Christina Hoff Sommers

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Christina Hoff Sommers
Born 1950 (age 63–64)
Petaluma, California, U.S.
Occupation Author, university professor, scholar at The American Enterprise Institute
Alma mater NYU (BA), Brandeis (PhD)
Notable works Who Stole Feminism?, The War Against Boys,Vice and Virtue in Everyday Life
Spouse Frederic Tamler Sommers
Website
www.aei.org/scholar/christina-hoff-sommers

Christina Hoff Sommers (/ˈsʌmərz/; born 1950) is an American author and former philosophy professor known for her writings about feminism in contemporary American culture. She coined the term "equity feminist" to denote her philosophy, which she contrasts with what she describes as "victim" or "gender feminism".[1]

Sommers is known for her criticisms of contemporary feminism, arguing that modern feminist thought often contains an "irrational hostility to men" and possesses an "inability to take seriously the possibility that the sexes are equal but different".[1] Other scholars and feminists have called her anti-feminist for her criticisms and writings.[2][3] Sommers rejects claims that she is opposed to feminism.[4] Sommers's most notable books are Who Stole Feminism? and The War Against Boys, both of which are critical discussions of contemporary feminism.

Career[edit]

Sommers earned a BA at New York University in 1971, graduating Phi Beta Kappa. She earned a PhD in philosophy from Brandeis University in 1979.[5]

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[6] Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.[7] Sommers has appeared on numerous television programs including Nightline, 60 Minutes, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and Comedy Central's The Daily Show, and has lectured and taken part in debates on more than 100 college campuses[1] and served on the national advisory board of the Independent Women's Forum.[8] She has written multiple articles for Time,[9] Huffington Post,[10] The Atlantic,[11] Slate,[12] and The New York Times.[13] At the AEI she currently makes the weekly "Factual Feminist" video blog.[14][15]

Ideas and views[edit]

Sommers coined the terms "equity feminism" and "gender feminism." She describes equity feminism as the struggle based upon "Enlightenment principles of individual justice"[16] 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. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy categorizes equity feminism as libertarian or classically-liberal.[17] She characterizes "gender feminism" as having "transcended the liberalism" of early feminists so that 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."[18] Reason magazine reviewed Who Stole Feminism?: How Women Have Betrayed Women and 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.[19][20]

Sommers is a longtime critic of Women's Studies departments, and of university curricula in general. In an interview with freelance journalist 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."[21] According to The Nation, Hoff Sommers explains to her students that 'statistically challenged' feminists in women's studies departments engage in "bad scholarship to advance their liberal agenda." These professors, she claims, are peddling a skewed and incendiary message: 'Women are from Venus, men are from Hell'.[22]

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[23] because, she says, "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."[24] Title IX programs in the sciences could stigmatize women and cheapen their hard-earned achievements. Sommers adds that personal preferences, not sexist discrimination, plays a role in women's career choices.[25] 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."[24]

Who Stole Feminism[edit]

Main article: Who Stole Feminism?

In Who Stole Feminism, Sommers outlines her distinction between "gender feminism", which she regards as being the dominant contemporary approach to feminism, and "equity feminism", which she presents as more akin to first-wave feminism. She uses the work to argue that contemporary feminism is too radical and disconnected from the lives of typical American women, presenting her equity feminism alternative as a better match for their needs.[26] In criticizing contemporary feminism, Sommers writes that an often-mentioned March of Dimes study which says that "domestic violence is the leading cause of birth defects," does not exist, and that violence against women does not peak during the Super Bowl, which she describes as an urban legend, arguing that such statements about domestic violence helped shape the Violence Against Women Act, which allocates $1.6 billion a year in federal funds for ending domestic violence. Similarly, she argues that feminists assert that approximately 150,000 women die each year from anorexia—which is an apparent distortion of the American Anorexia and Bulimia Association's figure that 150,000 females have some degree of anorexia.[27][28]

Melanie Kirkpatrick, writing in The Wall Street Journal, praised the book for its "lack of a political agenda. … Ms. Sommers simply lines up her facts and shoots one bullseye after another."[29] In contrast, an article circulated by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), a progressive media watch group, panned Sommers's book as being "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 ..."[27] Sommers responded to FAIR's criticisms in a letter to the editor of FAIR's monthly magazine, EXTRA!.[30]

The War Against Boys[edit]

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 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."[31]

Robert Coles, a child psychiatrist at Harvard University, has compared Sommers' book with the separate but complementary work of psychologist William Pollack, author of Real Boys' Voices and Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood, and with the work of psychologist Carol Gilligan.[32] 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."[33] The New York Times included The War Against Boys as one of their nonfiction Notable Books of the Year in 2000.[34]

Writing in the Washington Post in 2000, author E. Anthony Rotundo stated: "In the end, Sommers ... 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 ... Sommers's title, then, is not just wrong but inexcusably misleading... a work of neither dispassionate social science nor reflective scholarship; it is a conservative polemic."[35]

Awards[edit]

The National Women's Political Caucus (NWPC), a U.S. organization co-founded by feminist Gloria Steinem with a mission statement "dedicated to increasing women’s participation in the political process and creating a true women’s political power base to achieve equality for all women", awarded Sommers with a 2013 Exceptional Merit in Media Award[36] for her New York Times article, "The Boys at the Back".[37] The NWPC summarizes the article as, "Author Christina Sommers asks whether we should allow girls to reap the advantages of a new knowledge based service economy and take the mantle from boys, or should we acknowledge the roots of feminism and strive for equal education for all?"

Books by Sommers[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Christina Hoff Sommers, "What's Wrong and What's Right with Contemporary Feminism?" Hamilton College speech, Nov. 19, 2008. Accessed 2014-11-16.
  2. ^ Kimmel, Michael. (2000). "A war against boys?", Tikkun 15:6, pp57-60.
  3. ^ Douglas, Susan J (2010). "girls gone ANTI-FEMINIST", In These Times, 34:3. pp 16-19.
  4. ^ "Twitter post from Sommers regarding opposition to feminism". 26 November 2014. Retrieved 30 November 2014. 
  5. ^ "Texas A&M website biography". Retrieved 2014-11-16. [Sommers] has a doctor of philosophy degree in philosophy from Brandeis University. 
  6. ^ 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. 
  7. ^ "Advisors". Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. Archived from the original on February 1, 2012. Retrieved 2009-12-02. 
  8. ^ Schreiber, Ronnee (2008). Righting Feminism. Oxford University Press. p. 25. ISBN 978-0-19-533181-3. 
  9. ^ Time, Articles from Contributor: Christina Hoff Sommers
  10. ^ Huffington Post, Articles from Contributor: "Christina Hoff Sommers
  11. ^ The Atlantic, Articles from Contributor: Christina Hoff Sommers
  12. ^ Slate, Articles from Contributor: Christina Hoff Sommers
  13. ^ The New York Times, Articles from Contributor:Christina Hoff Sommers
  14. ^ "Factual Feminist". AEI. 
  15. ^ "Factual Feminist". 
  16. ^ Who Stole Feminism? page 22.
  17. ^ "Liberal Feminism". Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 
  18. ^ Who Stole Feminism? page 23.
  19. ^ Tama Starr, Reactionary Feminism, Review of Christina Hoff Sommers Who Stole Feminism?: How Women Have Betrayed Women, Reason Magazine, October 1994.
  20. ^ Mary Lefkowitz, Review of Christina Hoff Sommers Who Stole Feminism?: How Women Have Betrayed Women, National Review, July 11, 1994.
  21. ^ "The Future of Feminism: An Interview with Christina Hoff Sommers". 
  22. ^ Houppert, Karen (November 7, 2002). "Wanted: a Few Good Girls". The Nation. Archived from the original on February 1, 2012. Retrieved 2012-02-01. 
  23. ^ "AAUW Celebrates 38th Anniversary of Title IX With Calls for Grater Enforcement", American Association of University Women, June 2010
  24. ^ a b Christina Hoff Sommers, "The Case against Title-Nining the Sciences", September 2008.
  25. ^ Christina Hoff Sommers, "Is Science Saturated with Sexism?" (http://www.aei.org/article/103172) February 2011
  26. ^ Kinahan, Anne-Marie. (2001). "Women Who Run from the Wolves: Feminist Critique as Post-Feminism", Canadian Review of American Studies 32:2. p 33.
  27. ^ a b Laura Flanders, The "Stolen Feminism" Hoax Anti-Feminist Attack Based on Error-Filled Anecdotes, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, September/October 1994.
  28. ^ Wendy McElroy, Prostitution: Reconsidering Research, originally printed in SpinTech magazine, reprinted at WendyMcElroy.com, November 12, 1999.
  29. ^ Melanie Kirkpatrick (1994-07-01). Wall Street Journal. 
  30. ^ Christina Hoff Sommers, letter to Mr. Jim Naureckas, Editor, EXTRA!, FAIR Editorial Office, March 15, 1995
  31. ^ The Atlantic "The War Against Boys"
  32. ^ 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.
  33. ^ Richard Bernstein, Books of the Times: Boys, Not Girls, as Society's Victims, New York Times, July 31, 2000.
  34. ^ "Holiday Books 2000: Nonfiction" (December 3, 2000) The New York Times. Retrieved November 30, 2014.
  35. ^ 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.
  36. ^ 2013 Exceptional Merit in Media Awards (EMMAs) Winners, National Women's Political Caucus
  37. ^ Christina Hoff Sommers, "The Boys at the Back" New York Times, Feb. 2, 2013

External links[edit]