3 APRIL 2020
On March 29th and 31st, This Is 42 hosted an event entitled #Feminist in Sydney and Melbourne, respectively, featuring a conversation between Dr Roxane Gay and Dr Christina Hoff Sommers in a bid to allow an intellectual and authentic discussion about their ideological differences within the feminist movement in the 21st century, and possibly, to identify some common ground. This Is 42 believes that idea-driven and authentic discussions on emotionally-charged subjects are imperative to moving forward to reach a resolution.
Differences within the social movement, which inspired this event in the first place, are only exemplified by the social media reaction that this event has received.
The following is a list of misrepresentations regarding the Feminist event that This Is 42 would like to address.
Desh Amila was not the first choice as a moderator for this event. This Is 42 contacted approximately 10 potential moderators, with 7 of them being women. These requests were all declined or not responded to. It was only after a female journalist, who politely declined the invitation herself, recommended that Desh, as a male moderator facilitating a radical conversation on feminism, would be a fantastic choice, that this option was even considered and eventually finalised. The general assumption that only a woman should host an event on Feminism, that men do not truly care about, believe or share in the cause of fighting for women’s equality are all conditioned notions that Desh Amila set out to break.
After the Sydney event, Gay’s management demanded that This Is 42 must have NITV journalist Rachael Hocking moderate the event. After convening with This Is 42’s advisory board and attending to logistic demands for the event in Melbourne the following day, Desh contacted Rachael on Sunday morning at 7:30 AM and heard back from her at 9 AM the same morning. Rachael was willing to moderate the event, however, both parties came to the consensus after a phone conversation that it would be unfair for her to host the Feminist event at such short notice due to her unfamiliarity with Dr Sommers’ work.
After the Sydney event, in addition to approaching Rachael, Desh also approached Dr Meredith Doig a feminist and the President of the Rationalist Society of Australia to moderate the event. To be fair, Desh presented the two potential female hosts to both Dr Sommers and Dr Gay. Dr Sommers was happy for Dr Doig to moderate the event as Rachael had limited knowledge on Dr Sommers’ work and was concerned that she would be at a disadvantage. Dr Gay’s management on the other hand weren’t happy for Dr Doig to moderate the event. Due to the limited time leading up to the Melbourne event, Desh decided to take on the responsibility of moderating the Melbourne event as well.
Not once has This Is 42 presented the Feminist event as a debate, which misrepresents the entire purpose of the event. While SMH has highlighted the disappointment faced by Dr Gay’s fans, as they were unwilling to pay any heed to an opinion that did not concur with Dr Gay’s, they failed to mention that Dr Sommers used well-researched statistics to back her statements but was booed and heckled and grossly disrespected.
Although not equally represented in the article, Dr Sommer fans that existed in the audience had their say:
Below are tweets and apologies to Dr Sommers from her fans below.
“I was appalled to read how you were treated last night while you were visiting our country, I’m so sorry. We’re not all like that, I promise,” mentioned one fan in a tweet to Dr Sommers.
“I was at the Melbourne event and you [Christina Hoff Sommers] were the only one giving me value for my money. You were at least interested in having a conversation! I think the host did a great job under trying circumstances too. Such a hostile room!” remarked another.
Below are tweets from people thanking This Is 42 for putting on a thought-provoking show.
“I enjoyed #thisisfeminism with @rgay and @CHSommers. I am thoroughly disappointed with the audience for disrespecting women and speakers. We are all on the same side. We are fighting the same fight,” declared one audience member.
“So grateful that I went! I think I’ll be giving myself a new title, to distinguish against some of the women who hold an emotional crutch. I’m a “man loving feminist,” stated another audience member in a direct message.
This Is 42 has a history of bringing intellectual conversations to the mainstream audience. The goal isn’t to host academic events, rather, to get the general public interested in academic subjects thus making it important to define crucial, often nuanced, terms within the feminist movement so that everybody is on the same page. Also, rather than requesting a dictionary definition of feminism, the question aimed to provide the speakers’ perspectives of what feminism stood for in 2020, and was framed as such.
To prevent the further escalation of these misrepresentations, This Is 42 requests that those media outlets revise and update their original allegations or alternatively change it to an opinion piece.