Variations on a Theme

By coincidence, I assume, Christina Hoff Sommers and Jessica Valenti both published pieces today that call for a version of feminism that helps men and boys. Sommers considers herself an "equity feminist," as opposed to the kind of feminism she defines as "gender feminism" (which would apparently include Valenti, though Valenti as far as I know doesn't use these terms; I gather she considers herself a "feminist" and Sommers "a foe of feminism"). So the philosophical basis for the claims is quite different, although they both end up endorsing the idea that feminism should do more for men.

Valenti thinks this is necessary, to be sure, in order to help women. Citing the same evidence of educational and social gaps that Sommers cites, she says:
This gap has made boys susceptible to misogynist hucksters peddling get-manly-quick platitudes and dangerous online extremist communities.... Feminism has long focused on issues of sexual assault, reproductive rights, harassment and more. But issues don’t hurt women, men do. Until we grapple with how to stop misogynists themselves — starting with ensuring boys don’t grow up to be one — women will never be free.
Sommers approach considers the men not to be necessarily the enemies of women:
But most women want equality, not war. Men aren’t their adversaries. They are their brothers, sons, husbands, and friends. We are in this together. A judicious, reality-based women’s movement could serve us all well into the 21st Century.
It is interesting to see the overlap, even though there remains a significant chasm between "Issues don't hurt women, men do" versus "Men aren't their adversaries but their brothers, sons, husbands, and friends."


David Foster said...

I don't really see much overlap. My take is that Sommers actually cares about men as human beings; Valenti appears to care mainly in terms of the indirect effect on women.

Grim said...

I might say that Sommers' concern is with the men who really exist. Valenti seems primarily to want to use this engagement to 'fundamentally transform' men, more than to improve the lot of the men who currently exist.

But that follows from the difference in their philosophies.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Pretty soon, some men's group is going to start handing out stickers that read "This bridge/building/highway/airport/jet designed and executed by the patriarchy."

It could go viral and get ugly.

Elise said...

Ms. Valenti is not a feminist: No True Feminist is an intersectionalist. I can speak with authority on this because I *am* a True Feminist. The proof that I am a True Feminist is that I am not an intersectionalist. And that I've "been working ... to convince people – younger women, especially – that they are, in fact, feminists" since before Ms. Valenti was born.

The overlap I see is that both Ms. Sommers and Ms. Valenti understand something is happening to young men that is not good for society. They disagree on what that something is. They disagree on what the solution is. Both they're both concerned - and Ms. Valenti sounds somewhat beyond concerned.

I find Ms. Sommers' understanding of the problem and her solution more reasonable and more workable than Ms. Valenti's. If nothing else, Ms. Valenti's inability to understand what Jordan Peterson is saying and why it resonates with young men means that she is way out of her depth in attempting to provide young men with "community and answers in a confusing time of their lives."

Grim said...

If you are serious about defining feminism by rejecting intersectionality, Elise, I should like to hear more about it. I wonder if you aren't just inverting her argument for the fun of it, but if it's more than that, I'd like to hear it worked out.