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‘Men of quality don’t fear equality’: Yenor’s feminism speech draws protests at Boise State

Dozens of people protested at Boise State University outside of an event where Professor Scott Yenor spoke about “compulsory feminism.”  (Becca Savransky/Idaho Statesman)
By Becca Savransky Idaho Statesman

Dozens of people protested Tuesday night outside of an event at Boise State University where Professor Scott Yenor spoke about “compulsory feminism” and how he believes feminism has changed society.

The protest, organized by the Southwest Idaho chapter of the National Organization for Women, drew students, parents and community members who said they wanted to show that women are welcome in all spaces and capable of pursuing any careers.

Yenor, who went on a sabbatical last year to work with a conservative think tank, faced backlash in 2021 after viral comments he made at a conference calling some women “medicated, meddlesome and quarrelsome” and saying women shouldn’t be recruited into engineering, medical school or law. More recently, reports have connected Yenor with a far-right media website and a Christian extremist group.

Standing on the sidewalk across from the Student Union building, protesters on Tuesday held signs calling for people to stop donating to Boise State until they “terminate misogynist professor Yenor.” Other posters read “men of quality don’t fear equality,” “weak men fear women’s financial autonomy,” “misogyny is medieval” and “ERA now,” referring to the Equal Rights Amendment.

“We believe that women should be able to do whatever the heck they want, and especially when it comes to education, control of their bodies, control of their intimate relationships with other people,” said Cindy Thorngren, the president of the SW Idaho NOW chapter. “We strongly disagree that feminism is bad for society.”

Jamie Richmond, a Boise State alum, said she wanted to protest because she is “pissed off.” Her daughter is a student at the university. She said up until 2021, when Yenor’s comments surfaced, she had always donated to Boise State. But she stopped, and hasn’t donated since. She said she won’t give any more money until the university fires Yenor.

“I am disgusted that he is in control of women’s grades, and LGBTQ students and students that don’t agree with him,” she said. “They need to terminate his employment.”

Others said they wanted to push back against Yenor’s comments, and show that his views don’t reflect those of the community.

“We feel like the far right is really getting a toehold in Idaho,” said Kristin Thompson, who has been involved with NOW for several years. “If he had his way, we wouldn’t have women going to college.”

SW Idaho NOW also held a protest against Yenor last month at a fundraiser in Eagle.

Yenor talks about ‘compulsory feminism’

Inside the Student Union building, Yenor spoke to another crowd of dozens — including some who had protested — about what he calls “compulsory feminism.” His talk, put on by Turning Point USA’s Boise State chapter, was based on an article he published in First Things, a website that describes its purpose as promoting “a religiously informed public philosophy for the ordering of society.”

Yenor began his talk by saying men and women have different personalities and interests, and marriage seeks to reconcile those. He called feminism one of the contributing causes to the widespread “dishonoring” of marriage.

“Feminism is about cultivating a new kind of woman with a different understanding of her interests and her personality and her talents,” he said. “And that woman … is the independent woman.”

He went on to describe himself as an “anti-feminist,” and said his views more closely align with someone like Phyllis Schlafly, an activist who opposed feminism, gay rights and abortion and fought against the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s.

During his talk, Yenor said about three-quarters of women would prefer to watch their children when they are infants and prioritize motherhood and being a wife.

“It was always thought that men and women would be different. How did we know? Open your eyes and look,” he said. “But the modern approach to nature is we don’t have to settle for the stupid stuff of nature. We can take what nature is giving us and harness it and change it and make the world what we want it to be.”

He described contraception as an “outgrowth of the modern desire to conquer nature.”

Before feminism took hold, he said, businesses could pay married men with children more than unmarried men without children, and they could decide not to hire mothers of young children.

Now, he said, the effects of “compulsory feminism” have led to lower marriage rates and delays in having children.

“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 getting taken away,” he said. “But the whole idea is that we’re constructing the environment in order to stamp out what some people think of as discrimination.”

Spectators remained quiet throughout the speech, clapping at the start and end.

During Yenor’s speech, another event was held simultaneously on campus, called “choosing feminism and social justice advocacy.”