Last night, Christina Hoff Sommers, self-proclaimed “equity feminist” and prominent critic of “intersectional feminism,” was invited by the Executive Council of the Columbia American Enterprise Institute for a conversation titled “Victims, Victims, Everywhere!” Staff Writer Timmy Wu reports on the event and the surprising lack of protesters.
Christina Hoff Sommers opened her talk with a proclamation, declaring Roone Arledge Cinema as a ‘safe space’ for cultural appropriation and dangerous ideas, in an overt attempt to ridicule the culture of political correctness, safe spaces, and trigger warnings on college campuses. It was met with resounding laughter and cheers from the audience present. In a later bout of sarcasm, she identified herself as “white, Jewish, cisgendered, age-enhanced woman with a gender-conforming dog.”
“Instead of checking privilege, let’s check facts,” she announced.
“What has happened to college campuses?” Sommers grieved. In her talk, she compared her vision of the utopian past, in which people used to “go out for debate, then maybe for a drink, then part as friends,” to the present situation of “check your privilege, shut-the-eff-up feminism.”
To confirm what she views as the borderline “fanaticism” of rape and victim culture, she drew on a tableau story and a few personal anecdotes. She mentioned the story of Benjamin Sweetwood, who was accused of gender-based misconduct for calling himself ‘handsome’ in a Mandarin language class in Columbia. Sommers also described her visits as a guest speaker to Oberlin, UMass-Amherst, and Georgetown, where she was confronted by obscenity-yelling college students and protesting groups who tried to shout over her to censor her speech. “There were ten guards backstage and an ambulance outside. I don’t know if they were there to protect me, or to protect the protesters because they thought that I might scare them.” Checking herself, she asked the audience not to hold back their questions and comments, stating that she wasn’t one to get offended easily.
Sommers explained that, in her opinion, modern-day intersectional feminists have become so aggrieved with equity feminism that they believe equity feminists are aligning themselves up with the western, patriarchal, capitalist system. “Many schools have adopted intersectional feminism as the most up-to-date school of thought,” she asserted. Sommers accused intersectional feminism of monopolizing the academic discourse in women’s studies departments in universities across the country. “Intersectional feminism believes that America is the ‘matrix of oppression,’ that under the veneer of freedom are domination and privilege that are made normal… that the dominant forms of knowledge are the hidden realities behind the masculine way of knowing.” She then clarified her position by stating that she wouldn’t find a problem with intersectional feminists if they were to welcome a diversity of opinions, instead of retracting into safe spaces and creating a “reign of terror” that “punishes, demonizes, condescends, and silences.”
Priding herself for having “the dispassionate reason and logic of a philosopher,” she began to expound on her three main objections of intersectional feminism. Firstly, Sommers claimed that the definition of marginalized groups has become too “fuzzy.” She pointed toward the proliferation of marginalized groups, which she believes to be “spinning out of control.” Secondly, she questioned the norms of what constitutes a legitimate narrative. She elaborated, “Anyone that doesn’t agree with the intersectional theory is automatically excommunicated.” Finally, she proposed, rather patriotically, that the United States is not, as the intersectional feminists suggest, “a matrix of oppression,” but rather “the most successful democracy that the world has ever seen.” The majority of the audience applauded thunderously while some disapprovingly shook their heads. According to Sommers, the United States is neither imperialist nor white-supremacist. Unfortunately, this portion became the weakest part of her argument, as the only reason she provided to justify that the U.S. is not imperialist was that, even though the U.S. holds martial, economic, and political dominance over all other countries, it is currently not “invading, conquering and plundering” any of them. She admitted that the U.S. has a shameful history of slavery; however, it also has a long history of fighting against it. The white-supremacist America, therefore, “does not exist in reality, but in dogma.” Furthermore, Sommers defended American capitalism, saying that “free enterprise has alleviated more poverty than any other economic system in the world.”
“Intersectional feminism is a cult posing as a college major,” Sommers stated in closing, asserting that the self-censorship and PC culture created by intersectional feminism represses the intellectual discourses signature to higher learning institutions. She finally advised the audience “to take back freedom of speech, to take back reason, to take back the rights to say ‘I am handsome’ in Mandarin language class, and to ultimately take back feminism.”
Photo courtesy of Timmy Wu