Hi Reddit! I am a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. Before joining AEI, I was a professor of philosophy at Clark University where I specialized in moral theory. I write a lot about gender issues—and I try to be fair to both men and women. Ask me anything!

My bio and articles are here: http://www.aei.org/scholar/christina-hoff-sommers/

Books of potential interest to Reddit readers:

Who Stole Feminism? How women have betrayed women

War Against Boys: How misguided policies are harming our young men

Twitter verification: https://twitter.com/CHSommers/status/384146844609425408

Thank you for your excellent questions. I'm so sorry I couldn't answer all of them in the detail they deserve. Follow me on twitter @CHSommers for updates on the gender wars.

Comments: 457 • Responses: 21  • Date: 

sillymod72 karma

Thank you very much for doing this AMA! Your book, "Who Stole Feminism?" was eye opening for me, and one of the first books I purchased on Audible.com. I have three questions for you, if that is okay...

Do you consider yourself a feminist (I assume equity feminist when I use the term)?

Do you believe you are considered a feminist (of any kind) by the larger feminist community?

Do you consider yourself to be a part of - or in agreement with the principles of - the men's rights movement?

CHSommers224 karma

I consider myself an equity feminist. An equity feminist wants for women what she wants for everyone: fairness, dignity, liberty, opportunity. But today, too many in the women's movement are carried away with victim feminism and male-bashing. The victim feminists hijacked the movement a few decades ago, and they don't welcome dissidents of any kind. They call me an "anti-feminist", "backlasher", a "traitor to my gender", "anti-woman"-- even a "non-woman." But what I am is a former philosophy professor with a respect for logic, rules of evidence, and basic fairness. I think these qualities put me at odds with today's feminist establishment.

CHSommers160 karma

I respect the men's rights movement. However, it is badly in need of scholars. A movement has to be built on an intellectual base, and that base has not yet been built. Gender scholarship has been in the hands of hard-line, male-averse leftists for several decades. It will take scholars to bring down the faux scholarship of these hardliners.

MakhSC57 karma

How do we go about getting male scholars? As far as I am aware, there are no 'Men's Gender Studies' departments taking students. Prospective PhD candidates would need be pioneers in the field. To top it off, they would probably have to do it within current gender studies departments - which you have just told us are filled with victim feminists who do not tolerate dissent!

To top it off, Universities (in Canada anyway) are in a budget crunch and are cutting back everywhere, but especially in the humanities. Is there really any chance for Male Gender Scholarship to get any funding, especially if their 'peers' are most likely going to be extremely hostile to it?

CHSommers89 karma

Start a think-tank with high-powered statisticians, social scientists, scholars and lawyers, and begin to challenge the academic fempire. By that I mean carefully refute their suspect theories and statistics. The scholars are around, but they are quiet. Challenging gender activist colleagues can be career diminishing.

MakhSC24 karma

A think-tank is an interesting approach. I would be concerned that most people tend believe that think-tanks are biased. Though that has not stopped most of them from influencing government policy in committees.

I also wonder who would be willing to fund a Male Gender Issues think tank. Given the current popular opinion, I suspect public money would not be forthcoming, and many corporate donors would be loath to associate themselves with such an organization. So how would this be funded? Would these people be volunteers?

In any event, if anyone tries to do this I'll be happy help out in the lawyer category.

CHSommers32 karma

If you have a great idea and a team of people with the talent and discipline to carry it out, the funding will find you.

scientologyforever2 karma

I basically agree with you in principle, but your use of the term "leftists" leaves a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. it is often tossed around as a perjoritive by conservative talking heads. I certainly wouldn't want to support anything that has an underlying right wing/conservative agenda, so where would i fit in this equity feminist movement?

CHSommers60 karma

I shouldn't have said leftists. Some of my best friends (and even my mom) are left-leaning, but they still care about men and boys and basic fairness for both men and women. Point well taken.

FeministBees-15 karma

Not that I necessarily agree with all the pajoritives levied at you, but seems like you are doing a disservice to your detractors. There is plenty of published criticism of your political position and arguments based on "logic, rules of evidence, and basic fairness." For example, Tom Digby's "Do Feminists Hate Men?: Feminism, Antifeminism, and Gender Oppositionality" and Elizabeth Kamarck Minnich's "Feminist Attacks on Feminisms: Patriarchy's Prodigal Daughters."

I believe part of the reson you are labled an "anti-feminist" is because a lot of scholars read your work as being opposition against contemporary feminism in nore than just message.

For example, you identify yourself as an "equity feminist" and label all those who are disagree with your politics and views on gender as "gender feminists." Something that no feminist (I know of) identify as. You abandon the conventional boundaries that most feminists recognize, and have constructed your own. That would be fine, I suppose, if it were not that this new taxonomy of feminism does little more than over generalize and insist on a false dichotomy. And even on the rare occasion anti-feminists find a new "S.C.U.M. Manifesto," these people are found on the fringes and are incredibly out of date.

It appears, for all perspectives to be a straw feminist.

CHSommers23 karma

Perhaps in the past I have been too confrontational, and I regret that. In the new edition of the War Against Boys, I have toned down the polemics. The predicament of boys is too serious for culture war rhetoric. However, I think there's a genuine distinction between equality of opportunity feminists like, say, Camille Paglia, Cathy Young and me and academic feminists who refer to American society as a patriarchal, capitalist male hegemony. Equity feminism is a great American success story, but where are the feminist theorists who acknowledge that success? Show me a single women's studies textbook that is moderate, balanced and gender-fair. If one exists, I haven't seen it. The "straw feminist" is alive and well in gender studies.

StrixTechnica13 karma

I, too, would like to ask that question, though I'd slightly rephrase it: Do you still consider yourself an (equity) feminist?

Is the equity/gender feminist dichotomy still useful in a world where equity feminism seems apparent only by its absence[1], and where the notions of patriarchy, rape culture and male privilege have become ossified and elevated to the status of article of faith in that religion that is gender feminism?

Or is it time to dispense with the distinction (one that gender feminists never liked anyway), and just concede that for practical purposes, 'feminism' now means 'gender feminism'?

[1] there are equity feminists around, but I so rarely ever hear from them they seem to be a vanishing minority.

Ed: I've just seen your reply, Dr Sommers, but would still be interested in your thoughts on whether you think the distinction is still useful, and why.

CHSommers57 karma

Is equity feminism still useful? I think so and here's why: The major battles for the basic rights and freedoms for women in the US have been fought and won. But the hard work for feminism in the 21st century lies outside this country, in places where women are truly oppressed. I believe that women's struggle for basic rights in the developing world is one of the great human rights challenge of our time. So I am not ready to give up on feminism. But I agree, in the US the organized women’s movement is doing more harm than good domestically. Its been taken over by aggrieved eccentrics.

StrixTechnica12 karma

Thank you — excellent point re. foreign applications (and I agree, there will always be the need for equity something, whatever it gets called) — follow up question, then:

Given how tarnished the word 'feminism' has become, is it worth finding a new name for what is/was known as equity feminism? Or does the phrase still have some life left in it?

(Exactly what that new phrase could be is tough. Humanism, for example, carries so much other baggage that that word would be out of the fat and into the fire.)

CHSommers27 karma

I agree the word is tarnished. I just wrote a little monograph called Freedom Feminism in which I tried to rescue the term from the hardliners. http://www.amazon.com/Freedom-Feminism-Surprising-History-Capitalism/dp/0844772623 However, the term may be unsalvageable. Most women and certainly men reject the label. It's associated in the public mind with male-bashing and humorlessness. So maybe we do need a new word, but I'm not sure what it should be. I, too, welcome suggestions!

crankypants1555 karma

Hello. Was there any one thing that happened to help you form your viewpoints about extremist feminism, or was it several things that built up over time?

I.e. Was there a straw that broke the camel's back?

What type of feminist do you consider yourself?

CHSommers158 karma

In the spring of 1988, I was a professor on a ship that went around the world in a program called Semester at Sea. I walked onto that ship a liberal feminist and came off- let me just say- confused. Not many, but a vocal few of the professors were Marxists or hard-line feminists. They tried to persuade the privileged young women on the ship that they were oppressed. I was appalled by the conspiracy theories about the patriarchy and an obsession with victimization-- on a world cruise, no less! Long story short, I wrote an article about it when I returned, and the Atlantic monthly commissioned me to write a longer piece on academic feminism. That's how it all got started.

ThisIsAWittyName46 karma

In all your time as an academic, what is the most common, and ludicrous, strawman arguments you have heard, in any direction?

CHSommers146 karma

That violence against women increases 40 percent on Superbowl Sunday. This canard was everywhere in the mid-90s, but last year it came back in Great Britain during the World Cup. There's no truth to it, but like many false victim statistics, it will never die. http://chronicle.com/article/Persistent-Myths-in-Feminis/46965/

Unfortunately, the crime of domestic violence is poorly understood and the issue has been used by gender zealots to depict the average man as a predator. Women (and men) plagued by violence will be helped by solid research and good statistics. Right now we have little of either.

Quasifrodo26 karma

Thanks for stopping by! Two-part question (the first being rhetorical):

A: Is misogyny a real thing that exists? B: Is misandry a real thing that exists? Why or why not?


CHSommers141 karma

Yes, misogyny certainly exists, but it was a far more serious problem a few decades ago. Today, misandry-- hostility to men-- is rampant in our society. A "women are from Venus; men are from hell" mentality dominates today's organized feminist movement.

rednecktash1 karma

Are there any research that shows this hostility towards men actually has a negative impact on men other than the discrimination the misandrists themselves do? Do you think it affect society as a whole in any way?

CHSommers97 karma

The hostility towards men rampant in our society is especially dangerous for little boys. There are now many mothers and teachers for whom girls are the gold standard. They judge their boys according to how much they behave like girls, and most boys fall short. Boys, taken as a group, like action, competition and rough and tumble play. They're the one group of Americans who don't want to talk about their feelings. A recent study shows serious grading bias against boys as early as first grade: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/02/the-boys-at-the-back/

hcirtsafonos22 karma

Hi Christina, love your books! I was wondering, what do you think will be the state of men in our country 50 years from now, given the current trajectory?


CHSommers72 karma

Given the current trajectory, serious trouble. Boys and young men are on the wrong side of the educational gender gap, and so far almost no one in the education establishment seems to have noticed. Men across the ability distribution are falling behind in school. By ignoring the educational needs of young men, we are endangering our technological and economic future. For a fuller answer, see here:http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2013/09/how-to-make-school-better-for-boys/279635/

Collective8218 karma

What can we do as parents to help our young boys do better in these trying times when schools are against them?

CHSommers57 karma

Our schools have become toxic environments for little boys. As our schools have become more sedentary, risk-averse, non-competitive and feelings-centered, they have moved away from the needs of most boys. What can parents do? First of all, every parent of a boy will have to be his advocate. Make sure his teacher likes boys and that the school does not have a punitive attitude towards youthful maleness. http://ideas.time.com/2013/08/19/school-has-become-too-hostile-to-boys/

TheCameraLady14 karma

Is there anything, in your mind, that Feminism has right? Or should it be tossed out entirely?

CHSommers77 karma

Yes! I think feminism is an authentic human rights movement and one of the great chapters in the history of freedom. The first and second waves of American feminism brought women essential rights and opportunities, but that noble movement has been hijacked by gender war eccentrics.

viriconium_nights13 karma

Have you heard of Cordelia Fine? What do you think of her work?

CHSommers40 karma

She's one of a group of writers and scholars who want to diminish the importance of sex differences. She takes on easy targets and avoids much of the serious scholarship on gender difference.

femmecheng7 karma

Hi Christina! I have a few questions for you.

  • I haven’t read your books yet, so my apologies if this is answered in them (they’re on my reading list, I promise!), but I know that you think that gender feminism is generally a bad thing because it tries to eliminate gender roles altogether. Could you clarify if you think gender roles are bad or if expected to fulfill a gender role is bad? For someone like myself, I see feminism as giving women choices, and so if a women chooses to fulfill a gender role (i.e. be a stay-at-home mother), I think that’s fine. I find the expectation to fulfill a gender role to be detrimental, however. I find my biggest problem with equity feminism is that the idea that men and women are "equal but different" neglects the fact that all women/men are "equal but different" themselves (i.e. women/men aren’t one homogenous group who generally want one thing based on their gender).

  • Do you think MRA and feminists can reconcile? Do you think they are two sides of the same coin or do you think they work against each other’s interests?

  • What do you think is the most important thing MRAs fight for? Same question for feminists.

  • What do you consider essential reading to learn more about these topics (feminism, equality, men’s right, etc.)?

  • What do you think is the most important thing to remember when trying to have a healthy debate with someone who you don’t necessarily agree with?

  • What advice would you give your 21-year old self?

Thanks in advance and I really look forward to reading your books!

CHSommers17 karma

Lots of good questions. Here are a few must-read authors: Camille Paglia, Daphne Patai, Cathy Young, Warren Farrell, Lionel Tiger, Christine Rosen. I know I'm forgetting others, but I will try to add them later.

FeministBees4 karma

In the teaser introduction to Freedom Feminism, you state:

Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), the largest feminist organization in the United States, claims that feminists have been unfairly portrayed as “unhappy, angry, humorless.”3 These stereotypes, she says, have estranged the younger generation. But are the stereotypes really unfounded?

You never actually answer that question, what is the answer? You bring up Ensler, Valenti, and hooks, but I don't know if you were trying to implicitly showing the truth of the statement by through these women.

CHSommers55 karma

I do not think the stereotypes are unfounded. Feminism has taken a wrong turn and it is led by women who tend to be male-averse, statistically challenged and chronically offended. Are they unhappy? I don't know. Are they humorless? Yes.

sadthisisathrowaway3 karma


Thanks so much for taking the time out to do an AMA with us! I had three-ish questions I was hoping you could answer:

  1. We're seeing an increasingly-hostile environment for men here in the US but overseas one still sees the more 'historical' patriarchal way of things. Is this hostility towards men unique to the US?

  2. If it is particular to the US why do you think that's so? And if it's not - i.e. if there're other countries in the world which are becoming increasingly hostile spaces for men - what do you think are the traits that're common between the US and those countries? [i.e. what do you think are the factors contributing towards an international 'war on men'?].

  3. Speaking purely anecdotally, I see a lot of antagonism towards gay men and trans* persons from people who identify as 'radical feminists'; what do you think's the cause for this antagonism? [I'd have assumed that, as disenfranchised groups, they'd be more amenable to cooperation].

Thank you!

CHSommers45 karma

Boys are falling behind academically throughout the world. But in the United States, they face a more hostile political environment. Other countries are addressing their boy gap. Political and education leaders in England, Canada, Australia, and even China, are looking for ways to connect boys to school. In the US, we are doing nothing. Women's groups like the AAUW and NWLC think efforts to help boys are part of a backlash against girls. And for the moment they're getting their way.

[deleted]1 karma



Are you a genius?

CHSommers41 karma

My mom thinks so.

Mouth_2_Ass-26 karma

How do you feel about the growing situation of woman not cooking for their husbands? I for one am highly pissed.

CHSommers12 karma

Couples have to determine the household division of labor for themselves. However, be aware that a recent study showed that guys who do traditionally female chores (iron curtains, shop for new dust ruffles, etc) get less sex! http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2013/03/28/guys_who_do_housework_get_less_sex.html