The 'Factual Feminist' debunks stats about sexual assault and the wage gap
When Christina Hoff Sommers, a “former ’60s flower child” turned philosophy professor, began investigating academic feminism, she discovered numerous “mistakes, half-truths and untruths.”
“As a feminist and an academic, I felt the need to set things right,” she told USA TODAY College.
Hoff Sommers is now a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, where she produces the Factual Feminist video series, where she gives talks on topics such as “The top five feminist myths of all time” and “The real reason there aren’t more female scientists.”
The theme in Hoff Sommers’ work is that academic feminism — the type of feminism taught to students in the university environment — exaggerates the plight of women while ignoring the plight of men.
For example, take the oft-repeated gender wage-gap statistic that women make 23 cents less on the dollar than men do for the same job. Last July, for example, Pew Research Center reported that women’s earnings were 83% of men’s.
“That claim is decisively refused by economists, including feminist economists. The 23-cent gender pay gap is simply the difference between the average earnings of all men and women working full time,” Hoff Sommers argues.
“It doesn’t take into account differences in occupation, positions, education, job tenure, hours worked per week,” she claims. “When such relevant factors are considered, the wage gap narrows to the point of vanishing.”
Hoff Sommers says she’s referring to research conducted by Claudia Goldin, a Harvard economist. Goldin argued in a recent Freakonomics podcast that while the wage gap does exist, researchers “don’t have tons of evidence that it’s true discrimination.”
Research from the Economic Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, shows that “working women are paid less than working men” and that “gender discrimination” contributes to this gap, but that other factors, often overlooked, contribute to the gap. These factors include the fact that women tend to work different hours, have less experience and have majored in different subjects than their male workplace counterparts. Pew’s 2016 report noted, “Research shows that a majority of each of these gaps can be explained by differences in education, labor force experience, occupation or industry and other measurable factors.”
Statistics surrounding other issues, such as female land ownership, education levels and sexual assault are often misleading too, Hoff Sommers often argues.
“Feminists never tired of telling us that women are cheated out of nearly a quarter of their salary, that one in four college women is sexually assaulted, or that women are facing an epidemic of online abuse and violence,” she told USA TODAY College.
“Such claims are hugely distorted, but they have been repeated so often they are almost beyond the reach of rational analysis.”
Hoff Sommers doesn’t deny the existence of these issues. Rather, she believes they are “genuine problems” that are hurt by false statistics.
These statistics can “discredit good causes and send scarce resources in the wrong direction,” Hoff Sommers said.
She isn’t alone in her analyses and conclusions. Numerous other female writers, including Hanna Rosin, Ashe Schow, Caroline Kitchens, Carrie L. Lukas and Heather MacDonald, have also argued that commonly repeated statistics about women’s oppression are exaggerated or incorrect.
She also argues that most academic feminists often completely ignore the issues that men disproportionately face, which can render students blind to these issues.
In her Factual Feminist video “Do men need to check their privilege?”, Hoff Sommers takes this issue head on.
According to her research, 78% of people lost to suicide are male, 93% of federal inmates are male, men receive 63% longer prison sentences for the same crime and about 60% of homeless individuals are male.
She also notes that men are more likely to serve in dangerous active duty combat, and that they live five years less than women, on average.
“Men have to be the only oppressor class in history who are less educated, more victimized and have shorter lives than those they oppress,” she claims.
Hoff Sommers takes her analysis of gender issues to college campuses. She has given speeches at Wellesley, Bucknell, Georgetown and dozens of other schools across the nation.
No stranger to controversy, her lectures often explicitly condemn campus feminism, which she sees as having a “cult-like effect on certain students.”
Feminism “draws them in with false claims about how oppressed nearly everyone is in the ‘capitalist, heteronormative, patriarchy,’” she said. “Some become angry and rancorous and have no compunction about bullying other students.”
Her views are so controversial that students often protest her lectures — even before they have heard her speak.
When students at California State-Los Angeles discovered that Hoff Sommers was coming to campus last semester, some were not happy.
Two students were caught on film tearing down fliers for the event. “This is my freedom of speech,” said one student, who alleged that the fliers were “offensive.”
When she spoke at Oberlin College, over 100 students penned an open letter in the school newspaper calling her a rape denialist and outlining plans to protest her.
And when she arrived on campus, some students protested her by putting red duct tape on their mouths and by creating a safe-space room with a therapy dog. Students also held signs saying “Support Survivors” and “Rape Culture Hall of Fame,” according to the Oberlin Review.
But Christina-Hoff Sommers takes a take-no-prisoners approach to her detractors.
“Our institutions of higher learning have been called ‘islands of intolerance in a sea of freedom,’” she said. “I go to campuses to foment rebellion among the islanders.”
She advises that students spend their time in college focusing on serious courses, not “luxuriating in victimhood” or “falling captive to a pointless ideology.”
“The real challenge for today’s students is securing a serious education,” she said. “Too many courses are politicized and narrow. College is the one time in life when you can study works of transcendent genius. That’s getting harder, but it’s still possible.”
She believes students must “be part of the movement to restore free speech, intellectual diversity, open inquiry, vigorous competition of ideas and mutual respect to higher learning.”