Christina Hoff Sommers Discusses Feminism, Campus Activism at CMC

(Donovan New • The Student Life)Christina Hoff Sommers, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, former philosophy professor, and author of Who Stole Feminism? and The War Against Boys, gave a talk at Claremont McKenna College's Pickford Auditorium on Wednesday, Oct. 5. Roughly 35 people attended the event, which was hosted by the conservative student publication, the Claremont Independent. During her talk, Sommers discussed her preference for "equity feminism" over "intersectional feminism" and her belief that today's feminists and social justice activists have prioritized emotions and personal experiences over logic and truth.

"The theory claims that people that are marginalized have access to deeper, more authentic, and liberating knowledge about reality, but they can only discover and share that knowledge if they can speak about their lived experience and are somewhere they are protected ... in a safe space," Sommers said during her talk, adding that if others, especially white cis-gendered able-bodied men, tried to use logic to counter the arguments of marginalized people, they would be "accused of mansplaining."

Sommers also denounced safe spaces and trigger warnings, as well as the tendency of campus activists to divide into identity-based groups. She also made many references to philosophers and the libertarian ideals of truth and rationality. 

“It’s really weird to think that people think that it’s bold, or that it’s a new idea that feminists hate men and that they are oppressing men, because that’s the rhetoric that’s been used since before women were granted suffrage," Rachel Lee PO '19, who attended the event, said.

During the Q&A portion of the event, some attendees questioned Sommers' views on the biological differences between men and women, sexual assault on campus, and sexual harassment. When asked about sexual harassment, Sommers said that we need to have more "sympathy for the natural difference" between men and women. 

"I was mainly bothered by her saying that you could attribute the differences between men and women to biology, because she used biology in a really vague sense, and she used that to support the idea of people having natural preferences, when really preference and desire really seems very dependent on society and culture," Lee said.

Miles Robinson PO '18 wrote in an email to TSL that he "thought the event went quite well."

"The lecture itself was short and to the point and explored Sommers' insights into the problems with campus feminism quite well," Robinson wrote. "I also really appreciated how much time she offered to hold discussions with the attendees. In answering questions Sommers she was perceptive in how she saw campus problems but also in relating to feminism on a broader scale, not just in a college bubble. However, I do think she deftly avoided directly answering more difficult questions as well."

Samuel Breslow PO '18 contributed reporting.