Hoff Sommers Sparks Lively Discussion
by Gary James ’10
April 18, 2008
Feminist critic Dr. Christina Hoff Sommers sparked a lively discussion about the effects of gender feminism on young men Thursday night in Baxter 101.
Dr. Sommers’ lecture was based on her 2000 book, The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism is Harming our Young Men, in which she utilizes extensive social data to challenge the notion of the shortchanged female and the emotionally repressed male. Her talk Thursday focused primarily on what Sommers described as the hypocrisy and false information perpetuated by some gender feminists.
"As I was writing my book, all I heard about was how girls were shortchanged victims and were falling behind," said Dr. Sommers, who described herself as an equity feminist. "The area where I found the most egregiously false record of information was about education. I was reading that girls were victims, but I saw girls were dominant, not just in going to college more: they were winning all the awards. They were the valedictorians. They were getting the best grades. There was one area where you find more boys than girls: sports. Boys are falling farther and farther behind and girls are flourishing."
Dr. Sommers is a Research Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and was a Professor of Philosophy at Clark University for 13 years. She is the author of Who Stole Feminism?, The War Against Boys, and One Nation Under Therapy. She has been published in a variety of journals, including The Journal of Philosophy and The Wall Street Journal. She has also appeared on programs like Oprah and The Daily Show. Her talk was sponsored by The Wabash Conservative Union in collaboration with the Young America’s Foundation.
Dr. Sommers argued some gender feminists are hypocrites who use false information to further their agenda.
At Rhode Island University, conservative students created the Penis Monologues by walking around in a phallic costume at the same time the Vagina Monologues were being performed on campus.
Representatives from both monologues disseminated provocative statements about their own reproductive organs, yet only students associated with the Penis Monologues were punished. According to Dr. Sommers, the conservative students could not invite speakers to campus for a year.
Dr. Sommers also referenced a much-quoted statistic about increases in battery against women during Super Bowl season that a Washington Post reporter Ken Ringle proved false.
"Typical women studies professors don’t appreciate hearing that we are in a post-patriarchal society," Sommers said. "They insist that women are still oppressed no matter what evidence you present. They see the world in terms of gender war. They are still knocking down doors that are open. They are not going to admit victory; that we’ve made progress."
Dr. Sommers’ talk prompted an intense exchange during the question and answer segment, which focused on race, different types of feminism, and what Dr. Sommers thought of Wabash.
"I found [the talk] to be very intriguing," said Shannon Traybert, a senior from DePauw. "I thought the follow-up was more entertaining. I thought that she posed interesting ideas. Whether or not I agree with all of them is questionable but I’m not dead-set against what she said."
Sophomore Yousuf Bahrami said he agreed with Dr. Sommers.
"I actually liked the event a lot," he said. "I like the dialogue going on. The question and answer was probably the best part. I actually agreed with a lot of the points the speaker made."
Sean Clerget, President of the Wabash Conservative Union, said he thought the event was a success.
"I thought the event went very well," he said. "We had a nice turnout. I was particularly happy with the question and answer session. I thought it was very engaging, and there were a lot of great questions by all different sorts of viewpoints. I feel like it was a very important discussion for our campus to have. I feel like she presents a viewpoint that we don’t necessarily hear that often. I think it broadens our discussion."