Video of the Day: “Are you or anyone you know under the spell of WAW?”

Over at conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute (AEI) this week, resident gender scholar and (not so) “Factual Feminist” Christine Hoff Sommers warns us about a new form of gender-based oppression that prevails today — an issue so common, social scientists have given it a name: the Women are Wonderful phenomenon (WAW for short). 

You can watch the whole video below, but in one highlight Hoff Sommers tells us:

It used to be fashionable to celebrate men’s alleged superiority over women—Aristotle referred to women as defective men. Philosophers like Immanuel Kant and Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Friedrich Nietzsche deemed women intellectually inferior to men. Fortunately, those male chauvinistic days are mostly gone. But today a new kind of reverse, female chauvinism prevails.

Living under this reversed system of gender-based oppression, according to Sommers, has made it impossible for men to win:

If women do something better than men, that is evidence of their superiority. If men outperform women, that’s proof of discrimination—retrograde patriarchy and toxic masculinity. To violate the spirit of WAW is to invite havoc. Suggest, as the former president of Harvard Larry Summers did, that men may have some innate advantages in math and spatial reasoning, and prepare to change your job. Write a book or article titled “Are Men Necessary?,” “The End of Men,” Man Down, or Women are From Venus, Men are from Hell,” and the gods of the zeitgeist smile. The answer to male supremacy is not female supremacy—the answer is equality and mutual regard and respect. Let’s try that. Are you or anyone you know under the spell of WAW?

There is an almost comedic absurdity in her comparing structural violence to a book title of “Women are From Venus, Men are from Hell”. Or Sommers thinking that male chauvinism is circa XXXX rather than 2000 or 2010 or like, now. Or her continued inability to understand that feminism is also about equality and mutual regard and respect.

But though I did get a kick out of the “spell of WAW,” Kat Stoeffel also importantly notes that:

there is something especially insidious about a woman and self-described feminist like Sommers providing anti-feminist talking points. Her claim that ‘”feminist activists have convinced many young women that a foolish, drunken hookup was actually rape” sounds a lot more credible than, say, Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” distinction, despite meaning essentially the same thing: What women call rape isn’t really that big a deal.

As Stoeffel adds, Sommer’s brand of “Factual Feminist” (as opposed to us fantasy feminists) gives media and conservative think tanks a way to invalidate feminist discourse: a female face. In mainstream places like Time to the Washington Post, they’re leveraging this to dismiss all forms of structural violence from issues of campus sexual assault to wage gaps to domestic violence to sexual slavery. And I can’t get myself to laugh off any of that.


Mahroh is a community organizer and law student who believes in building a world where black and brown women and our communities are able to live free of violence. Prior to law school, Mahroh was the Executive Director of Know Your IX, a national survivor- and youth-led organization empowering students to end gender violence and a junior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Her research addresses the ways militarization, racism, and sexual violence impact communities of color transnationally.

Mahroh is currently at Harvard Law School, organizing against state and gender-based violence.

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