Campus Feminism – Free Speech on Campus, Ep. 5

Release Date
August 10, 2016


Free Speech Liberty

The form of feminism that has emerged on college campuses recently may not be so beneficial for women.
Professor Laura Kipnis of Northwestern University shares her views on the direction of modern feminism on campus, and the difference between a feminism that’s about vulnerability and a feminism about liberation.

Free Speech on Campus (playlist): Learn about all of the major issues affecting freedom of speech, open inquiry, and academic freedom on college campuses at
Free Speech — Trigger Warnings, Academic Freedom, and More (program): Join Professor Tom Bell, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, and the Institute for Justice in this new program, and learn about rights so fundamental, they’re in the very First Amendment.
The Coddling of the American Mind (article): In the name of protecting students’ emotional well-being, college students and administrators are calling for censorship of certain forms of speech. The results deleterious to students and freedom of thought. 
Freedom of Speech: Does Free Speech Help Minorities? (video): Does freedom of speech harm or help oppressed or marginalized minorities?

>> I’m actually not that thrilled with the direction of feminism on campus these days. And I also think this focus on vulnerability is perversely disempowering to women. I’m a feminist, no ifs, ands, or buts. I would call myself a left-wing feminist, meaning I’m probably more interested in issues of say redistribution and distribution toward women’s needs, for example, subsidized childcare and that kind of thing.
Issues that have dropped off I think the face of the earth on campus these days where the focus is far more on women’s vulnerability. And the attention to sort of minor slights has just gotten crazy and out of hand. I was reading something the other day, a professor at Berkeley in the sociology department wrote an article where he mentioned that in a class of his he was talking about a midterm, and nobody had any questions.
So he said something like I’ll take your silence as assent. And after class a bunch of women students came up to him and said the phrase I’ll take your silence as assent was offensive to them because it was reminiscent of date rape. There’s a lot of attention to the issue of sexual assault on campus.
And obviously any amount of sexual assault is too much sexual assault. What’s happened since 2011 when the Department of Education expanded Title IX regulations to encompasses things like a hostile environment is that you have more and more people being brought up on charges on campus over issues like somebody thinking they’re making the wrong kind of eye contact.
Or a passing remark in class creates a supposed hostile environment, and I have to say I think this has gone too far. And the focus on vulnerability, particularly women’s vulnerability is not the direction we want feminism to go in. I mean, I’m interested in a form of feminism that would be about, I guess to use an old fashioned term, liberation rather than vulnerability.
And women’s freedom and autonomy rather than in protecting women, which I think is actually weirdly a return to traditional femininity. I think one of the problems with the former feminism that’s prevalent on campus is that women are coming to see themselves as vulnerable. So you’ve got I hear from other professors, women complaining in classes about professors bringing up subjects like rape or abortion, or other things that might be upsetting subjects and asking the professors not to speak about these things.
So this is not I think the direction we want feminism to go in. It’s leaving women feeling like they can’t even deal with the social realities of life off-campus.