Guest Column: Dare to disagree

In my view, the objective of a collegiate education is to challenge pupils’ existing perceptions of the world, thus fostering a healthy sense of academic skepticism for them to carry into the world when they leave campus.

If one hears an opposing idea and he or she doesn’t find its accompanying argu- ments particularly persuasive, one has only strengthened the fortitude of their position in the process of that investigation. To me, this is obviously good.

Authoritarian hyper-progressive move- ments like third-wave feminism have stunted the intellectual growth of college students nationwide by protesting the pres- ence of speakers who have opposing world views (which they deem as “hate speech”) or otherwise taking steps to keep ideas that make them uncomfortable off their campus.

My mind immediately rushes back to when speaker and feminist scholar Christina Hoff Sommers was scheduled to speak at Oberlin College, just a stone’s throw from our beauti- ful campus. Sommers dared to challenge the existing narrative of campus feminists with empirical research and honesty.

For this, members of the Oberlin student body met her with protests, brandishing homemade signs that read “Christina Hoff Sommers supports rapists” and “F*** anti- feminist.”

To me, this displays the participants’ unwillingness to challenge their own pre- existing ideas of feminism and engage hon- estly with someone who happens to disagree with them. Skepticism of their claims does not imply that Sommers is a rape apologist. The student newspaper at Oberlin published a stu- dent editorial, complete with trigger warnings to “protect” students from hearing what Som- mers had to say in the days before her event.

The thought crime I’ve described is wholesale Orwellian, and “1984” is not a manual. The 30 members of the protesting portion of the audience eventually retreated to a “safe room” to escape the traumatic con- tent of Sommers’ ideas.

To deem ideas as dangerous, and to subse-

quently take steps to suppress those ideas, is a real menace, especially on college campuses where students must be allowed and encour- aged to pursue unfettered investigation. This behavior is not participating in the cultural conversation of feminism in any adult sense.

Sommers has made waves with campus feminists in the past by correcting many widely held myths. Most notably, the wage gap myth, which purports that women make 77 cents on every dollar a man does. Also, she has debunked the odiously false statistic that one in five women on campuses in the U.S.

is raped. Her work on these topics is widely available.

Demystifying these facts has landed Som- mers in hot water with people who do not like facts, or at least facts that counter their own political narrative. I thought the college feminists would be pleased to weed out mis- information in their arguments that makes their cause appear to be based on fantasy.

I don’t think that a hallmark signal of healthy campus discourse includes demon- izing demonstrable facts and this is precisely what the Oberlin feminists did. Instead of taking Sommers’ research and conducting an independent evaluation of it, they lazily con- flated it with evidence that she supports rape and the dehumanization of women. There is no real evidence of this. This is not an honest or mature way to make one’s point.

Sommers has repeatedly clarified that she recognizes sexual assault as a problem despite feminists’ claims to the contrary, but has found inaccuracies in the number of victims often purported in the media and elsewhere.

She rejects the notion that the United States is a bastion of misogynistic hegemony and the data she’s collected and displayed supports her position. If her position is that false facts are dangerous in this conversation, I’d have
to agree. This is not an endorsement of rape or sexual assault. Sommers does not pacify demands to pasteurize her every sentence to avoid any and all offense or discomfort that could result. In this, she earned my respect.

I encourage campus feminists to email me to engage on this topic. 

Andrew Rogers is a guest columnist who submitted the above column to The Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]