College “Fainting Couch” Feminism vs. “Freedom” Feminism – An Interview With Christina Hoff Sommers

[EDITED TRANSCRIPT, Click HERE for the podcast version] Two weeks ago I spoke on the phone with feminist, author and former academic Christina Hoff Sommers. At the time, I was concerned that the experiences I've had in the last year observing college culture have led to an overly hostile and simplistic view of both academia and feminism. I was hoping her perspective could provide some clarity and restore a sense of calm. I was quite frustrated about these issues as I began the interview, informing Christina I would like to discuss three of her books: Freedom Feminism, The War Against Boys, and Who Stole Feminism?

Brett:
Which of those have been set on fire?

Christina:
Someone on Tumblr burnt “The War On Boys,” They burnt my book. (laughs) And then they sent it around the Internet. And she seems to be proud of of it — this young woman. She was grinning, and apparently she hasn't studied the history of book burning.

Brett:
So, see what I've done. I've poisoned the well against some of the people that we're going to talk about today.

And as I was prepping for this interview I said to myself, “I hope Christina can actually help me calm down a little bit.” I think the experiences that I've had in the last year or so and a lot of what I've observed on these college campuses has led to an overly hostile and perhaps even simplistic view of both academia and feminism, and my conclusion at this point is the problem is not feminism; the problem is not academia, because obviously both of those have great benefits and merits. The problem seems to be where those two worlds collide, and produce this kind of academic authoritarianism. Am I somewhat on the right track?

Christina:
Yes, I'd just add one more distinction. It's not the encounter with the academy and feminism that is toxic. It is the encounter of the academy with hard-line, male-averse, grievance feminism. This is a very special school of feminism. It's always been there but it's gained prominence in the last year or two because of the Internet and women's studies and gender studies departments. And that is what's dangerous. They produce scholarship that's not anywhere near objective; it's ideologically driven. They are increasingly intolerant of dissent, of criticism. You've got to have criticism in scholarship. That's our quality control.

Brett:
Absolutely. Why don't we try to set a baseline before we go into criticism of them. For those in my audience who are completely unfamiliar with your work. What is feminism to you?

Christina:
Well, I taught philosophy for more than 20 years at Clark University and University of Massachusetts. And I've also been a feminist since high school, but to us feminism meant equality with men. It meant equal liberty, equal freedom, equal responsibility. And it didn't mean a war on men. It didn't mean life was a zero sum game — we win, they lose. That's absurd. If men lose women lose. And the other way around as well. We're in this together. So I'm very much in favor of a kind of equality-based feminism, based out of the European enlightenment, and founded in the spirit of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony through this first and second wave of feminism. But the movement took a turn towards a very harsh, actually quite unhinged, direction.

Brett:
So I just want to continue to clarify here. I've heard you use the term equity feminism. And maybe we have some young folks who are aren't too familiar with the distinction between equity and equality especially when it comes to our focus, education. An equality issue would be something like equal funding for all students while equity would be students who come from less get more to ensure they catch up. But I don't know if that's how you're using the word equity.

Christina:
No, I don't make an important distinction from equity and equality. I am definitely in favor of equality feminism, and I use it interchangeably with equity feminism. What I distinguish from is what I call grievance feminism or victim feminism. That is not about equality. That is about righting all of the wrongs men have done to women, keeping track of them, being angry about them. It takes paranoid view about American society; of course we're not perfect but we're pretty good. I would say that young women today — especially college women — are probably the freest, the most advantaged of a group, the safest of any women anywhere any time any place. And yet they increasingly see the world as the very opposite. They believe they are oppressed. They believe they are second class citizens. That they live in a patriarchy, in a rape culture, in a male hegemony. All of that is delusional.

Brett:
I had this kind of nasty thought to myself. I feel like it's a nasty thought. I feel like I'm not being understanding enough. But I look at so much of what's happened in academia just over the last two years, and I say to myself — and I'm a straight white male and obviously there's a lot of experiences that I can't understand — "how generally comfortable does an environment have to be for the phrase micro aggression to come into existence?"

Christina:
Exactly right. And sociologists and political scientists have documented some interesting phenomena that where there is the least oppression, the least inequality, you'll often have the highest levels of bitterness and grievance. And so, where is there the least oppression for any group, marginalized group? Probably on the American campus. I think the only group that's really marginalized in the press would be conservatives; people can be mean to you, they can bully you, if you're a conservative. Or even if you're just the wrong gender and race - you're a white male, able bodied, cis-gendered person - you can be marginalized, bullied, told to shut up. The paradoxes, the ironies are just remarkable. It's called intersectionality; it's the latest thing. Don't fall for it!

It's an excuse for fanaticism and actually just meanness. And what it does is, in order to fight racism and sexism and the other isms, it practices them! So in order to fight racism it divides everybody by race in a hierarchy. And the most culpable are the white male, and then those who are multiply marginalized, they supposedly have the greatest wisdom and the greatest rights.

I think kids still look at one another as individuals. And I think race differences and gender differences, as soon as you become friends with somebody, you forget about that.

Brett:
That's true.

Christina:
And, we're not allowing kids to make friends. It's psychologically so ridiculous to do this; it's just the exact wrong thing if you want to build a community of happy people, a community of friends. We're building a community of tribes, warring tribes. And the dangerous thing is there's also a scapegoat at which you can focus all of your bitterness and animosity — the white male.

So, who does that? You know there may be some white males on campus who deserve opprobrium. You have to judge by the character. Why do the opposite in he name of inclusiveness?

Brett:
Well, how widespread do you think this problem is in colleges and Universities right now? I mean we're always seeing like what shows up on YouTube and Twitter and Tumblr is always the most vocal and usually the most intolerable people, but there's got to be a rational conversation on a lot of these issues happening that's like not what's showing up in your video with Steven Crowder from UMASS, right? It's not all just complete chaos. There has to be some kind of rational drive behind a lot of this ugly stuff we're seeing, right?

Christina:
Well, absolutely right. I think the majority of students on campus may be somewhat apathetic, and you've got a small group, it depends on the school, I think the more elite, the more privileged, perhaps the larger aggrieved group. So, if you go to a precious little environment like Oberlin college or Swarthmore you will find a huge number of people who are chronically offended, aggrieved, and blaming everyone. Be careful at those schools.

I hate to say that, because as an academic, those schools used to be synonymous with excellence, and a young man or woman of any background could go there and get a solid, serious, superb education. Not anymore. Well you can, you can navigate around and find yourself good teachers, but you're going to find a lot of highly ideological professors who - sorry to say this - teach straightforward propaganda. Gender propaganda, race propaganda, anti-west, anti-America. I can be critical of the west and critical of the United States, of course. But you also have to give us our due and [recognize] our achievements, and where we have come compared to other societies. This is just not done.

Brett:
Yeah, I worry about collectivism generally.

Christina:
Yes.

Brett:
Everybody needs to be seen as an individual and measured on their own achievements, and I try to apply the same thing to nationalistic identity. I think you're making that distinction too. I've always kind of been irritated by people saying things like, “we went to the moon,” or, “when we invaded Vietnam,” but there is a tradition in western civilization that is important, as you pointed out, it's far from perfect.

Christina:
Lots of room for improvement, lots of horrible disasters and tragedies, but overall the direction is progress, compassion, inclusiveness, and it's something to be proud of. You know feminism is a phenomenon of bourgeois capitalism. It came out of the western tradition that provided the material prosperity that made it possible to liberate everyone, first of all from very harsh living conditions, and it created a middle class. If you have a middle class, that means you have a vast number of people who have the good life, who aren't elites.

So, you want to encourage that. And there are different ways to do it. You don't have to do it strictly as Americans do it. We're all working in that direction, and it's something that needs to be to be understood, but there's so much time in school, including high school, is spent in this the simplistic denigration of the west, of freedom, of free expression, of due process. I worry today that our students - high school and college students - for whatever reason are not taught to cherish the traditions and protect them. You cannot take them for granted. It takes generations to evolve into a liberated society with due process and respect for individual rights, but it can take very little time to tear it down. And it will be torn down if people are indifferent to it or if people are fighting it, but they will only do that in my opinion if they don't understand it.

Brett:
Sure. So, you've spent probably more time than you once did in Libertarian circles, is that correct?

Christina:
I like libertarians, I like a lot of groups; occasionally I will speak at a campus and tangle with the radical feminists, but later we'll go out for drinks, or they'll follow me, presumably to hassle me, but we end up having a fun conversation. I can get along with anybody if they were just willing to chat; I am open to the possibility that I am wrong. I have spent years looking into the standard feminist statistics, and I find that they are often completely wrong. Often, almost always, misleading, oversimplified, based on dubious research, and going back to what we said in the very beginning, in any other field, this would be corrected, because there's a tradition of criticism and you have to be reviewed by peers.

Brett:
Yeah, but I would have to think that this is a problem that plagues many different areas beyond gender studies in academia. And you actually taught "gender theory" at one point, right?

Christina:
I taught it at Clark university. I was asked to teach it by the chair of our department, and I thought,”Ok, I'm feminist, I'm a philosopher, I'll teach feminist philosophy.” I was pretty shocked by what I read their books; it was so outrageous. And I didn't even mind it being outrageous. That's fine. I have assigned outrageous thought. I have assigned Nietzsche; there's a lot in philosophy that's shocking. Not all of Nietzsche is shocking, much of it is brilliant, but it can be very shocking. The thing is you provide the counter point. You provide the other side. They don't provide the other side.

Brett:
And you talked a lot about specious research. Are there examples of the gender studies research? Places where you identified like serious glaring errors?

Christina:
Oh yes, pick any topic you want. If you look into the research, the feminist or gender studies research education, women and mental health, violence, women in the workplace, in a domain what you find is that it's always always a crisis of male predation and female victimhood. It's the same drama rehearsed, replayed over and over and over again. They never tire of it. Their figures never change. It's always massive numbers of women - one in three being battered, one in four in college being raped, and massive levels of depression. None of it's true.

Brett:
Could you explain how those numbers are acquired, then? Is it all confirmation bias? I ask because I'm not an academic, and I'm worried that I often have this simplistic negative view of what is happening that people aren't even attempting to do research. There must be ways they get this one-in-four campus rape figure.

Christina:
I'll tell you how they do it. There is sexual violence on campus, and because it's such a heinous problem I think we should treat it in a sober way and try to get a real understanding and real numbers. That's not what's going on.

People are opportunistically exaggerating it for their own purposes for the debate. How do they exaggerate it? A number of ways. You can, as some people do, ask a non-representative group. You ask them vague questions, and you make no distinctions.

For example – I'll just give a silly example, then I'll give a real one. Suppose I ask someone: “When you were growing up were you ever kicked or hit by a brother or sister?” Almost everybody who has a brother or sister says yes. Well, then I say, “Okay, epidemic of family violence in United States – 1 out of 3.” Well, when we think of family violence, we don't think of brothers and sisters fighting.

So what they will do is, they will ask girls on campus, “did anybody ever attempt to grab you or kiss you?” And that goes under the rubric of a sexual assault. Now that [may or may not] be an assault, but people think of it as the same category as rape, so it begins to seem like, “ok, then they're all being raped.”

Well, no. There is a lot of acting out, and people grabbing each other, especially at parties, while drunk. Now, that is a problem, I agree, but it should not be in the category as someone being thrown out of school and their lives ruined as a sex predator.

They ask vague questions with vague definitions to a non-representative sample, and they get an epidemic of sexual assault on every campus in America, but they don't make a distinction between someone attempting to kiss you and a violent rape. That's a problem.

Brett:
Well, what do you think of this? I know that there's probably a lot of unrecognized emotional drivers behind a lot of this narrative that's being pushed. I'll speak to an example that I understand. Being a Libertarian - not pro-state, I'll even say anti-state - what I've observed from other libertarians is there's this kind of glee that happens when we see a problem that is clearly the result of government. So people - and you see a lot of this on Facebook - people go out and they become these tragedy collectors. They don't think about the actual negative impact on some innocent person because of police violence, because the IRS, or Homeland Security. They just say, “good, another check mark in the “I'm right” column,” and they post it on Facebook.

So this goes all the way through academia, it sounds, that same general idea, that people aren't really really being objective, once they're in these very very insular environments. They become effectively tragedy collectors.

Christina:
Yes, the new word I guess is the repressive left, the alt-left. This brings out the Libertarian in me, and when I went to college no one went to dorm counselors; I don't even think we had them. We just lived in the dorm, and if there was any noise or something there was campus security that might come and tell you to be quiet. We were adults; we were considered adults. You didn't go crying to a dean because your roommate insulted you. You might have to change your room if you were with some impossible person, but that was about it. Now you see today this growing industry of counselors and diversity officers. Just these infinite numbers of titles - they're conjuring up the new titles for all these new bureaucrats, these apparatchiks on the campus - so that students could learn to run to their daddies so they have safe space if they feel that they've been micro-invalidated. This is madness.

Brett:
Well –

Christina:
And it's the opposite of feminism. Feminism was about agency, responsibility. You go back and read Simone de Beauvoir. I don't agree with everything she said, but she had a good insight about what it meant to be a responsible agent, a master of your destination. Where is that today? What happened?

Brett:
If I remember correctly, she was French, right? She was a post-modernist, second wave. I think it was called “The Second Sex” was one of the books she wrote. And the thrust was that women need to stop accepting a kind of relegation.

Christina:
You should define yourself, and not be defined. But she borrowed a lot from the existentialists. Radical freedom and personal responsibility. And that was so exciting to me as a young college student to read that. And that was what feminism meant. It wasn't about blaming men. It wasn't about blaming anybody. It was about personal empowerment; liberation is the word we used. Emancipation. Today we have - I call it fainting couch feminism - a kind of protective hysteria. These women are fragile little birds that need to be protected from off-color jokes or sexual innuendos. 'These things could send us into a tailspin and trigger us.' This is about turning women into children. It's the reverse of feminism.

Brett:
So it sounds like almost the academic environment that is more of a problem than feminism itself. And this is where the plot really thickens for me. You really align yourself with first wave and second wave feminism, especially first wave feminism which has this really strong classical liberal tradition. These gender studies students today – that must be a part of the curriculum for the history of feminism. And maybe I'm just terribly naive, but those things must be taught. Why don't they embrace that? Why do they go in this very radical – I've heard you call it gender feminism?

Christina:
Well I use a lot of words like grievance feminism, gender feminism, victim feminism. But now it's got to this fainting couch feminism.

Brett:
So why aren't they embracing those other messages?

Christina:
In that little book “Freedom Feminism” I looked at how was equality feminism treated in the gender studies class. It's read, they learn about it, and it's dismissed for failing to be sufficiently radical. You have a lot of people who are possessed with the idea that you cannot improve our society. You have to dismantle the corrupt patriarchal institutions. In other words, they want to get rid of this what they call the sex gender system. They want it overthrown.

And they don't like liberal reform. A libertarian reform? Certainly not. They'd want something else that requires a lot of state control. That requires re-engineering people’s preferences and re-socializing society in a radical way. So it's the same old story – these pernicious overreaching ideologies...

Brett:
...of the left. I don't want to use the word liberal for anything that I see happening there anymore, because it's almost Leninist as far as the tactics are concerned.

Christina:
Very much so, and also people say, "well there's this very repressive ideas on the far right." They're right, but the far right is not in the universities, and it's not in the high schools in any significant way. But the far left is entrenched in the academy, and it's a repressive school. If it were the kind of left that I was and my friends were - it wasn't about rules - it was about personal responsibility. But today the left is scary; they're wanting censorship and speech codes, they're dis-inviting speakers, and they want to shut down discussion, because it might hurt someone's feelings or trigger somebody.

This whole thing about triggering is a lot of nonsense. Talk to any psychiatrist. There are people with PTSD, and they need help, and I very much want them to get it. If I had a student who [had PTSD] I would help them any way I can, but that is so rare. These students aren't triggered. They're using this language to manipulate people in place of argument. They won't have to argue. They just say, “I'm going to shut you down because you give me PTSD.”

Brett:
Well, I don't know if I agree completely, and I'll explain what I mean. I've had things said to me that had negative emotional consequences, but that happens in my head. So I understand the idea of being triggered, but if somebody says something to me and it has negative emotional consequences for me, that's a problem that I have to solve. It's something that's very real. I won't use the word "trigger" anymore, because it's been ruined, if I ever used it, and as far as safe spaces are concerned, safety is a very basic human need. So I don't have a problem with anyone who wants safety. My problem begins with an exploration of what they want safety from.

So, when I heard about the dust up at Oberlin College – was that where you were where they set up the rooms for people who thought you were going to invalidate their experiences?

Christina:
I triggered thirty people. They ran out of the lecture. Thirty people and a therapy dog. I triggered a dog.

Brett:
So what's the bridge to build there? If you agree with me that people have valid responses, negative or troubling emotional responses, and they have this need to feel safe. We recognize that those things are real. The problem isn't the needs. The problem is the behaviors being used to express those needs. So, what do you do?

Christina:
I think it was Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff who wrote an article in The Atlantic about the coddled student, and they showed that psychologically this is the worst thing. We are actually, with the safe space trigger warning movement, creating neurosis. I wrote a book with a psychiatrist called “One Nation Under Therapy” and we were warning against this therapeutic culture, because to treat people as fragile is to not credit them with the capacity for resilience and self-protection.

You have to teach that to children, how to be self-protecting, and even to adults I used to enjoy teaching the Stoics, because it is a fantastic life philosophy. [Stoics] teach that people could hurt your body and they can hurt your feelings, but you have a certain amount of control about how you react to it. The great readings of Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius are really inspiring and they still very relevant psychologically. And that’s why anybody who has a [need] should go get cognitive therapy; it’s based on Stoicism and it teaches you how to deal with such attacks. The worst thing you could do is to catastrophize them and to give them more meaning than they deserve. So what you learn in cognitive therapy and in Stoicism is to analyze, not maximize. To cope. And you learn post-traumatic growth, not post-traumatic diminishment.

So what they’re doing in all the colleges is the exact opposite of what would be advised by some of the greatest philosophers and what I think is the most effective school of psychology.

Brett:
Yeah, I’m really happy to hear you say all of that. We did a whole series on my show on the philosophy of Stoicism back in 2014. I’m a big fan of CBT and Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy. I’m actually planning to have Michael Edelstein on the show in the near future for a debate on one issue where we disagree which is the work of Nathaniel Branden.

I think that when you have this growth of an aggrievement industry and a culture of victimization, obviously the responsibility for the way somebody feels, there would be a lot of outsourcing for that and blaming of other people. They go perfectly with a culture of victimization.

Christina:
Well, just think what preparation that is for family life. You’re going to have to cope with misunderstanding and not turn everything into a big deal.

I think some of these anti-bullying programs are to blame. I think the intention was originally good - to stop sadism in the school, we all want to do that - but they went too far, and started to monitor every day teasing and hassling that kids do and have to get used to. And so they created kids that think mild teasing or a mild insult or something makes you feel not perfect is a big deal. And you have to go report it.

Brett:
Which, I’ve been a critic on the schools for a long time, and despite their benevolent tone on this issue, they have some bullying tactics of their own, which I really disagree with.

Christina:
Exactly! That’s the paradox! In this effort to fight bullying this is what the left has done. They’re the worst bullies that I’ve ever encountered.

As a philosopher you’re constantly debating. You go to American Philosophical Association, you give a paper, and everybody’s there to show you’re wrong. But it's done in a spirit mutual respect - this is the tradition of argumentation. Now what I find - by the way when I used to go to campuses, before the rise of this safe space movement, the kids who disagree with me would come argue, or I’d argue with gender studies teachers, that was fine - now I go to the campus, and they organize their safe spaces, and they try to get me dis-invited. I don’t come there to insult anyone, it’s always civil. There’s no conceivable reason except they don’t want to have their cherished ideas challenged.

Brett:
Yeah, and that has really been the biggest source of my criticisms and hostility towards academic feminism, what’s happening on these college campuses, and this social justice movement generally, is the interference in free expression and free inquiry.

And just to lead us down one final track of questioning before I let you go, and it relates to what we were just talking about with the schools. I think there’s an even bigger problem a lot of times when government gets involved. An ideology becomes policy and law. You give a startling example of this in “The War Against Boys” - the slow path of starting to pathologize normal boy behavior that seemed to begin at Harvard University with the musings of a woman named Carol Gilligan and escalated as years went by into like this UN human rights investigation, right?

Christina:
(laughs) Right. Absolutely absurd. And she did some kind of interesting work in the eighties called "A Different Voice" claiming that when women approach moral dilemmas they tend to use a perspective of care and this is different from men who use reason.

Well, it turned out not to be true. At least no one could find any evidence of that particular difference. I do believe that there are differences between the sexes, but when it comes to moral reasoning it doesn’t appear we’re different. She claimed we were, and then after she had this idea that women had a different voice, she went on to saying the voice was silenced. Well, who silenced it? Of course it’s the male voice. So she wanted to address this problem of toxic masculinity, and once we were there, little boys became the focus for reeducation. I think that little boys need to be educated, like all kids, but this was not predicated on the assumption that we simply had to educate and civilize little boys. [They] wanted to re-socialize them away from who they are, from their boyishness. So, that’s part of the war against boys that comes from Gilligan.

Brett:
Right, so back to bullying, and when I talk about a kind of institutional bullying of schools - when all of this flared up a couple years ago we did some shows on it, the question that I was asking, “Do you think an environment where people are forced to be together promotes negative social interactions?” I think it does, and no one would talk about that.

Christina:
I’ll tell you what’s poisoning is you’re forced to be together, and then you have to be hyper-conscious of every little thing you say, and walk on eggshells, because you might offend somebody. I think they should just leave these kids alone, and let them work it out, and you know what I think the consequence will be? Friendship. True friendship.

I think the worst thing you could do is to make them hyper-aware of differences. Like 'you’re qualitatively different. If you are a white male heterosexual, you are qualitatively different from a African American lesbian from a poor family'. You know what, you might be, but it might turn out that you’ve got affinities, because you’re human beings. And, I think this is really getting in the way of those friendships; kids would have got together around their interests, around their passions, joining clubs, playing sports. Bringing them together that way. But to bring them together and insisting that we make a kind of fetish out of identity politics - tribalistic, divisive, unhappy.

Brett:
Do you feel like those identity issues are penetrating like down to secondary school and even elementary school which is where you’re focusing in “The War On Boys?” Do you think it goes that far?

Christina:
I don’t know about with the race politics, but certainly the gender politics. What worries me is that there’s the schools of education still teach theories of Carol Gilligan. These books are still there, and a whole raft of books on this alleged girl crisis that never was.

So a lot of teachers who might have very good instincts, and you know it is harder to teach little boys typically. In very early grades, they act out more, and they’re more of a challenge, but now teachers are taught [boys] are not just more of a challenge; [teachers] are taught special ways to engage a little boy. This attitude is part of the medicalization of boyhood.

I’m not against Ritalin for kids who need it. There are kids who are bouncing off the walls. Mostly little boys, about 75 percent are boys, on ritalin compared to girls, but that’s far too many. Even psychiatrists who prescribe Ritalin will tell you that’s far too many kids that are being given this drug.

Brett:
But they continue to prescribe it?

Christina:
I haven’t documented this lately, but when I was writing the second edition of “The War Against Boys” a few years ago, in some school districts about 20 percent of the boys are medicated, and that suggests some kind of over-diagnosis; they're medicating high-spiritedness and rambunctiousness.

Brett:
Exactly. So, just like with bullying, the conversation that I dream about hearing one day with regard to these schools is 'maybe part of this is the school,' right? I would like it if nobody had to be on Ritalin. There’s ways to address those issues without Ritalin, but the fact that the school system needs to medicate people to keep them inside that environment, to me that screams that there’s a problem with the environment itself. What do you think of that?

Christina:
Well, I think that’s true. There are teachers who are very good with boys. And by that I mean the girls tend to like school more. They’re more amenable to the classroom environment, and they are a little more mature at five and six years old, and their style of play is more pleasing to the typical mother and teacher. Typical play of little boys is called rough and tumble play. There’s a lot of mock fighting, chasing, boom bang sound effects.

Brett:
Right.

Christina:
Girls do it too, but boys do it a lot. In fact, leave them alone, they’ll do it all the time. And girls do a lot of theatrical imaginative games - exchanging confidences with a best friend, playing house, playing school. So, on a level, teachers interfere with boys play. There’s superhero play, they have a lot of fantasies, vanquishing bad guys, and killing villains. Well this has got to be predictive of violence! No, it’s the young male imagination.

It’s completely natural, normal, and part of a happy development. And there’s now some studies that suggest that teachers, by always interfering with boys, sort of saying “don’t ever write” the stories they want to tell, might be undermining their literacy skills, because kids usually want to write things they care about, but a lot of little boys aren’t allowed to now. They want to write about a monster destroying a city. And they want to write about a sword fight with pirates.

A little boy named Justin, I read about in California, the teacher called his parents to school very concerned. "Look at Justin’s drawing," she said. He had a picture of a pirate ship, and a sword fight, and people’s heads being cut off. The teacher said, “I’m very concerned.”

The parents say, “well, he likes pirates. This is how he plays.”

And by the way this is a well behaved little boy who's never done anything wrong except these drawings.
And the father said something so important: “how can my little boy -- is he going to learn? Can he learn from a teacher who has so little sympathy with his imagination?”

And that’s sort of the question I ask in “The War Against Boys.” We don’t have sympathy with a young male. And I think that it’s true, that girls too, that there’s not a lot of angst over the way that little girls play when they’re playing princess. But I’ve had very good analysis when girls play princess there’s also power struggles, and inventive complicated themes just as in the boys play. So, that was my latest actual feminist I did an analysis of this claim that children are hurt by gender play. I don’t see evidence of that.

Brett:
Just back to the teacher who was concerned about the pirates sword fighting Did she offer the parents any kind of reasoned justification for her concerns other than the appearance of swords?

Christina:
She said it was self evident! There was swords. There were battles. Now I don’t like violent shows, so I can understand that it’s not to the teacher’s taste, but if you’re a teacher, you have to have sympathy with the preferences and interests of your kids in order to teach them.

And many teachers do, no matter what you can’t teach common sense even in a school of education. But parent should know that the teacher may have been taught that she should curb this so called “toxic masculinity,” They take a healthy normal typical boy behavior and turn it into a pathology in need of a cure.

Brett:
Absolutely, so final question, a concern that I posited in an earlier show on this same topic: Considering how some of these gender issues and identity issues have affected the social sciences in academia, it seems like these are now trickling down through young teachers who might have been schooled in these systems of higher education. It’s trickling down all the way to elementary school. So, before I said, “has this penetrated?” Maybe not so explicitly but I think it has penetrated the lower levels of school at least in the misconceptions or the attitudes of some of the young people who are teaching there. How would you like to see that addressed and possibly solved?

Christina:
It’s not just that people have a lot of false ideas about kids, about education. They also want to prevent critics from complaining. So, that’s why we have to protect free expression. That’s become urgent. If we’re going to return to common sense and sanity, we’ve got to protect free expression for those of us who are blowing the whistle; we have to be allowed to have our say.

And by the way, if we're wrong or if we can’t make our case, well you show that to be so. Don’t simply silence us, but right now on many college campuses that’s going on, and it’s even worse in high schools and elementary schools, because they don’t have any speakers. They just have teachers that came from schools of education where they’re taught these standard paranoid views about men and about American society.

Brett:
What about on the lower levels of school for the actual teachers - like if you had to give advice to a teacher in one of those systems? And you know what the title of my show is, and by the way, thank you very much for coming on a show with “sucks” in the title. I really appreciate it, and I don’t want to sound like a one trick pony, but when people spend 15,000 hours, 12 years in this system where they must ask permission to share their thoughts, how good are they going to be at exercising free expression effectively and responsibly once they reach these higher levels of education? So, I think it is a problem of free expression at like all levels. What kind of experience do people get with it through most of their education?

Christina:
That’s a good point ! That’s a good point, but here is where I’ll show my optimism. I think that what is happened now on the left, and this little, like a Berlin wall they set up against free expression and due process and common sense, it can all come tumbling down. It can fall by the weight of its own madness. And I’ve had some very good experiences on campus, not with the radicals usually...but with the students in the middle. They recognize that something is amiss, and they can be won over. So again as long as we keep making the case, I think that in the end we will win. We have to!

Brett:
Well, I do want to say that I think you helped me calm down a little bit. I was really on the edge of my seat when I was prepping to do this interview with you. I discovered an article written for the Harvard student newspaper saying, 'we need to get rid of this idea of academic freedom and instead have academic justice.'

Christina:
Oh my gosh! That is so scary! Where have we heard that before?

Brett:
Exactly. So, I think we would’ve had a more negative conversation, and I would’ve been more hostile about all this stuff, but I feel like a couple shows ago I got a lot of this stuff out of my system, and I really appreciate you coming on and having this discussion with me. Where can people in my audience learn more about you?

Christina:
Well, they can go to YouTube to The Factual Feminist, or I have a website at The American Enterprise Institute. Just Christina Sommers at AEI.

Brett:
Excellent. Well again I really appreciate it. I hope we can get you back at some point in the future to continue this conversation.

Christina:
Yes! I’ve enjoyed it.

Brett:
Excellent, thank you so much.

Transcribed by Jay Myrick and Brett Veinotte.

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