On April 20, libertarian feminist Christina Hoff Sommers was escorted off Oberlin’s campus by administration-provided police concerned about her safety.
The cause for concern? The fact that she was on campus in the first place.
When the Oberlin College Republicans and Libertarians announced they had invited Sommers to speak, activists quickly got to work. They posted that the event made them feel “unsafe” and started splattering her lecture hall with signs that said “Christina Hoff Sommers and OCRL Support Rapists” and “Free Speech: Just Because It’s Legal Doesn’t Mean It Isn’t Problematic.” Most offensively, they hung a large poster listing past and present Oberlin College Republicans and Libertarians members’ names under a note that screamed, “Rape Culture Hall of Fame.”
Needless to say, those activists “interrupted and booed” Sommers throughout her speech. Now, there are rumors that they’ll file a Title IX complaint.
In a recent New York Times article, Judith Shulevitz argues that college students are “cocooning” themselves from triggers and offensive ideas in order to achieve “guaranteed psychological security.” Christina Hoff Sommers’ Oberlin experience–and the growing number of stories like it–are only a small sample of this self-protectionism stemming from nouveau-feminism on college campuses.
For some, stories like these are almost repulsive. How can these self-proclaimed feminists feel “unsafe” over a speaker presenting new ideas? How can they relegate to the back burner far more tangible examples of violence and oppression against women — the wage gap, contraceptive issues, domestic violence, sexual trafficking, representations of women in media — in favor of a speaker, a tasteless clothing item, and whether clapping triggers anxiety?
Many are claiming that this nouveau-feminism stems from an overwhelming culture of left-intellectualism and progressivism on college campuses. But that’s not the whole picture, and maybe not even a part of it–college liberalism is hardly a new phenomenon.
To really explain the self-protectionism of college feminism, you have to look at the history of how Generation X dealt with the “rape crisis” on campus while they were in school, and how they raised their Millennial children to react to dangers differently than they did.