College Republicans and Young Americans for Freedom co-hosted an event Wednesday featuring University alumna Kate Obenshain. Obenshain is a conservative speaker, author and commentator, and a regular guest on Fox News.
Obenshain spoke about free speech, the overall American conservative experience and what she sees as the flaws in radical feminism. She additionally touched upon her experience as a Republican at the University and said some of her peers disliked her because of her views.
According to Obenshain, there was an emphasis on political correctness at the University during her time on Grounds, including in her classes.
“I tried to take a Jane Austen class every year, but they were all so political,” Obenshain said. “They were all through this feminist lens. I just wanted to read ‘Pride and Prejudice.’ You know, somebody teach me about it. Let me just learn something.”
After graduating from the University in 1991, Obenshain took a job with the Young America’s Foundation, where she had the opportunity to travel around the country with Republican speakers and then went on to work for former Virginia Senator George Allen’s successful campaign for governor in 1993.
Obenshain had four children with her first husband and said she faced some scrutiny from others for working while having kids.
“Other people asked me, ‘Shouldn’t you be at home with your children?’” Obenshain said. “And of course, I thought, ‘Yes I should be.’ But then I thought, ‘No, wait a minute, I’m still going to be raising my kids. You can just deal with it.’”
Obenshain also said she views social media as hostile to conservative viewpoints, particularly conservative women challenging feminism.
“If you stick your foot in there [social media] as a conservative … you are going to be destroyed and called every name in the book, especially if you’re a woman,” Obenshain said. “If you are a conservative woman, and you stand up and articulate your beliefs, and you question the feminist movement, brace yourself because it’s going to get ugly. It’s going to get really ugly.”
Kevin McMahon, a third-year College student and chairman of YAF, said the topic his group wanted the event to be based on was feminism.
“A lot of times the left will say it’s always old white men talking about women’s issues,” McMahon said. “It’s nice and refreshing for a lot of students at U.Va., who don’t get to hear the conservative standpoint, to hear it from a woman herself.”
Obenshain also spoke about rape and sexual assault, stating that women must prepare for potential pepetrators.
“Evil exists in the world, and if we aren’t aware of that when we go outside at night, we’re fools,” Obenshain said. “We should know — I’m not saying it’s because of the way you’re dressed — but I’m saying there are evil people in the world. No matter how many sensitivity training camps we send men to, we’re not going to eradicate evil. It seems as though every radical feminist wants to completely absolve women of their responsibility, and I think that makes women extremely vulnerable — particularly young women.”
Obenshain said she supports the #MeToo movement — a social media movement which encourages all people, particularly women, to come out with their personal stories of sexual assault and abuse to show solidarity — as long as it is not a form of blacklisting which targets innocent people and wrongfully portrays them as perpetrators.
“I do think people like Matt Damon have a right to say what they think,” Obenshain said. “I think men have a right to say what they think about this #MeToo movement. In fact, I want men to talk about the total creepster that is Harvey Weinstein, but I think going after men is a huge mistake for the radical feminist movement.”
Obenshain said she believes the “radical feminist movement” does not promote the ideals of femininity and that its members want to dissociate themselves from characteristics such as motherhood, caregiving and empathy.
Steering away from the topic of feminism, Obenshain also addressed the events of Aug. 11 and 12 in Charlottesville last summer, when and hosted the the following day. Obenshain said there was extremism on both sides of the political spectrum and advocated for unity.
“That bizarre thing in Charlottesville was just nuts, and you know the fact that we all couldn’t just step back and say, ‘The alt-right are a bunch of lunatics, and [Antifa] are nut jobs,’” Obenshain said. “We need to say that and be normal people who believe in goodness and civility and safety and unite together and stop using the extremes as a reason to tear each other apart.”
During a question and answer session, an attendee asked Obenshain how to approach the topic of being transgender. Obenshain said the only way to respond is with science and how the genetic makeup of a man and a woman are different.
Around 30 to 40 students attended the event, although not all of the attendees agreed with everything Obenshain said.
“She blamed Democrats and progressives for calling Republicans names like racist or homophobe,” first-year College student Abdullah Maqbool said. “But then she turns around and attacks people for being transgender, attacks them for expressing their opinions on banning assault rifles.”
Adam Kimelman, a third-year College student and chair of College Republicans, said Obenshain wanted to focus on free speech and a wide range of issues during the event.
“Kate did make it clear that every topic was up for debate,” Kimelman said.