On Friday, philosopher Christina Hoff Sommers appeared on HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” to discuss feminism and political correctness.
During the segment, Sommers and Maher touched on three important points. First, that feminism has become a process by which women are infantilized. Second, that modern feminists are using “catastrophe” language to describe minor incidents, thus trivializing real threats. Third, that the alleged pay gap is not a result of sexism, but of choices.
SOMMERS: I became a feminist in the 70s because I didn’t like male chauvinism – I still don’t – but the answer is not female chauvinism. And now, the movement is captive to female chauvinists who want to just emphasize how bad men are, toxic masculinity…
Sommers then spoke about giving lectures at universities, and the fact that she now requires body guards to protect her from activists:
I have been lecturing for years, and usually I’d go to debate and spar with some women’s studies professors because I occupy a different position in sort of feminist theory, but now these days … it’s not the women’s studies people, it’s the students who come, the activists, to demonstrate. They set up safe rooms…
And I have to have bodyguards. At Oberlin, I had a detail of police. … They had the safe room set up, and 30 women and a therapy dog fled to the safe space…
You know what I call it? “Fainting couch feminism.” Remember the 19th century where women would collapse on an elegant chez in the presence of male vulgarity? Well, I mean, we can’t handle that? We want to be in the military, you know? We want to be running the world? Well, I’m sorry, you can handle male impropriety. Now, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have strong rules against sexual harassment – as a feminist, I fought for that – but that doesn’t mean policing men for little minor faults.
Maher then read a story from a Bernie Sanders campaign staffer who said that she was allegedly “shaking with fear” because she had to share a room with male colleagues.
This is not what feminism is supposed to be, but there are these professors, and they pass along these messages that we’re all traumatized, we’re all fragile, we’re diminished under this patriarchal oppressive system. This is madness. American women arguably are among the freest, most self-determining in history … and at the very moment where we have this opportunity for just profound equality with men, and to take on running of the world with men, at that very moment we start giving – especially undergraduate women at the more elite colleges – we start giving them the message that they’re victims, they’re fragile, they need not equality with men but protection from these toxic masculine hegemons.
This is the madness. And on the campus, they use the language of catastrophe to characterize, like, day to day life on the campus. One young woman – I was at University of Pennsylvania – and she said, “Oh, I was mini-raped. A guy walked by and said, ‘Nice legs.'”
Sommers stated that these invented micro-aggressions “[trivialize] feminism.”
Speaking about the alleged “wage gap,” Sommers said that the “proper controls” must be applied before one attempts to compare male and female salaries in the workplace.
This led to an exchange about how women negotiate:
SOMMERS: What did they study in school? What job are they in? How many hours a week [do] they work? How long do they commute? How dangerous is the job? And when you factor in these various things, the wage gap begins to narrow to the point of vanishing.
MAHER: But some of it is because women, they say, don’t negotiate as well as men for their own behalf.
SOMMERS: Well, you know, some Harvard economists, like Claudia Goldin have looked into that and think it doesn’t explain the gap. Most of the gap is explained by – it’s a very high end where men are willing to work just punishing hours on weekends, in law firms and in finance, and that has an enormous payoff.
MAHER: Well, women do that, too, of course.
SOMMERS: They don’t do it as much. Now, you could say it’s unfair because women are maybe taking care of children or women don’t have the liberty to do that. Now, that’s true, and that’s an interesting discussion, but notice that’s not because employers are cheating them, it’s because men and women do behave slightly differently in private life.
MAHER: Even if it is – and I think it is somewhat the case that women are not as adept at negotiating for themselves – it is incumbent upon them to…
SOMMERS: …learn how to do it.
MAHER: Thank you.