I put Professor Christina Hoff Sommers to the test on a wide range of political issues.
Update – December 7, 4:30pm – Professor Sommers mistakenly referred to Bernie Sanders as a Governor of Vermont and has corrected her answer.
On the vast battleground of social media a war is waged every day over modern culture, and perhaps no battle is fiercer than the one fought over feminism. On one front are the ultra-progressive third wave feminists preaching intersectionality. Another front is “equity feminists”, or the second wave, who often argue that third wave feminists unnecessarily attack men and are too rooted in an aloof academic miasma that discourages free thought and expression. Chief among these second wave feminists is Christina Hoff Sommers, a former professor of philosophy, an author of books such as The War Against Boys and Who Stole Feminism?, and current scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
Professor Sommers rose to prominence among the gaming scene due to her highly controversial involvement in Gamergate. She has spoken on behalf of Gamergate supporters at events such as the Society of Professional Journalist’s Airplay, a panel devoted to defending the Gamergate movement before impartial journalists. She also airs videos on YouTube in a series called Factual Feminist, and her video titled, “Are video games sexist?” became her most viewed of all time.
Game journalists are often the highly progressive sort, and, in general, they didn’t take too kindly to Professor Sommers’ involvement in Gamergate, a movement built largely on its dislike of those same journalists. One game journalist, Matt Lees, even went so far as to call her “scum”.
Polygon’s Colin Campbell wanted to make it clear to the world that she is a conservative, in his article, “Conservative group issues video lambasting gamining’s feminist critics.” He uses the word “conservative” in the title, the first word of the article is “Conservative” and its very next sentence mentions that AEI is “generally considered to be representative of ideas associated with American right wing thinking.” Three days later, Campbell would pen an editorial calling Professor Sommers a reactionary.
Meanwhile, Stephen Totilo of Kotaku wrote an obviously disapproving piece about her titled “Conservative Critic Argues That Game Culture Is For Guys”. He removed the word “conservative” after Totilo became aware that Sommers identifies as a registered Democrat.
Since my involvement in my Gamergate book project over a year ago, much of my work has gone into the political leanings of the people involved. With the creation of my new site, I figured it was high time I speak with Sommers and settle the issue once and for all.
The following interview is an attempt to capitalize on my experience as a former survey researcher. It is as much a survey as it is an interview; a mix of simple survey questions and more complex open ended questions designed to get an idea of Professor Sommers’ views on a wide range of topics. It is intended to help the readers answer the question for themselves: is Christina Hoff Sommers a conservative?
The interview was conducted over the phone and she provided me with carefully considered answers. I have very lightly edited some of the responses for readability.
Brad: Hi Professor Sommers! The idea here is to get your views on a wide range of issues that tend to separate left and right. I’ll be asking about your personal views, so please feel free to refuse any question you don’t wish to answer. “I don’t know” is also acceptable.
Sommers: Because I taught philosophy for so long I learned to argue both sides of arguments, so I can understand both sides of many positions. But I have my preferences! I’ll let you know.
First I think it’s important to see how people identify themselves. Where do you consider yourself on the political spectrum?
I’m a registered Democrat, partly because that was my family religion. My grandparents and parents were very devout Democrats so I couldn’t stray too far from the family faith (laughs). But I would say I’m probably right-of-center within the Democratic mean.
I know you did not support Donald Trump. Before that, did you support Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton?
You know, initially I liked Sanders but then I couldn’t take him seriously. Some of his positions were too far left. I did take a quiz on my political opinions where they match you with a politician most like you and it turned to be Bernie Sanders. I looked at his positions and a lot of them were like mine. As a mayor, gubernatorial candidate and US senator–he was a centrist on most issues.. He was pretty moderate on a lot of things.
Were there any particular views of his that were too far left for you?
I’m trying to remember. I liked him better than Hillary, for sure, and I was sorry – I’m very close to my 93 year old mother, and she and my sister live in Portland and they were working so hard for him, so they had an emotional attachment. They were so angry at her, and I don’t know if they’ve forgiven her. I think they wrote in Bernie Sanders (laughs).
Do you think Sanders would have beaten Trump?
I just don’t know. Does anyone know?
Are there any Republican candidates who you would have voted for over Clinton?
That’s hard to say. There are republicans I like. I like candidates that no one likes (laughs). I like Jon Huntsman from the last election and I liked Carly Fiorina. I thought she would be moderate on most things.
Here we’ll get more into the survey-type questions. Abortion. Are you pro-life or pro-choice?
Should states be able to impose their own restrictions on abortion or outlaw it altogether?
No. Would it have been better if the Supreme Court had allowed it to go state by state? I think that might have been better, just in terms of the politics. But no, I don’t think we should overturn Roe v Wade. Not now.
Gun rights – Are gun laws currently too restrictive or too lax?
Should the average American be able to purchase an “assault rifle” like an AR-15 or AK-47?
I don’t think so.
Should people be allowed to carry concealed weapons with a license?
If you’re talking ordinary people, I don’t know. The only reason I hesitate is the 2nd Amendment. If you could persuade people to amend the Constitution and change the 2nd Amendment, maybe. But as it stands I just don’t see how those laws would hold up. But that’s not to say we can’t have some reasonable protections and restrictions. Certainly having more background checks, because it’s just so disheartening to see what’s happened. But on the other hand there’s so many guns in this country I think it’s kind of out of control, so I don’t think anyone knows what to do about it.
Should people be allowed to carry concealed weapons into public university classrooms, such as in Texas?
I haven’t researched the matter but it seems unnecessary.
Health Care – Are you in favor of or do you oppose Obamacare?
Don’t know. I’m waiting to see. Initially people said it would fail and I just don’t know enough about it to see where it’s going.
Would you be in favor of the United States moving to a single payer system?
Yes. I was in Spain and they seemed to have a very good medical system.
Is it accurate to say that the AEI is a conservative think tank?
Conservative-libertarian, with a few liberals thrown in. Norm Ornstein and sometimes Sally Satel, sometimes me.
But it did count Dick Cheney and Newt Gingrich among its scholars.
That’s true. A lot of people when they come out of office, they want to write books and they come to AEI. It’s mostly conservatives.
When I criticized feminism and political correctness in the late 80’s early 90’s I expected to have a lot of support from liberal groups and liberal individuals. But I was demonized and treated much more respectfully by conservatives. And the same thing happened to my friend Ayaan Hirsi Ali. She came to AEI; no left wing or liberal think tank would take her. She and I are so close, politically. She’s pro-gay rights, pro-choice, etcetera, and wouldn’t agree with conservatives on many issues. But because of her position as a critic of radical Islam just as my position as a critic of hardline feminism it made us both pariahs on the left.
What is your position at AEI intended to accomplish? Is there a mandate?
There’s no mandate. It’s like a university without students. You go there and you’re just free to write. I talked for 20 years and was getting a little tired of it… the grading of papers. After a while I wanted to do something new. I wanted to write my book on boys. And I was invited to AEI, given research help and an office and the means to do it. So they don’t ask you to fill out a political form (laughs). And they don’t’ police you. It’s just like being at a university, except we have real debates there and we have a lot of panels where they bring in people from both sides. In that sense I’ve found it to be more open than most universities I know.
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