In a Vox poll taken last month, an overwhelming majority (85 percent) of the respondents claimed to support equality for women, but a mere 18 percent were willing to label themselves feminists. To understand why the disconnect is so striking, look no further than the controversy attending recent university talks presented by “Factual Feminist” vlogger and writer Christina Hoff Sommers.
Ms. Sommers, author of the must-reads Freedom Feminism, The War Against Boys, and Who Stole Feminism?, spoke recently at Georgetown University on the topic “What’s Right (and Wrong) About Feminism” at a standing-room only, Clare Booth Luce Policy Institute-sponsored event. You can see that here. If you’ve ever seen her speak in the media or on YouTube, you know that there couldn’t be a friendlier, less threatening face of feminism.
And yet she was greeted, if you can call it that, by a small faction of horrified students who issued “trigger warnings” for anyone who might be traumatized by her “hate speech,” notices of “safe spaces” elsewhere as refuge from her intimidating presence, and ludicrous accusations that she supports rape. Protesters also made their own presence felt during the speech itself. These students didn’t simply disagree with Ms. Sommers – they didn’t want her viewpoint heard, so they resorted to demonizing her.
Predictably, there was more of the same at Ms. Sommers’ more recent talk at Oberlin College, where she was hosted by the Oberlin College Republicans and Libertarians (OCRL). Among the messages posted on campus in advance of the talk were such misrepresentations and shameful lies as “Christina Hoff Sommers and OCRL support rapists!!” and “F*ck anti-feminists.” Shouldn’t college students at least be able to exhibit a broader vocabulary than the F-word?
Prior to Ms. Sommers’ Oberlin talk, two young women made an announcement to the audience about a “safe space” alternate event, where they warned that they wouldn’t allow any “toxic people.” When one of the pair urged anyone with questions to come talk to them, the other half-joked that “We’re pretty cool. We only bite people we dislike” – in other words, people with whom they disagree. You know, toxic people.
In attendance was a male blogger from Third Base Politics, who reported on the unconcealed hostility toward Ms. Sommers. It’s worth quoting him at length to get the full feel of the protesters’ petulant extremism:
Many in the audience were quite rude and frequently interrupted Sommers. Many students sat in the audience with duct tape over their mouths, inferring that Sommers’ mere presence was an attempt to silence them. Ironically, by labeling her a “rapist supporter” and interrupting her, they were actually striving to silence her.
For most in the audience, rational discussion of facts is not even welcome.
Don’t give me facts. Just shut up. That’s how Sommers was responded to.
At the end, Sommers took questions. All but one were obviously hostile to her presence, and she took questions from an equal number of male and female attendees. A female student behind me exclaimed “Oh look! She called on a boy!” every single time she took a question from a male student, even though every one of the male questions she received was equally as hostile to her as the female questions.
After taking questions from three women in a row, she took the final question from a man. The student behind me again remarked “Oh look another question from a boy!”
I politely asked her, “But weren’t the last three girls?”
She glared at me and said, “This is an event about FEMINISM!”
So, as far as these loud-and-proud feminists are concerned, males aren’t allowed to express ideas or opinions about feminism, even when they align with those of the females in the audience. That’s because they don’t view men, even sympathetic ones, as partners in resolving the growing divide between men and women, but as the enemy. Men are guilty of “rape culture” simply by virtue of their genitalia. It’s the very definition of sexism and bigotry.
Even before Ms. Sommers’ appearance, dozens of feminists signed a letter to the Oberlin Review called “In Response to Sommers’ Talk: A Love Letter to Ourselves,” a title which fittingly captures their insistence on wrapping themselves in a protective layer of self-righteous narcissism. The fact that they “responded” to her talk even before having heard it speaks volumes about their closed-mindedness.
The letter included this dismissive gem: “We could spend all of our time and energy explaining all of the ways [Ms. Sommers is] harmful. But why should we?” Well, you should because without specifics and evidence, your accusations have no merit or substance.
This is the reason so many people today reject the “feminist” label despite supporting equality wholeheartedly: the movement has been hijacked by a radical minority of intellectually intolerant and militant misandrists whose rude, crude fanaticism alienates the rational majority represented by Christina Hoff Sommers. Their bitterness, anger, resentfulness, and determination to perpetuate the War Between the Sexes are not shared by most Americans, male or female.
The militants will learn this the hard way when they depart their safe spaces on American campuses where their sensitivity is coddled, and they enter the real world where – at least for now – there is no shield against facts and different viewpoints.
(This article originally appeared here on Acculturated, 4/28/15)