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The Dartmouth
May 20, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Sommers: Gender feminism 'destructive'

Author Christina Hoff Sommers accused contemporary gender feminism of being a destructive influence on both men and the women it purports to help at lecture yesterday. Sommers, a professor of philosophy at Clark University, explained that the nation's colleges and universities are currently "mired in political correctness" and lack intellectual diversity.

Sommers --who calls herself an "equity feminist" -- said she has been called a "non-woman" by some gender feminists. They believe that Women are from Venus and men are from hell. And they [think they] have the stats to prove it," she said.

"I am questioning the victimology and male-bashing of gender feminism. It's a mean-spirited movement that creates a hostile environment for men. It's almost cultish because it's so angry," she said to a capacity crowd consisting of more men than women.

"American women are not oppressed," she said. "We are not a subordinate class. We do not live in a rape culture. Things have turned around; we are the freest and most liberated women in history, and in the world."

She insists that gender feminists "own women's studies and the major women's organizations.

" Gender feminism on campus is a destructive force. It uses propaganda.

In history, you can see the danger of combining misinformation with zealotry," she said.

According to Sommers, the gender feminist canon includes writers such as Gloria Steinem, Michel Foucault and Karl Marx.

"Some will argue that universities need an extreme, radical, iconoclastic, exciting fringe. It's bad because it keeps professors out who are conservatives, libertarians and moderates, which does not promote intellectual diversity," she said.

Sommers insists her ideology is based on fairness and common sense. Her packed audience was largely receptive to her remarks, laughing at several of her anecdotes.

Sommers is the daughter of two liberal parents. Her father was horrified when Rush Limbaugh called her his hero.

"I'm proud of what America has done for women. We have so much to celebrate. It's our special responsibility to understand this and help the world. If you believe your house is on fire, and it isn't, you won't help your neighbor whose house is on fire," she said.

Sommers' final point argued that men and women are biologically different: "Gender is not malleable. You cannot free boys of toxic masculinity. You cannot force them to play with dolls so that they will become nurturing.

"Statistics show that men occupy the extremes of both success and failure. You will not get a 50-50 ratio of male-female CEOs and Fortune 500s. You will not get 50-50 ratio of men and women in prison, either. There is a biological reason men show up at the extremes."

There was a notable lack of heated discussion during the lengthy question and answer period. One student asked about cutting men's college athletic teams. She said the problem is that not as many women go out for sports teams. She said she would encourage girls to play, but not punish boys by eliminating their teams.

Another student asked why there are so few women in Congress. Sommers responded that people vote for a platform, not a gender. Women win just as much as men when they run, she said.

When asked, "What can we do about the current state of the academy?" she told her audience the canon needs to change. Also, she said that Dartmouth needs a conservative professor in the women's studies department. It is a shame, she said, that we are not getting a good classical education at an Ivy League school.

It is up to the college generation to challenge the academy and to take on the third wave of feminism, the second being the "tsunami" of the sixties and seventies, which brought about badly-needed reforms. The first wave occurred from the mid-1800s to 1920. The third wave, she said, will "promote harmony."

Who are the heroes of equity feminism? Sommers champions writers like Camille Paglia, Iris Murdoch, and, well, herself. Sommers is the author of "Who Stole Feminism?: How Women Have Betrayed Women" and "The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism is Harming Our Young Men."

The speech was sponsored by the College Republicans at Dartmouth and the Independent Women's Forum.