I discovered Christina Hoff Sommers, the "Factual Feminist," totally by accident when I started reading her amazing book, One Nation Under Therapy: How the Helping Culture is Eroding Self-Reliance.
In it, she debunked many myths about the benefits of the "self-esteem movement," PTSD, and psychotherapy. After finishing the last page and saying, "Wow," I wondered, What else is Dr. Sommers working on?
That's how I found out that she's a feminist and gender scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), and she has a weekly podcast, The Factual Feminist, which I sometimes agree with, and sometimes disagree with. (She doesn't always do a good job of backing up her arguments with evidence.)
Again, I don't always love what she says. (For example, she doesn't believe that "rape culture" is a thing, even though it very clearly is.) But overall, I agree with her very empowering message.
Which is why I was surprised to encounter this question on Quora:
What do feminists think of women who criticize the actions of mainstream/modern feminism like Christina Hoff Sommers?
Here's my answer:
You've got it flipped around. Feninists like Christina Hoff Sommers are mainstream/modern feminists. Modern feminists believe that women are powerful, capable of making their own decisions and forming their own decisions, and deserve to be treated as equals.
Almost everyone I know believes this, because almost every reasonable person believes this. Whether they identify as a feminist or not, they believe that women deserve the same rights and opportunities as men.
The “mainstream” feminism you’re talking about is a far left, majorly regressive fringe minority that hardly anyone agrees with. Of course, they’re usually afraid to say so, because people who disagree with such “feminists” are often called bigots or accused of “gaslighting” and “violence.”
For example, consider this ridiculous Everyday Feminism article that starts by defining "gaslighting" as a very specific, real thing: an abuse and torture tactic in which people are made to believe they don't have a grip on reality.
Then they expand it to mean saying all sorts of totally normal, non-gaslighty things, like, "Try not to let it bother you," (which is the advice any real psychologist would give -- if your therapist encourages you to ruminate all the time, they're a quack, because that approach has been thoroughly debunked), "I've felt that way before," and, "There's no use complaining."
Or consider Barnard student Tori Airaksinen's recent Quilette piece, Confessions of a Recovering Tumblr Feminist:
"For example, feminist ideology taught me that any opinions that were conservative, or just didn’t align with the party line were violence. It also taught me that the best way to fight opposition is to try to silence it. Don’t like what someone says? Protest them. Shut their event down.
In retrospect, the fact that I openly embraced an ideology that claimed that holding a conservative viewpoint is the same as life-threatening violence, isn’t just absurd, it’s embarrassing. How was I so deluded?
The advent of conservative speakers being de-platformed or harassed by screaming social justice warriors is a logical consequence of an ideology that equates conservative opinions with physical violence.
This was seen most recently, when Milo Yiannopoulos’s speech at DePaul University came to an end when two social justice warriors ran onto the stage and hijacked the mic in protest of Milo’s views."
The girl goes storming up onto the stage with some dude who puts his fist on Milo's face. Then she grabs Milo's mic... and all she has to screech is, "Be good." Huh?
That is not feminism. And it certainly is not modern or mainstream feminism.
People who mindlessly believe that this somehow represents feminism... is secretly anti-Feminist. They see women as fragile butterflies who can't make their own decisions. For example, Stanford recently canceled it’s annual tradition, Full Moon on the Quad, because regressive feminists didn’t think college women were capable of telling men they didn’t want to kiss that they didn’t want to kiss them. (In fact, most women are quite capable.)
These anti-feminists see women as sooo emotional that we mustn’t criticize their ideas or expect their “scholarly” publications to stand up to scrutiny. See also: 4 Reasons Demanding 'Objectivity' in Social Justice Debates Can Be Oppressive. Or also the fact that there is an "emerging academic field" called autoethnography, in which people (usually women) write about... their own "lived experience." And then they get mad when people make fun of their work on Twitter.
They even think the scientific method is too “androcentric,” and recommend supplementing real science, like glaciology, with “alternative sciences,” like folklore, because it’s more female-friendly. (In fact, most scholars, male and female, demand objectivity and consider the scientific method to be the cornerstone of, you know, science.)
They think that women need safe spaces, trigger warnings, and censorship of opposing ideas, lest women start having emotional breakdowns. See also: Dear Feminists: You Don’t Have to Ban, Censor and Disinvite People Who Mostly Agree With You, Except On One Little Thing, in which a trans-rights activists is called "transphobic" because some people didn't agree with one part of one chapter of a book she wrote.
What condescending bullshit.
I get why you might make this mistake, though. As I wrote in Is Everyday Feminism... Secretly Anti-Feminist?
For those unfamiliar, overrepresentation of extreme views is a phenomenon that happens because people who are the most extreme are the most likely to respond to polls, write blog posts and op-eds, and share ridiculous Everyday Feminism articles.
Long story short, just because you see one extreme view represented disproportionately in the media, doesn’t mean that view is shared by the majority of people in that group.
11/1/2016 03:40:11 pm
I'm late to comment, but I think you would really like radical feminism (as opposed to liberal feminism/Everyday Feminism). Radical feminists believe that male violence and oppression exist to take advantage of female reproductive potential. Biological differences exist (females gestate offspring, males produce sperm), but the higher value ascribed to males is purely social to maintain dominance. Unlike liberal feminists who would have you believe that anyone can be female just by saying that they are and that liking science and wearing pants might make you a man, radical feminists believe that women can do anything, wear anything, and be anything. Biology should only matter for two things - medical care and reproductive life. We should ascribe no value to biology in any other domain (like in your example above, how absurd is it to say that science isn't "female friendly"?). How can liberal feminists say science isn't female friendly, but that female biology doesn't exist except in your head (just check out the vulva cupcakes story again - we're not allowed to de-stigmatize actual biological functions that separate males and females, but when it comes to intelligence, females are somehow different?). That's not radical feminism; that's popular, Everyday Feminism, feminism-for-everyone liberal feminism (i.e., NOT FEMINISM). If you want REAL empowerment, let's stop pretending that females have less academic potential than males and embrace the fact that women can grow up to be anything they want to be and do anything they want to do. Our biology has no bearing on our ability to accomplish our goals and be successful in our futures; it only carries extra considerations for our medical and reproductive lives and the way we deal with oppression from men. It drives me absolutely crazy to see popular websites act as though the best way to help women overcome the very real obstacles they face is by "accepting biological differences" in domains like academia where biological differences mean nothing at all.
11/18/2020 10:03:32 am
This article became a victim piece for conservatives. Who cares if some feminists think conservatism equals "violence". It's no different from the insane things conservatives come out with. Then there's also the fact that conservatives are at the root of almost all problems relating to disabled people being discriminated against. There's plenty to not like.
11/19/2020 07:59:42 am
You may be projecting a little, there.
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