American Enterprise Institute scholar Christina Hoff Sommers spoke against the rising influence of “grievance feminism” on Thursday.
Hoff Sommers, the author of Who Stole Feminism, said at the Independent Women’s Forum’s “Women LEAD” summit that “intersectional feminism” holds that everyone who is not a white, straight male is “oppressed and traumatized” to varying degrees, and that we increasingly hear about “a need for safe spaces, trigger warnings, and micro-aggression watches.”
She said her recent talk on feminism at Oberlin College was met with “girls with red duct tape over their mouths,” protest placards, and students who were “constantly mocking” Hoff Sommers’ remarks. When a philosophy professor stood up amidst the uproar and urged the audience to be civil, he was “booed, hissed, and yelled at.”
Apparently “thirty people and a therapy dog” were so distressed at Hoff’s talk on “What’s Right (And Badly Wrong) with Feminism” that they “fled to a ‘safety room.’”
Although she has been giving such talks on college campuses for years, Hoff Sommers said, “it’s never been quite like this.”
That’s because “the ideologues are the most vocal,” Hoff Sommers said, and “they drive the agenda.” The “worldview of grievance feminism” is based on “questionable statistics” and “twisted theories of patriarchal society,” she added.
Hoff Sommers traces the surge of this sentiment in part to a 2010 NPR report on sexual assault on college campuses that laid out a “nightmarish scenario” where “women were relentlessly preyed upon.” This prompted the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights to issue a “Dear Colleague” letter that reinterpreted Title IX.
It essentially “read colleges the riot act,” she said, explaining that it mandated that schools comply with certain actions, such as “doing everything to protect the survivor” of an alleged sexual assault, and lowering the burden of proof for sexual assault.
“Title IX was once a common-sense law about gender equality in education,” Hoff Sommers said, and while sexual assault “is a problem on campus, we need reasonable solutions.”
The reinterpretation of Title IX in the Dear Colleague letter “undermines law and common sense,” and it also “sanctioned a kind of fainting couch feminism.”
Although in Hoff Sommers’ opinion, the best thing to do would be to rescind the amendments to Title IX, it’s “almost impossible” because “intersectional grievance feminism has a powerful lobby behind it.”
She named a “leviathan” of university research centers, including the Institute for Research on Women and Gender at the University of Michigan; the Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality at Columbia University; the Institute for Women, Peace, and Security at Georgetown; and the Project on Women and Social Change at Smith.
“There are hundreds of scholars and lawyers and staff working night and day researching, rethinking, reframing—those are their words—according to twisted theories about gender as well as victim propaganda, or specious statistics—exaggerated statistics.”
This happened, Hoff Sommers said, because “critics” and “dissident feminists” were “never welcome.”
She relates that when she was a liberal feminist, she “went to the American Philosophical Association years ago, and read a paper that was critical—I saw too much Marxism, and I just thought the feminist critiques I was reading were not sustainable.” Hoff Sommers presented her paper thinking that “we would all argue and bicker, and then go out for drinks: that’s what you do at the APA. Let’s just say, we did not go out for drinks. Women were hissing and stomping their feet as I was reading. And so I was ex-communicated from the church of feminism that evening.”
Criticism is the system for quality control in American scholarship, Hoff Sommers said. But in the field of gender studies, it’s broken down.
“So, if you are a man or a woman, a political moderate, a libertarian, a conservative, a good liberal who cares about the well being of American society … you have to do all in your power to challenge this juggernaut. … We have to find a way to back feminism, to take back the women’s movement” from the “paranoia and the conspiracy theories and the carrying on, the psychodrama, the identity politics, the victimology.”
“We need our own scholars and lawyers. It’s not enough to have activists. It’s going to take time,” she said. “But I think we have history on our side. Reality and truth make powerful allies.”