes you so far. If the LORD is just, then yes — it is worth it, but only in the future. St. Athanasius spent about half of his episcopate hiding in the sands of the Sahara, to avoid being assasinated by Arius’ disciples. That’s about 20 years or so, communing with sand fleas.

    What is his glory? Well, this: after Jesus and Paul, and the Disciples who gave us the New Testament, Athanasius is the one man who did more to define the doctrinal shape of Christianity for the next 1500 years. I expect he enjoys great renown in heaven at this moment. He stands as a beacon to thousands of defenders of the faith, and I expect that at the Doom he shall receive eternal rewards we cannot imagine.

  12. Truth Unites...and Divides

    Hi Bill,

    Thanks so much for the in-depth, thoughtful reply. It’s generating a lot of good thoughts. Albeit presented in a stream-of-consciousness format.

    (1) Federal Vision thing. I just discovered this issue by bopping over to Green Baggins blog and David McCrory’s blog. I wondered what the Presbys are arguing about now. I thought the big to-do was over a PUP document. Over at Green Baggins, there was like 220 comments on the FV thing. Googled FV and was looking for a 1-page description of the brouhaha. Finally settled in on wikipedia’s description.

    Geez Louise. These are some heavy-hitters and major players squaring off on this one. I don’t have the time or a big inclination to research all the aspects… so am I a chicken-butt for wanting to stay on the sidelines for a spell?

    (2) Controversies.

    There are several things that I pray for wisdom about. One, to discern if there is a False Dichotomy or an Artificial Binary Choice. To determine if it’s more than an either-or decision. Lots of times folks want to make it into a “You’re either part of the problem or you’re part of the solution” kinda rhetoric. And I want to see if there is a way (or multiple ways) to transcend artificial binary thinking.

    The second way I pray for wisdom is whether I’m buying into the Myth of Neutrality. There are binary decisions and there are times when God doesn’t want me to play the middle, but to choose His side that He’s on. (I tell folks that sometimes God’s not always in the middle. That usually gets a raised eyebrow, cuz they always figure that God doesn’t take sides in a controversy). I figure that deliberate indecisiveness is a bad thing on issues of importance. And when I’m not pitching in on the side God wants me to, then I’m enabling the enemy. And hurting the morale of the good guys when I’m not right there in the thick of things trying to push back alongside them.

    Am I making sense to you Bill?

    With respect to your list of issues above, here’s where I am at the moment:

    (1) Creation. I don’t know how. But evolution removes God from the equation and that’s unacceptable. Theistic evolutionists… I wonder if they’re not enabling the atheists and serving as “useful idiots.”

    (2) Church-Parachurch. Unfamiliar, unstudied.

    (3) Charismatic vs. Un. Indifferent.

    (4) Calvin vs. Arminius. Soft, loving, 5-Point Reform guy.

    (5) Women’s Ordination. Warm and soft Complementarian.

    (6) Inerrancy. I’m a Chicago 1979 and Chicago 1982 Guy.

    Lastly, I appreciate you Bill.

    P.S. I also appreciate David McCrory who helped me understand the Regulative Principle and the Normative Principle.

  13. Truth Unites...and Divides

    Hi Bill,

    Just returned from that blog link you provided about Seamus and Michael.

    Good Lord Almighty! That whole exchange (which is fairly typical) reminds me of one of my cherished childhood stories when I was growing up. Can you guess it?

    You probably guessed. It was a story about Br’er Rabbit and Tar Baby.

    There are just some topics and there are just some folks who are wedded to a particular side… that if you engage with them, …. you are stuck on Tar Baby.

    I oughta know. I’ve got tar on my knuckles and on my steel-toed boots and on the top of my head.

    No fun. Looked foolish. Felt foolish.

    Life’s too short and joyful. Now when I get even the faintest whiff of tar, I run the other way… fast!

    Pax bro’.

  14. Pingback: The Dangerous Book for Men « Faith and Gender

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