Christina Hoff Sommers, a critic of the modern feminist movement, gave a high-security lecture about “Trigger Warnings, Safe Spaces, and Moral Panics” on Ohio University’s campus on Tuesday.
The author of “Who Stole Feminism” and “The War Against Boys,” Sommers describes herself as a “moderate feminist.” She feels as though modern feminism has irrational hostility toward men.
Sommers opened with a recent story from Ohio University about how Students Defending Students faced backlash from the university when they used t-shirts with the slogan “We get you off for free.”
“Now, a dean on this campus, who will remain unnamed, found these shirts to be objectifying to women and promoting prostitution,” Sommers said. “I just don’t understand how that is objectifying to women. It has no direct reference to women and clearly it can’t relate to prostitution as they said they’ll do it for free.”
As the audience laughed at this story, Sommers got into her message. “Fainting couchers,” as she calls those in the feminist movement most concerned with censorship, are not representative of the movement as a whole.
“They are the ones (who) are often found on social media, who encourage ‘safe spaces’ and are often now being referred to as ‘cry-bullies,’” Sommers said.
One of Sommers’s first encounters with these “fainting coucher” feminists occurred at Oberlin College.
“They protested a lecture I was yet to give,” Sommers said. “They even said that my visit could cause PTSD among some students.”
When Sommers did give her lecture at Oberlin, she was welcomed by the first few rows filled with girls with red duct tape covering their mouths. Sommers also noted she is not the only person who has experienced such protestors.
She cited Jessica Valenti and Wendy McElroy, conservative feminists, who were going to lecture at Brown University. As some students at Brown caught wind of these lectures, they were quick to organize a “safe space” from the lecturers. Sommers said students found refuge in a room filled with ambient music, a video of puppies playing and bubbles while the lecture occurred. Sommers felt this ideology was not acceptable.
“The fainting couch feminists are all about censorship, saying things like ‘free speech, not hate speech,’” Sommers said. “The issue is the United States is a free speech zone.”
Sommers also talked about the wage gap and how it can be misrepresented.
“The wage gap doesn’t include occupation positions and doesn’t discuss how men and women act differently in the workplace,” Sommers said.
She talked about male and female nurses in the same hospital. When a new hospital in the same city opened up and offered many of the nurses jobs with higher pay, she said most of the male nurses opted to take the new job while very few female nurses did not take the job. When asked why they did not take the job, many of the female nurses said their friends were the reason they did not want to leave, Sommers said.
Sommers then went on to talk about the issues with surveys regarding sexual assault.
“The rape rate in the United States has dropped dramatically, yet surveys since the 1980s keep saying that every one in four or one in five women have experienced some form of sexual assault in their life,” Sommers said. “These surveys are often very vague and don’t accurately represent the population. Allow me to demonstrate what these surveys may be like.”
Sommers asked the members of the audience to raise their hand if they were hit by their brother or sister growing up. A majority of the audience did. She then asked how many of them hit their brother or sister. Again, the majority of the audience raised their hand.
“See, I can conclude from this survey that 90 percent of Ohio University students come from violent family backgrounds,” Sommers said.
The lecture resonated with audience members as they gave a large round of applause at its conclusion.
Aaron Dauterman, a senior studying communications who ran as a Republican candidate for Athens City Council, was fond of the lecture.
“I think it’s rather refreshing to see the other viewpoint,” Dauterman said. “All too often in the classroom, you get the more liberal perspective.”
Dauterman was not the only student who was pleased with the lecture.
Anna Lippincott, the president of the Ohio University Chapter of College Republicans, the group that helped host the event, was also pleased with the lecture.
“I think it’s so important for her to come speak about this on campus, but not only for conservatives but for anyone who has been feeling isolated or let down by the radical feminist movement here on campus,” Lippincott said.