Christina Hoff Sommers
|Christina Hoff Sommers|
Courtesy of the American Enterprise Institute
Petaluma, California, US
|Occupation||Author, university professor, scholar at The American Enterprise Institute|
|Alma mater||New York University (B.A.)
Brandeis University (PhD)
|Notable works||Who Stole Feminism? How Women Have Betrayed Women
The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men
Vice and Virtue in Everyday Life
|Spouse||Frederic Tamler Sommers|
Christina Hoff Sommers (born 1950) is an American author and former philosophy professor who is known for her critique of late 20th century feminism, and her writings about feminism in contemporary American culture. Her most widely discussed books are Who Stole Feminism? How Women Have Betrayed Women and The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men. Although her critics refer to her as anti-feminist, Sommers thinks of herself as an equity feminist who faults contemporary feminism for "its irrational hostility to men, its recklessness with facts and statistics, and its inability to take seriously the possibility that the sexes are equal – but different."
A former philosophy professor in Ethics at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, Sommers is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. She is also a member of the Board of Advisors of the nonpartisan Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. She has spoken and participated in debates at over one hundred college campuses and served on the national advisory board of the Independent Women's Forum.
Sommers is a registered Democrat. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy categorizes Sommers' equity feminist views as classical liberal or libertarian and socially conservative. Sommers has criticized how "conservative scholars have effectively been marginalized, silenced, and rendered invisible on most campuses." In an article for the text book, Moral Soundings, Sommers makes the case for moral conservation and traditional values.
Views on feminism
Sommers uses the terms "equity feminism" and "gender feminism" to differentiate what she sees as acceptable and non-acceptable forms of feminism. She describes equity feminism as the struggle based upon "Enlightenment principles of individual justice" for equal legal and civil rights and many of the original goals of the early feminists, as in the first wave of the women's movement. She describes "gender feminism" as having "transcended the liberalism" of early feminists. Instead of focusing on rights for all, gender feminists view society through the "sex/gender prism" and focus on recruiting women to join the "struggle against patriarchy." A reviewer of Who Stole Feminism characterized gender feminism as the action of accenting the differences of genders in order to create what Sommers believes is privilege for women in academia, government, industry, or the advancement of personal agendas.
Sommers wrote in The Atlantic, about her own book The War Against Boys, that misguided school curriculum, is a likely cause for many problems in education including the falling reading scores of lower-school boys. Sommers writes that there is an achievement gap between boys and girls in school, and that girls in some areas are achieving more than boys. She writes, "Growing evidence that the scales are tipped not against girls but against boys is beginning to inspire a quiet revisionism. Some educators will admit that boys are on the wrong side of the gender gap." Writing for The New York Times, Richard Bernstein wrote of The War Against Boys, "Observations like that lift Ms. Sommers's book from polemic to entreaty. There is a cry in the wilderness quality to her book, a sense that certain simple truths have been lost sight of in the smoky quarrelsomeness of American life. One may agree with Ms. Sommers or one may disagree, but it is hard not to credit her with a moral urgency that comes both from the head and from the heart." 
Sommers writes in Who Stole Feminism that an often-mentioned March of Dimes study which says that "domestic violence is the leading cause of birth defects," does not, in fact, exist (note: does not say in that link). This claim has been refuted by the scholar Nancy K.D. Lemon in the Chronicle of Higher Education, noting that the study "Battering During Pregnancy: Intervention Strategies," by Anne Stewart Helton and Frances Gobble Snodgrass funded by a grant by March of Dimes, appears in the September 1987 issue of the journal Birth. Sommers writes that violence against women does not peak during the Super Bowl, which she describes as another popular urban legend. Sommers also writes that these statements about domestic violence were used in shaping the Violence Against Women Act, which allocates $1.6 billion a year in federal funds for ending domestic violence. Sommers writes that feminists assert, and the media report, that approximately 150,000 women die each year from anorexia, an apparent distortion of the American Anorexia and Bulimia Association's figure that 150,000 females have some degree of anorexia. A Reason magazine review stated that "the answer to the question in the book's title is, nobody stole feminism. The liberals gave it away. Their abdication of principles and cowardly fear of reprisals so ably chronicled by Sommers sealed the deal."
Sommers is a longtime critic of Women's Studies departments, and of university curricula in general. In an interview with Scott London, Sommers said, "The perspective now, from my point of view, is that the better things get for women, the angrier the women's studies professors seem to be, the more depressed Gloria Steinem seems to get. So there is something askew here, something amiss." According to The Nation, "Hoff Sommers carefully explains to the students that much of the fault for this unfortunate phenomenon [of "pathologizing maleness"] lies with women's studies departments. There, 'statistically challenged' feminists engage in bad scholarship to advance their liberal agenda. As her preliminary analysis of women's studies textbooks has shown, these professors are peddling a skewed and incendiary message: 'Women are from Venus, men are from Hell'. In a book review in the magazine National Review, Mary Lefkowitz writes of Who Stole Feminism that "[Sommers] provides clear guidelines on how to distinguish indoctrination from education. That alone is a major service to all of us who are struggling to distinguish fact from fiction in today's troubled academic world."
Sommers has also written about Title IX and the shortage of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) careers. She opposes recent efforts to apply Title IX to the sciences because "Science is not a sport. In science, men and women play on the same teams...There are many brilliant women in the top ranks of every field of science and technology, and no one doubts their ability to compete on equal terms." Title IX programs in the sciences could easily "stigmatize" women and cheapen their hard-earned achievements. Moreover, Sommers points to research that indicates that personal preferences, not sexist discrimination, plays a role in women's career choices. Not only do women favor fields like biology, psychology, and veterinary medicine over physics and mathematics, but they also seek out more family-friendly careers. Sommers writes that "the real problem most women scientists confront is the challenge of combining motherhood with a high-powered science career" – not discrimination.
The War Against Boys was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year for 2000.
Robert Coles, a child psychiatrist at Harvard University, has compared Sommers' book with the separate but complementary work of psychologist William S. Pollack, author of Real Boys' Voices and Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood, and the work of psychologist Carol Gilligan.
Richard Bernstein, a New York Times columnist, praised the book, writing, "The burden of [this] thoughtful, provocative book is that it is American boys who are in trouble, not girls. Ms. Sommers...makes these arguments persuasively and unflinchingly, and with plenty of data to support them."
E. Anthony Rotundo of the Washington Post, in reviewing Sommers' The War Against Boys, has stated: "In the end, Sommers fails to prove either claim in the title of her book. She does not show that there is a 'war against boys.' All she can show is that feminists are attacking her 'boys-will-be-boys' concept of boyhood, just as she attacks their more flexible notion. The difference between attacking a concept and attacking millions of real children is both enormous and patently obvious. Sommers's title, then, is not just wrong but inexcusably misleading... Sommers's book is a work of neither dispassionate social science nor reflective scholarship; it is a conservative polemic."
In an article circulated by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), a national progressive media watch group, Laura Flanders wrote "[Sommers'] book [Who Stole Feminism] is filled with the same kind of errors, unsubstantiated charges and citations of 'advocacy research' that she claims to find in the work of the feminists she takes to task... Sommers relies heavily on a handful of oft-repeated anti-feminist anecdotes – or folktales." Sommers has responded to these accusations.
Criticisms and controversy
Sommers' work has attracted a great deal of attention and often draws sharp criticism from the women's groups and feminists whom she critiques.
1994 Esquire interview quote controversy
In a 1994 interview with Esquire magazine, Sommers was quoted as saying, "There are a lot of homely women in women's studies. Preaching these anti-male, anti-sex sermons is a way for them to compensate for various heartaches-- they're just mad at the beautiful girls." Many times since 1994, Sommers has denied making such a statement: "I never said any such thing. Fifteen years ago, an Esquire magazine writer misquoted me, made it up or confused me with someone else. When Washington Post writer Meg Rosenfeld did a profile of me in 1994, she asked the writer about the quote. He said his notes had gone missing (Washington Post, 7/7/1994.) The fact is: they never existed. No matter how many letters I write correcting the fabrication, it seems never to go away."
Exchanges with the AAUW
Sommers harshly criticizes women's organizations like the American Association of University Women (AAUW) in her book Who Stole Feminism, in conservative publications like The National Review, and in public forums. She writes of the AAUW:
The American Association of University Women (AAUW) issued two reports in the early Nineties that were harmfully wrong. AAUW researchers claimed to show how "our gender biased" classrooms were damaging the self-esteem of the nation’s girls and holding them back academically. That was simply not true... If the AAUW were serious about improving the climate on campus, it could start by looking for ways to reason with the V-Day enthusiasts to discourage their antics... Campuses need effective policies against genuine harassment. They do not need the divisive gender politics of the AAUW spin sisters. The AAUW’s statistically challenged, chronically mistaken, and relentlessly male-averse "studies" should not be taken seriously.
Sommer's criticisms prompted a response by the AAUW:
Unfortunately, Who Stole Feminism? is not about making positive societal change or changing behavior to create a more equitable society for women and girls. Rather, AAUW perceives the book to be an attack on scholars, women's organizations, and higher education. Contrary to what Sommers contends, there is nothing in any of our research about terms she uses—domination, subjugation, victimization, or oppression... Ours is not a radical agenda despite Sommers' characterization of AAUW. We are about positive societal change... Our research looks for solutions and is based on facts, not anecdotes or soundbites. The important thing to remember is that this debate is not about AAUW; it's about the children in this country. What is important is that our daughters and sons reach their full potential.
Controversy with Nancy Lemon
In 2009 Sommers criticized Nancy K.D. Lemon's textbook Domestic Violence Law. Specifically, Sommers pointed to erroneous statistics about domestic violence and the misattribution of the origin of the saying “rule of thumb” to a law about wife beating that existed during the reign of Romulus in Rome. Lemon defended the accuracy of her textbook in a letter to The Chronicle of Higher Education. In reply, Sommers rejected Lemon's assertions again and lamented that, with the publication of another uncorrected version of Lemon's textbook, “Law students will now be treated to another round of Elvis sightings parading as scholarship.” Similar public controversy ensued.
Books by Sommers
- 1986, Right and Wrong: Basic Readings in Ethics. ISBN 0-15-577110-8.
- 1995, Who Stole Feminism?: How Women Have Betrayed Women ISBN 978-0-684-80156-8.
- 2000, The War Against Boys. ISBN 0-684-84956-9.
- 2003 (with Frederic Sommers), Vice & Virtue in Everyday life. ISBN 978-0-534-60534-6.
- 2006 (with Sally Satel, M.D.), One Nation Under Therapy. ISBN 978-0-312-30444-7.
- 2009 The Science on Women in Science. ISBN 978-0-8447-4281-6
- Christina Hoff Sommers, Who Stole Feminism? How Women Have Betrayed Women, Simon and Schuster, 1994, 22. ISBN 0-671-79424-8 (hb), ISBN 0-684-80156-6 (pb), LCC HQ1154.S613 1994
- Michael Flood, Chapter 21 (http://www.xyonline.net/sites/default/files/Flood,%20Backlash%20-%20Angry%20men_0.pdf) (PDF) of The Battle and Backlash Rage On, XLibris, 2006 ISBN 1-4134-5934-X
- Jennifer Pozner, Female Anti-Feminism for Fame and Profit (http://organizenow.net/cco/right/antifem.html), excerpted from Uncovering the Right on Campus, Center for Campus Organizing (CCO), 1997
- Sommers, Christina Hoff (November 19, 2008). What's Wrong and What's Right with Contemporary Feminism? (PDF) (Speech). Hamilton College. pp. 18–19. Archived from the original on February 1, 2012. Retrieved 2012-02-01.
- "Texas A&M website biography". Archived from the original on October 15, 2008. "[Sommers] has a doctor of philosophy degree in philosophy from Brandeis University."
- Lukianoff, Greg (February 9, 2005). "FIRE Letter to University of Colorado at Boulder Interim Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano, February 9, 2005". Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. Archived from the original on February 16, 2005. Retrieved 2009-12-02.
- "Advisors". Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. Archived from the original on February 1, 2012. Retrieved 2009-12-02.
- Sommers, Christina Hoff (November 19, 2008). What's Wrong and What's Right with Contemporary Feminism? (PDF) (Speech). Hamilton College. p. 25. Archived from the original on February 1, 2012. Retrieved 2012-02-01. "Sommers has appeared on numerous television programs including Nightline, Sixty Minutes, The Oprah Winfrey Show – and twice on Comedy Central's The Daily Show. She has lectured and taken part in debates on more than one hundred college campuses."
- Schreiber, Ronnee (2008). Righting Feminism. Oxford University Press. p. 25. ISBN 978-0-19-533181-3.
- Sommers, Christina Hoff, Who Stole Feminism?: How Women Have Betrayed Women (Touchstone, 1995), p. 128
- Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- Christina Hoff Sommers, For more balance on campuses, Christian Science Monitor, May 6, 2002.
- Dwight Furrow, Moral Soundings: Readings on the Crisis of Values in Contemporary Life, Rowman & Littlefield, 2004 ISBN 0-7425-3370-0, ISBN 978-0-7425-3370-7
- Christina Hoff Sommers, Who Stole Feminism?: How Women Have Betrayed Women, page 22. Touchstone Books, 1995
- Sommers: Who Stole Feminism?: How Women Have Betrayed Women, page 23. Touchstone Books, 1994.
- Tama Starr, Reactionary Feminism, Review of Christina Hoff Sommers Who Stole Feminism?: How Women Have Betrayed Women, Reason Magazine, October 1994.
- Mary Lefkowitz, Review of Christina Hoff Sommers Who Stole Feminism?: How Women Have Betrayed Women, National Review, July 11, 1994.
- The Atlantic "The War Against Boys"
- Richard Bernstein, Books of the Times: Boys, Not Girls, as Society's Victims, New York Times, July 31, 2000.
- Perring, Christina (March 8, 2002). "Review – The War Against Boys". metapsychology online reviews. Retrieved 2011-12-02.
- Lemon, Nancy K.D,. "Myths or Facts in Feminist Scholarship? An exchange between Nancy K.D. Lemon and Christina Hoff Sommers". Myths or Facts in Feminist Scholarship? An exchange between Nancy K.D. Lemon and Christina Hoff Sommers. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved September 13, 2012.
- Laura Flanders, The "Stolen Feminism" Hoax Anti-Feminist Attack Based on Error-Filled Anecdotes, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, September/OCTOBER 1994.
- Wendy McElroy, Prostitution: Reconsidering Research, originally printed in SpinTech magazine, reprinted at WendyMcElroy.com, November 12, 1999.
- Interview with Christina Hoff Sommers
- Houppert, Karen (November 7, 2002). "Wanted: a Few Good Girls". The Nation. Archived from the original on February 1, 2012. Retrieved 2012-02-01.
- For examples, see Diana Furchtgott-Roth, "Title IX For Math and Science?" (http://www.realclearmarkets.com/articles/2010/07/15/foisting_gender_on_math_and_science_98576.html) Real Clear Markets, July 15, 2010 and AAUW, "AAUW Celebrates 38th Anniversary of Title IX With Calls for Grater Enforcement (http://www.aauw.org/media/pressreleases/titleix_38_062210.cfm)", June 2010
- Christina Hoff Sommers, "The Case against Title-Nining the Sciences (http://www.aei.org/article/28694)", September 2008.
- Christina Hoff Sommers, "Is Science Saturated with Sexism?" (http://www.aei.org/article/103172) February 2011
- For this review and others see Amazon.com Editorial Reviews (http://www.amazon.com/War-Against-Boys-Misguided-Feminism/dp/0684849569)
- Robert Coles, Boys to Men, Two views of what it's like to be young and male in the United States today, New York Times, June 25, 2000.
- Review of The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men, by E. Anthony Rotundo in the Washington Post, July 2, 2000.
- Christina Hoff Sommers, Crying Wolf, National Review, February 21, 2006.
- "The Future of Feminism: An Interview with Christina Hoff Sommers
- American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research A Speech by Christina Hoff Sommers
- American Association of University Women Memorandum March 1995
- Christina Hoff Sommers, "Persistent Myths in Feminist Scholarship", The Chronicle Review, June 29, 2009
- For the exchange between Sommers and Lemon, see "Myths or Facts in Feminist Scholarship? An exchange between Nancy K.D. Lemon and Christina Hoff Sommers," The Chronicle Review, August 10, 2009.
- "Myths or Facts in Feminist Scholarship?". The Chronicle. The Chronicle of Higher Education. September 10, 2010. Retrieved 2011-12-05.
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Christina Hoff Sommers|
- Christina Hoff Sommers page at the American Enterprise Institute.
- MediaTransparency entry on Christina Hoff Sommers.
- Is the future of feminism conservative? – a discussion of Sommers in the Harvard Law Record
- Appearances on C-SPAN