Aidan Harley

When I asked Peggy Noonan during  her question-and-answer session on Feb. 7 whether she considers herself a feminist, I was expecting the poetic, outdated answer that I got. She said she believes in equality but was disillusioned with the feminist movement of the 1960s that came of age as she did. While that was just the beginning of my day of interaction with Noonan, her answer, for me, set the tone of the whole afternoon and evening.
 Noonan is an articulate, opinionated journalist who’s had a successful White House career that the “West Wing” junkie in me envies. The journalist in me should turn to her for advice and follow her lead. The message I got from the event encouraged this simplistic correlation. Because I am interested in politics and journalism, I should look up to this woman who has been successful in both arenas, regardless of our politics. Everything about that night seemed to be soaked in this message. However, this event misunderstands what feminism is as much as Noonan does.
Feminism is not about fostering “girl power” at the expense of men. Feminism is about dismantling forms of oppression and hegemony that allows forms of oppression to thrive. Women are not exempt from being called out when they oppress others or are complicit in oppressive hegemonic projects. It is the goal of intersectional feminism to end this idea of uncritical “girl power” rhetoric. And in inviting Noonan, a woman who is stuck on a definition of feminism that is over 50 years old, to speak here, Scripps has highlighted the fact that there is still a substantial part of our community, from students to administrators, that not only don’t identify as feminists, but also have no concept of the transformation feminism has undergone in the last 50 years. I did not anticipate such egregious ignorance at the level of a women’s college, especially one with a gender and women studies requirement.
On a more traditionally political note, Peggy Noonan was not the most productive speaker because she does nothing to combat the so-called “liberal echo chamber” that is the Claremont Colleges, which seems to be the goal of the Elizabeth Hubert Malott speaker series. I do not have to refute the faulty logic of Noonan’s assessments of the current political climate—every reputable and not-so-reputable news source has done it for me, hundreds of times.  She is not taken seriously in the majority of political discussions, especially in academic ones.  Her conclusions, both in her writing and in her talk, rest on personal anecdotes, her layman’s understanding of politics, and her memories of working in the administration of Saint Ronald Reagan. As a student of politics who  is a walking left-wing indoctrination parody—nose ring and all—it is unreasonable to think that Noonan’s insightful “perspective” is in any way going to make me think critically about my political beliefs.
But you know what might? A serious, conservative academic who has published books that are used in classrooms. Invite a Chicagoan economics academic to come speak—we idealistic, Scripps, pinko commies can’t dismiss such a person’s views the way we can and did dismiss Noonan’s. Noonan is a speechwriter turned political talking head and Fox News favorite.  If the goal of the Malott Speaker Series is to spark dialogue, the selection committee should invite a speaker whose work is relevant to the work with which Scripps students base their political beliefs.  
Regardless, Noonan’s visit was still an evening of perspective for me. The smaller question and answer session was almost devoid of racial and material diversity. Garrison was filled with smartly dressed members of the extended Claremont community, though members of Scripps’ Politics Department were surprisingly absent.