Heat Street invited “Based Mom” Christina Hoff Sommers to our offices at Dow Jones in New York, where she sat down with our own Louise Mensch to talk about all things feminism.
Christina Hoff Sommers is a former philosophy professor, an age positive feminist, and a speaker, whose speeches often require “trigger warning” notices. Her presence alone puts campuses on high alert. Louise has come up with a new name for her– “Most Dangerous Woman in America”.
Here is their conversation:
LM: Before you were Based Mom you were a factual feminist. What has gone wrong with modern feminism today?
CHS: Modern feminism today is carried away with an eccentric agenda—too much false information, too much of twisted theories, too much male bashing, and far too much victimology. Women are the equals of men, it should be a movement about equality and not female chauvinism–and that’s what it has become.
LM: Do you think that modern feminists tend to act like the bullies, who complain that other people are?
CHS: The irony is that today’s intersectional feminists do to others what they claim was done to them. When they judge someone to be privileged and an outsider, they demonize them, they censor, they silence, and they behave in a very cruel way. The feminism that I associate with is not about bullying.
LM: Can you say both why you are a Hillary Clinton supporter and why you are a reluctant Hillary supporter?
CHS: I am a reluctant Hillary Clinton supporter. Now, I am a registered Democrat, probably out of respect for my family religion. My parents are very left wing and it would be too traumatizing for their daughter to come out as a Republican, heaven forbid. But I don’t necessarily vote for every Democratic candidate. In this case, I think I do have to vote for Hillary. She is the wrong woman — however Mr. Trump is very much the wrong man, so it is the lesser of two evils.
LM: You rose to popular culture fame because of your defense of an involvement with “Gamergate”. What was it like for you? And how did you resist the pressure from within the movement to go ahead and support Donald Trump. I admire that you stay true to yourself down the line–you are pushed by neither right nor left.
CHS: The so called “Gamergate” movement–it is not really a movement, it is a hashtag and it attracted video game players across the world who just wanted to game, they didn’t want to have all these rules of political correctness imposed on them. They felt there is corruption in the video game media and they organized. On the periphery there were some nuts, just like in any large social movement. Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street—you have some nuts, but in its core there were some important ideas. I saw that and defended the movement. It is wonderful, because I made friends, and we had meet ups, just great people. And the politics of Gamergate at the time, if anything, trended libertarian to liberal. And then, some people now associate it with alt right, but I don’t see that. I think it’s just a small group within the movement.
LM: Should it be fair to say that gaming is not really about politics? Did any of the Gamergate guys that you met up tried to teach you to game?
They did. I admitted early on when I was making my videos defending Gamergate, that I don’t play video games. I don’t recall playing games since 1970s in Harvard Square playing Pacman, perhaps once or twice. And I watched video games and found them appalling. Grand Theft Auto was violent and I wouldn’t wish to play it. I preferred games about Downton Abbey or Umbrellas of Cherbourg, and something, you know, lovely. But I know that my tastes are not those of everyone. I don’t like violent television shows. I couldn’t watch The Sopranos. My sons were very angry I wouldn’t watch Breaking Bad—it was too violent. But I recognize that you can watch Breaking Bad and not become a violent drug dealer. You can play video games -– it is a world of the imagination. Censorship and intimidation is inappropriate in those domains and that’s what I say. So I defended the gamers even though I don’t game.
LM: I love the idea of Dowton Abbey, the video game—that is the challenge for the video game developers out there! What was your reaction to having your videos, your arguments about feminism, flagged up by YouTube as dangerous, objectionable content?
CHS: I make videos, as a former philosophy professor and scholar, trying to correct feminism myths, untruths, and exaggerations and they have been flagged. The way that Youtube has flagged them as potentially objectionable, is the way they would flag pornography. It is very surprising to me to find that my serious videos, which are civil, and have no content that I think anyone could find objectionable, except an ideologue, are flagged. I am sorry to think that Youtube could be ideological. But maybe it is not, maybe it is just that some activists complained and there is some kind of an algorithm that was applied. I hope they change it back, I hope they don’t continue suppressing the truth.
LM: Why do you think that liberals in general, both in academia and online, seem to be so terrified of conservative opinions, that they want to shut them down using the tactics of fascists? Have we come full circle, where people have become so liberal that now they are basically liberal fascists?
CHS: There are a lot of far left professors on the campus who are not happy when I come there, or other dissidents. They see their job as breaking through the false consciousness of the students, introducing them to these “deeper truths” about the patriarchy and the capitalist hegemony and so forth. So someone like me, or another skeptic, undermines their project. Well, I don’t think that their project is legitimate. I don’t think that the purpose of education is indoctrination, or where we introduce students to conspiracy theory about a patriarchal oppressive capitalist society—that is absurd. The purpose of education is the discovery of truth and intellectual development. So I guess what I am doing is a threat to their project. And it is.
LM: It must be really nice to find yourself, an age positive feminist, as a rock-n-roll rebel of conservative culture and to be the most dangerous woman in America. I now got you another nickname– we are going to move on from Based Mom to the Most Dangerous Woman in America.
CHS: I know, I am age positive and to find myself in the center of controversy and labeled a dangerous woman—it is fun, I didn’t expect it, but here it is.
LM: What do you think is the future of feminism? I just want to give a shout out to this guy called Isaac Cohen, who is a man leading the movement called “Stop Enslaving Saudi Women”. He is the most proactive feminist I have seen. We mustn’t get into the trap that to be a feminist you have to be a woman. But what do you see as the future of real liberal feminism?
CHS: Feminism has a lot of work to do, but we have to get over this “fainting couch” feminist stage, and the trigger warnings and running off to safe spaces—that is the betrayal of feminism, that is not true feminism. There are women across the globe, and I have met them at international women’s conferences– from Cambodia, Saudi Arabia, from Iran, and Egypt, where they are coping with patriarchal practices, they are coping with institutionalized misogyny, and they are asking for our help. And yet on our campuses you have young women that are self absorbed and more concerned with their own oppression when they happen to be among the most privileged people in the world with a lot to offer, if they were to open their eyes and make common cause with feminists across the globe.
LM: It killed me to see Barack Obama and David Cameron, the then Prime Minister, bowing low to the Saudi king when he died. Is there any chance, is there any hope that the first woman president will finally do something about the West colluding with the Saudi Arabia and Iran– where women have to mandatorily wear head scarves– and strike a blow for women’s basic rights, like the right to vote, the right to travel and have a job and have custody rights. Do you think Hillary Clinton will be more of the same? She has the duty to advance real feminism in the Middle East. Is there any chance that we are going to break out this sort of patriarchal yessing to death of this terrible repression of women under the name of culture?
CHS: I have hopes for Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy and that she will take the issues of global human rights and women’s right seriously. And the person I greatly admire, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali writer, once pointed out that the danger to freedom isn’t simply all these repressive societies and repressive practices, it is also when the Westerners lose the ability to defend it, lose the capacity to make an argument for basic freedoms. So I would like to see American leadership and American foreign policy reflect our commitment to these values.
LM: As somebody once said “All that is required for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing”. And if good women do nothing now, women will continue to be enslaved.
Based Mom on “Gamergate”
Based Mom on the Future of Feminism