Dumb Opinion: Little Boys Need Toy Guns to Thrive


Christina Hoff Sommers, champion of conservative feminism and boyz II menz rights, argues that schools’ “efforts to re-engineer the young-male imagination” by penalizing them for loving guns and superheroes are destroying our best and brightest young men, who can only be happy and successful if they have big guns in their pockets.

A few schools have recently suspended little boys for turning innocuous objects — pencils, Pop Tarts, etc. — into guns due to zero-tolerance policies for firearms. Policies that punish kids for playing cops and robbers (I’m not up to date on my playground jargon; maybe now it’s NSA hide-and-seek?) sound pretty lazy and ineffective, kinda like racial profiling — we need better mental health reform and gun control, not Pop Tart control. (My favorite game in elementary school, by the way, involved pretending to be Bette Midler in Hocus Pocus and sucking the life out of my friends. I did not grow up to be a murderous witch.) But Sommers, predictably, takes it too far, arguing in Time that our schools are limiting “boys’ heroic play”:

Across the country, schools are policing and punishing the distinctive, assertive sociability of boys. Many much-loved games have vanished from school playgrounds. At some schools, tug of war has been replaced with “tug of peace.” Since the 1990s, elimination games like dodgeball, red rover and tag have been under a cloud — too damaging to self-esteem and too violent, say certain experts. Young boys, with few exceptions, love action narratives. These usually involve heroes, bad guys, rescues and shoot-ups. As boys’ play proceeds, plots become more elaborate and the boys more transfixed. When researchers ask boys why they do it, the standard reply is, “Because it’s fun.”

I think tempering “the distinctive, assertive sociability of boys,” is great way to stop normalizing violence on the playground. There’s a difference between moderating/educating and strict discipline without more nuance.


Image via Olesia Bilkei/Shutterstock

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