Christina Hoff Sommers says that Yale should not have a women’s and gender studies major.
Speaking at the Yale Political Union on the topic, “Resolved, That Women’s Studies Is Not A Legitimate Academic Discipline,” she attacked the discipline, saying it promotes misinformation, excludes the voices of conservative women, and vilifies men.
As she stood in SSS 114 Monday night, the Clark University philosophy professor held up a printout from Yale’s online course catalog that listed the names of the courses in the major.
“If you took 13 of these courses, you’d have to be deprogramed,” she said.
Sommers is the author of “The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men” and “Who Stole Feminism: How Women Have Betrayed Women.” She calls herself an “equality feminist,” in opposition to what she refers to as “victim feminists.”
“I question the basic premise of American feminism,” she said. “I do not believe that women in contemporary American society are oppressed. I am a feminist who is concerned that the feminist movement has taken a wrong turn.”
The speech was well attended by members of all the YPU parties and at least 30 people not affiliated with the organization. The attendees banged on their desks and hissed to show their approval and disapproval. If the sounds were any indication, the right wing of the YPU was much more appreciative of Sommers’ sentiments.
Sommers cited numerous examples of what she views to be evidence of the absurdity of the America feminist movement today, including the debate over whether seminars should be called “ovulars.”
She refuted statistics from women’s and gender studies textbooks in use across the country today, including the assertion that battery is the leading cause of women’s going to emergency rooms.
“More women are in the hospital for attacks by animals than by men,” she said, adding jokingly, “although some of those animals may be males.”
Sommers said an “old girl network” in women’s studies departments does not take into account the opinions of women who are conservative, religious or anti-abortion.
She also objects to the idea of gender as a social construct, which she associates with the victimization of men.
“The evidence is strong that they are wrong,” she said. “Boys are going to continue to be less interested in doll houses [than girls].”
Audience members asked questions of Sommers concerning her views on homosexuality and the relationship between capitalism and feminism. They also questioned her labeling of herself as a feminist.
“Why would the lady consider herself a feminist?” asked one audience member sitting on the right side of the auditorium.
“I felt that the movement was hijacked,” she responded.
At one point a questioner pushed Sommers to say that she was a women’s studies professor, since she had studied women for many years. She conceded that, but refused to agree with any suggestion that she change the discipline from within.
“Sit in on a class and make your opinion known,” urged speaker Paige Herwig ’02, who argued against the resolution.
Some people were critical of the YPU for hosting such an event and decided not to attend.
“Too often women are used in society as marketing tools,” said Cyd Cipolla ’04, a women’s and gender studies major. “I, for my part, do not appreciate my academic discipline, my education, and my gender being insulted just for the entertainment of watching me fight to defend them. And I certainly will not respond when it is being done by a well-educated, enlightened group of people who should know better.”