UB Young Americans for Freedom hosts Christina Hoff Sommers
Sommers addresses 'Where Feminism Went Wrong' without incident
One year after Robert Spencer’s speech at UB, UB’s Young Americans for Freedom chapter invited a speaker who talked without disruption.
Christina Hoff Sommers spoke to roughly 100 people on Tuesday night in the SU Theatre. Sommers, a self-proclaimed “equality feminist,” is a former philosophy professor at Clark University and has written a number of books like “Who Stole Feminism?” and “One Nation Under Therapy.”
In an hour-long address, Sommers talked about modern-day feminism, rape culture, male privilege, toxic masculinity and the importance of factual information.
The event received $1,200 of funding from a grant through Sub-Board I, Inc., according to the Student Association General Ledger.
Kyle Murphy, SBI’s treasurer, said the service’s programming grant committee takes a number of factors into consideration before funding a grant application. The committee’s decisions are not influenced by personal opinions on programming content, according to Murphy.
Sommers spoke without interruption, and no students protested inside the theater. Attendees had to register for a ticket with the YAF chapter.
Chris Bartolomei, interim chief at UPD, said Spencer’s speech last year took the police by surprise, and his department didn’t realize it would get out of control.
“After that event, now, every event where we think there might be a room capacity issue, we have some controls in place,” Bartolomei said. “The best events are this one, a ticketed event, because [people] don’t have to push or shove to get in. They know they can get in, and we’ll also have an idea of how many people will be attending.”
Barbara Ricotta, senior associate vice president for student life, opened the event with a video on “Freedom of Expression.” In the video, A. Scott Weber, vice president for student life, said UB community members must not violate the rights of others, including a speaker’s freedom of expression.
Sommers talked about “what’s wrong with feminism and how we can make it great again.”
“Feminism is one of the great chapters in the history of the struggle for freedom. There’s still work to be done, but to be effective, the women’s movement has to be rescued from its current, troubled state,” Sommers said.
“Radical feminism is giving a distorted picture of the world. It’s pushing some women over the edge, creates a divide between men and women, creates anger between the sexes and is not solving problems.”
Sommers said she recognizes there “are all sorts of problems that women face” and notes that “women are going to be helped by truth and sober research.”
“Feminism today is drowning in misinformation,” Sommers said. “Some of the myths have been repeated so often, they’re almost beyond rational analysis.”
Sommers said the gender wage gap ignores factors that explain differences between men and women, like types of jobs and work hours.
Sommers also discussed rape culture in her address and said there is no evidence of a “rape epidemic.”
She asked audience members to raise their hands if they’ve ever beaten up or been beaten up by a sibling during their childhoods. Over half the audience raised their hands. She said based on these results, she “could now write an article about an epidemic of family violence in students at the University at Buffalo.”
At the end of her address, Sommers said “the answer to a long history of male chauvinism isn’t female chauvinism. The answer to male supremacy isn’t female supremacy. The answer is equality, mutual regard, respect and friendship. We should not have a gender war, … because in all wars, the first casualty is truth,” Sommers said.
After the speech, Sommers answered questions from the audience for half an hour.
Evan Walley, a junior computer science and mathematics major, asked why she thought Marxism was so popular among people his age. Sommers responded, “Yeah, what’s up with that?”
Sommers said young people “think the world is like [their] family, ... and it just happens that when you take that [Marxist] mindset out into society, it tends to lead to unfortunate, well, mass murder and misery and poverty.”
“I don’t know why this appeals to educated people. I want it to go away, but here it is,” Sommers said.
Walley said Sommers didn’t answer his question in a satisfying way.
“She couldn’t really give a solution to that, which is understandable, but overall I think the event went better than I thought it was going to go,” Walley said. “It was different hearing her speak in real life, as it’s always different hearing someone speak in real life, but I think she was very well spoken and she lived up to my expectations.”
Another audience member asked Sommers how to address issues of “systemic oppression” and “power structures.”
Sommers said the audience member seemed to want a utopia. Sommers said while she remains open-minded, she does not see a “structure of oppression” in modern day America.
Haley Blonsky, a sophomore political science major, is the YAF chapter’s secretary. Blonsky said the event went well, and she was pleased with the audience’s respect for Sommers throughout the speech.
“People were engaged, asked great questions and got a good dialogue going,” Blonsky said. “It was a long process to get [Sommers] here. We had to write a proposal through YAF, get approved, book rooms and advertise the event. I think we did well.”
Benjamin Blanchet is the senior features editor and Kirsten Dean is a staff writer. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.