"Gender is a cardinal issue in this year’s election," writes Sean Illing in the introduction to his must-read Vox interview with Christina Hoff Sommers.
It's a wide-ranging interview in which Hoff Sommers talks about "fainting couch feminism (she says they need "safe spaces" like Victorian ladies), Donald Trump's brand of masculinity (he's no Teddy Roosevelt), and other issues.
Illing asks good questions and the interview is a good read. Some nuggets:
What is the state of modern feminism?
There is a lot of hostility toward men and toward women who don’t agree with them. There is a willingness, a readiness to censure, to silence people. It’s ironic because this is what feminists claim is being done to them.
They demean people, they stereotype, they silence dissent. What I’m describing is fairly new. This is not what feminism has always been. On campuses today, though, there’s a focus on grievances that overwhelms everything else. This has been a campus for a long time, of course, but it wasn’t particularly vocal until the past few years.
There’s always a role for activism, provided you have a good grasp of reality. An activist with good information can lead to reform and progress, but activism with false information leads to fanaticism and to zealotry, and I think that’s what’s happening.
Now, do I think there are worthy causes that feminists can pursue? Of course. As I said, things are not perfect in the United States — there’s always room for improvement. But I think the real challenge for the women’s movement is to reach out to women across the globe who are fighting for basic rights.
I've been to some international women’s conferences and human rights conferences, and you meet women from Cambodia and Egypt and Saudi Arabia and Somalia. These women are asking for help. And I look at these eloquent students at Oberlin and Swarthmore and Wesleyan and Berkeley, and these are feminist activists that seem to have little or no awareness of the struggles of women in other parts of the world.
On the wage gap:
For me, the rhetoric around the wage gap is evidence that the women’s movement is failing to change with the times. As many economists have noted, the 23-cent gender pay gap is simply the difference between the average earnings of all men and women working full time. It does not account for differences in occupations, positions, education, job tenure, or hours worked per week. When such relevant points are considered, the wage gap narrows to the point of vanishing.
Wage gap activists will reject this analysis, of course. They reply that women with identical backgrounds and jobs as men still earn less. But they always fail to take into account critical variables.
Activist groups like the National Organization for Women have another fallback position: They say that women’s education and career choices are not truly free — they are driven by powerful sexist stereotypes.