At Boston College, we often refer to the “BC Bubble,” an invisible barrier that keeps us mentally focused on and concerned with day-to-day life on our suburban campus. Until recently, I had thought this phenomenon was only harmful in that it could make us focus excessively on college social life and academia, disconnecting us from further-reaching problems. Following a recent experience on campus, however, I came to see that the “BC Bubble” has a political facet as well, and it may be preventing students from seeing the full picture of American politics.
On April 19, professor and author Christina Hoff Sommers came to campus to speak on modern feminism. Her lecture was titled, “What Has Gone Wrong With Feminism.” I was intrigued by what I thought would be a critique on more controversial feminist movements like “Free the Nipple” or Slut Walks, so I attended the lecture with a friend.
I didn’t know until Sommers began to speak that she would actually argue against many of the ideas that we on this campus simply consider to be commonly held beliefs. Sommers disagreed with many aspects of modern feminism and argued for a return to the “equity feminism” of Mary Wollstonecraft and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. She believed in only one feminism and argued that by acknowledging multiple feminisms, we are actually causing division and creating a culture where we have to walk on eggshells to avoid insulting one another. Sommers emphasized that intersectionality does more harm than good and that, in the United States, a patriarchy does not exist.
I felt myself growing both angry and uncomfortable as I listened to her speak. My friends and I soon realized that we were in a room where nearly all of the other students seemed to concur with her beliefs. For the first time, perhaps ever on BC’s campus, I held a minority opinion. All at once it was frustrating and upsetting, enlightening and eye opening.
During the Q&A period, I decided to speak up and ask a question, despite having the unpopular opinion and experiencing, for the moment, some anger and annoyance. I questioned Sommers about her failure to acknowledge people’s inherent disadvantages. My tone was obvious—her beliefs upset me. I received my share of hostility from the crowd once I made my opinion known. At the time, I didn’t regret having spoken up, but looking back, I wish I had asked something different and attempted to better understand her perspective rather than argue it.
When it comes to politics, people tend to be very set in their beliefs, so arguing as if I could change the minds of anyone in that room was an unreasonable goal. In the moment though, my instinct was to call out a flaw I saw in her argument and to try to convince others of this flaw. In retrospect, I should have known that this was an unproductive aim.
Although our first instincts are to argue, dismiss, or ignore the solutions to political problems lie in listening, and asking questions with the goal of gaining a fuller understanding.
The campus culture at BC and at many other liberal arts universities tends to be dominated by left-wing political ideals. A walk around campus the day following Donald Trump’s election was significant proof of this. Students were hugging and crying, and the atmosphere was gloomy.
Events and lectures on campus can offer multiple political perspectives. As students surrounded constantly by liberal ideology, it is important for us to take advantage of opportunities that can help us become more politically informed and better versed in all angles of an argument.
Listening to the other side rather than simply rejecting it or trying to argue against it can be difficult for people who are emotionally invested in or passionate about their beliefs. But this type of aggression is what has fueled and continues to fuel the intensely bipartisan national atmosphere. In the end, we all want many of the same things for our country: safety, prosperity, and freedom. Listening to one another will help us get there.
Featured Image by Meg Dolan / Heights Editor