Book review of: “Who Stole Feminism” by Christina Hoff Sommers
Four years ago, I was sitting with a friend getting updated on her daughter’s college application process. My friend mentioned her concern about campus safety and in particular, her worry that her daughter might get raped. She said one in five girls are sexually assaulted while in college. I was surprised & skeptical, and I said so. A week or so later she forwarded a piece with comments by Hillary Clinton confirming there was an ‘epidemic’ of sex assault on campus.
I responded by doing research into the claims and into the data behind the claims. Suffice it to say, I did not find any trustworthy evidence of a sex-assault-on-campus epidemic; but I did discover an extraordinary strategic communication campaign to create the perception of one. NB. An excellent overview of these claims, the data and the communication campaign can be found in The Campus Rape Frenzy by Stuart Taylor, KC Johnson (2017) – see Chapter 2. Once I started to pay attention, I discovered signs of similar propaganda hyping women’s and girls’ plight all over the place (e.g. domestic violence claims; girls education claims).
The discovery piqued my interest into the managers of these communication campaigns: Who were they? What did they want? How did they benefit by persuading Americans to believe that our universities are rife with would-be rapists? That men regularly beat their wives? That most schools are short-changing girls? I decided to investigate the ideology and the political movement behind it. I’m a social scientist and a policy wonk, and I did not want to read polemical content. I wanted to read something scholarly – and I wanted to find a scholar who took a balanced look at the political movement. Sommers’ book fit the bill perfectly. Of all that I have read on the gender feminist movement in the ensuing years, Sommers’ book is the most valuable. It makes an invaluable contribution to creating the understanding and the public discourse that is necessary if the gender feminist political movement is to be recognized and, where appropriate, challenged.
I would like to urge women in particular to read the book. Why?
- Checking on our ‘representatives’. Gender feminist advocates across many domains are acquiring and using power in *our* name. We should all have at some familiarity with what these ‘representatives’ are up to.
- For love of men and boys. Gender feminist supported initiatives often have detrimental effects on men and boys in our society; domains include: schools, family courts, universities, civil and criminal courts. These effects are often hard to see, and occasionally they are deliberately obscured. Voices to contest these initiatives based on harm to men and boys are quite weak in public and political discourse. Most women care not only about what happens to women and girls but also to men and boys. Women who read this book will be in a better to position to think through the implications of gender feminist supported policies and initiatives, in terms of *all* the people they care about.