Wednesday April 19th, Boston College welcomed Christina Hoff Sommers to McGuinn 121 to present on feminism. Advertised as “Where Feminism Went Wrong” on flyers surrounding campus, it made sense that many were wary of attending such a presentation and felt offended at the topic. However, the true title of the presentation was in fact “What Has Gone Wrong With Feminism? [and how to set it right]” as stated by the PowerPoint document Dr. Sommers was using.
She spent the presentation focusing on equity feminism and intersectional feminism. Equity feminism is the classic feminism used throughout the years by famous characters such as John Stuart Mill and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Intersectional feminism, on the other hand, is a term coined by American civil rights advocate Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw to describe overlapping or intersecting social identities and related systems of oppression, domination, or discrimination.
Dr. Sommers, in short, believes that this newly invented intersectional feminism is what has gone wrong with feminism today. She argues that while equity feminism is often seen as old and out of date, it is the feminism we should be using to gain equality. Some argue an end to equity feminism because they believe that it focuses solely on doing what is best for white middle class women. However, Dr. Sommers states that equity feminism actually focuses on fostering equality between all groups (men, women, various races, various religions, and various sexual orientations).
She establishes that the fact that intersectional feminism divides people into various groups based on their identity is not bad, since it can bring awareness to the fact that the needs of these various parties may be different. Nevertheless, this can turn dangerous when it is used by intersectional feminists because it is used to argue for the equality each individual group wants. This causes fights between the varying groups, and in the end results in more conflict and less unity. Instead of feminists supporting feminists it becomes feminists fighting amongst each other, resulting in less success to the cause.
To prove this case, Dr. Sommers shared tweets of an activist against body shaming her due to their different views. She also discussed microaggressions, which is any comment that someone might find offensive as a marginalized person. The main study to support this concept is entirely based on what the man who created the term wants it to mean. In fact, when a fellow researcher challenged his studies, stating that there was no conclusive evidence to support this theory, the inventor of microaggressions stated that he was partially right, but then established that what he’d just done was a microaggression.
Dr. Sommers stated that various campuses now have bias response teams that one can report users of microaggressions to. Obviously, she’s not too keen about these task forces or the term “microaggression” whatsoever because one can now be reported for asking something like “Where are you from?” to someone with an accent. She thinks that modern feminists’ tactic of calling out others constantly for the continued use of microaggressions is harmful and used this to support her view by reminding those in attendance that equity feminism, while not perfect, has allowed for peaceful and successful reform.
The advertisements for the presentation might have depicted an incorrect topic of conversation. The presentation was informative on two varying “brands” of feminism , and Dr. Sommers was incredibly respectful to all opinions expressed, and open to debate on the different types of feminism.