Protestors gathered on campus prior to Scott Yenor’s talk on “compulsory feminism”

Turning Point USA hosted Scott Yenor for a talk on “Compulsory Feminism” on campus on April 9. Yenor is a Boise State political science professor who recently made international news for using his university email to organize the Society for American Civic Renewal. 

The Idaho chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW), organized a protest beforehand across the street from the Student Union Building, where Yenor was giving his talk.

Cindy Thorngren, the President of the Southwest Idaho chapter of NOW, said the protest was held across the street to be non-confrontational. She also  said they wanted to provide a “counterpoint” and advocate that “feminism is still a wonderful thing”. 

“Yenor doesn’t seem to like women who are in traditional men’s careers. So we’re here to say that we might be medicated and we might be meddlesome and things like that, but we’re going to own it if that’s what he wants to call us,” Thorngren said. 

Thorgren also noted the allegations that Yenor used his university mail to organize the Society for American Civic Renewal, a men’s only organization that was described by The Guardian as having an “emphasis on Christian nationalism”. 

“We would love to get rid of Yenor. I’m not sure how, aside from the allegations he’s misused his state email account… we’d like to see that investigated more,” Thorngren said. 

Nancy Harris, the President of the Idaho Women’s March, came out to protest Yenor’s talk.

“We simply have to speak out against tenured professors who are wanting to subjugate women back to the dark ages,” Harris said. 

Harris said she voiced concerns about Yenor a few years before to the faculty senate, but was unsure if it went anywhere, as any complaints or investigations are not public records. 

“If you had a football coach who was professing these same positions, these same philosophies…we wouldn’t tolerate that in another area of academia,” Harris said. “So why do we have a professor like Scott Yenor who says women are quarrelsome, meddlesome, and we don’t put that same burden on that area of expertise?”

Yenor started his talk by making a clear distinction between himself and other “anti-feminists”.

“I’m not here to advocate the taking away of anyone’s rights. I’m not opposed to opportunities for men or women. I am however, as I say, an anti-feminist,” Yenor said. “I think the world’s most famous anti-feminist is Andrew Tate…So Andrew Tate’s an anti-feminist, Scott Yenor’s an anti feminist, therefore, Scott Yenor is arguing for Andrew Tate’s lifestyle. I want to say no and point to other prominent anti-feminists in the history of feminist thought I would say I’m much closer to someone like Phyllis Schlafly…”

During Yenor’s talk, he discussed what he described as the “sexual constitution of America”, comparing the average ages for marriage and children in the 50’s to the modern day. 

“I think feminism is one of the contributing causes to the widespread dishonoring and kind of falling out of practice in marriage. Somewhere like in the late 50s, 90% of adults over the age of 18 were married,” Yenor said.  “Now the number is kind of in the mid 50s. That’s a big societal change. Back in the 50s, the total fertility rate was above four. Now it’s below like 1.75 in that area in America.”

Yenor also attributed this “dishonoring” to economic factors, though he stated that “those aren’t unrelated to feminism generally”, “alternative lifestyles”, and “easy access” to divorce. 

Yenor asked the audience what age women were most fertile, and said that it was “illegal” for him to say in an exaggerated tone. Yenor then claimed women were most fertile from ages 18-25. Yenor repeatedly referenced this multiple times throughout his speech and when answering audience questions. 

“Can you get married at 18? Yes. Can you have a baby at 18? Yes, you are free to do it. But the sexual constitution is a system of shame and honor that nudges people in particular directions and a way from other directions,” Yenor said. 

Yenor covered many topics during his talk about the way in which he believes people, particularly women, are discouraged from marrying and starting a family. One of his main points was about society deeming the practice of family wages, where married men with children were paid more than single men without children, as discriminatory. 

“One element of the world before feminism is something called the family wage. Okay, now the family wage is part of Catholic social teaching, but it was also really part of American political practice,” Yenor said. “And what it meant is that married men with children would be paid more than unmarried men without children. Because bosses saw their job and unions negotiated contracts on the basis that this is the breadwinner for a family. This makes sense.”

Yenor discussed the Phillips v. Martin Marietta Supreme Court case, where it was determined that the practice of not hiring women with young children was discriminatory.

“The reasoning was that no employer can ever have a vision of how a family should operate, incorporated into their, like employment promotion, working conditions or whatever,” Yenor said. 

The company at the time employed men with young children and the Supreme Court ruled against them stating that the Civil Rights Act prevented different hiring qualifications for men and women unless there was a specific physical characteristic necessary for the business. 

“And these are elements of it, as I say, like you’re still free to get married…You’re not really free to hire how you want actually, and you’re really not free to run your workplace the way you want, so I guess somebody’s rights are being taken away,” Yenor said. “But the whole idea is that we’re constructing the environment in order to stamp out what some people think of as discrimination.”

Yenor also criticized the idea of an “independent woman”. 

“Family life and marriage are about mutual dependence. They’re inescapably about mutual dependence of one on another. When you cultivate a spirit of independence, you’re going to get last mutual dependence, Q.E.D the problem that feminism poses for the family,” Scott Yenor said. “The heart of what it means to be an independent woman is in my view, that you understand your identity independent of God, country, family or marriage, and the vehicles for the expression of that independence are poetic creation and, and career, career first approaches to life…so the abortion regime, contraception, all of those are justified in terms of independence. And therefore I think that’s really the feature of what the political understanding of feminism is, in our context, and that’s the one that informs our sexual constitution.”

At the Hemingway Center, the Boise State Pride Alliance, Babe Vote, the Boise Trans Collective were among some of the groups present to provide alternative viewpoints to Yenor’s. 

Paisley Davis, a coordinator for the Boise Trans Collective, emphasized the importance of being a “different voice” instead of just protesting.

“Instead of being like ‘don’t look at this, look at this instead and be like no there are people here who are accepting and supportive and come and meet us,” Davis said.

While Davis believed it was bad that Turning Point USA invited Yenor, they weren’t surprised.

“It is bad, the fact that they invited him, but it’s also like of course they invited him, it’s Turning Point… The problem itself is that an organization like that is there at all, is like what I have a problem with, but it’s not like I’m going to be like ‘oh no you invited Scott Yenor’ as opposed to another conservative talking head… they’re all equally bad.”

Davis focused on not just getting mad, but “community building”.

“People get a lot of energy when they’re angry at this Scott Yenor situation….. I would say that protesting and getting mad at people, it has its place and it’s important, that it’s also you need to like check yourself and take all that energy and funnel it into community building and positive things,” Davis said. “Because like one you will get burnt out, and two it’s like that’s a lot more important, is like building up those resources and that community and that power.”

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