The War Against Boys: Chapter 4: Carol Gilligan And The Incredible Shrinking Girl (Part II, page 112-123)

October 6, 2010 | NeW Staff

The second half of Chapter 4 addresses some of the faulty claims made by Gilligan. One of these included the claim that teenage girls have “acute insights into human relations.” Gilligan asked thirty-four girls to describe an unfair situation and a time when someone didn’t listen. Susan, an eleventh-grader from the Emma Willard School replied:

“Unfairness: ‘A friend of mine was kicked out because . . . she had a friend of hers who got 600s on the SATs go in and take them [for her] . . . I understand punishing her, but I don’t think her life should be ruined. It makes me angry. I think they should have had her come back here . . . I don’t’ think they cared.’                                                                                                  Not LIstening: ‘We were going to spend a weekend at a boys’ school and [the dean] said I understand you are going to do some drinking. I was just so mad. . . . I said, ‘I will follow the rules.; But she didn’t listen. I didn’t like her getting involved in my plans, because I didn’t think that was fair.'”
As Sommers point out, Susan from the Emma Willard School doesn’t sound insightful at all. Instead she seems morally confused and immature. Sommers goes on to say that she finds Gilligan’s research to be wishful thinking at best:
“I find Gilligan’s sentimental, celebratory, valorizing descriptions of adolescent girls implausible and inaccurate. Her study of ‘unfairness and not listening’–despite its charts, graphs, and tables–is a caricature of research. Most of the girls’ comments are entirely ordinary. Gilligan inflates their significance by reading profound meanings into them.”
Sommer’s closing remarks for Chapter Four:
“In sum, Gilligan’s work is more ideological than objective. Her theories show all the signs of being a classic example of Irving Langmuir’s ‘pathological science’: ‘the science of things that aren’t so,’ the fruitless science that leads nowhere but often just goes on and on.”
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