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  • TPUSA invited a slate of sexists to speak at its Young Women’s Leadership Summit 

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Turning Point USA, the student-aimed conservative organization that raises its money by stoking fear among rich conservative donors about the alleged liberalization of college campuses, will host its fourth annual Young Women’s Leadership Summit June 14 through 17. Slated to address the young women attending is a roster packed full of misogynists.

    While Turning Point USA (TPUSA) is perhaps most famous for a laughable 2017 stunt in which its members donned adult diapers and sat in oversized playpens to express their outrage over safe spaces, its stated mission is to “identify, educate, train, and organize students to promote the principles of freedom, free markets, and limited government.” Despite TPUSA’s lofty goals, the organization’s events are often little more than sophomoric spectacles designed to fearmonger -- often via Fox News airtime -- about the supposedly leftist leanings of U.S. colleges. But the group also has a more sinister history that includes hosting serial harassers and defending racists. Overall, TPUSA is focused on combating “political correctness,” and conferences like the Young Women’s Leadership Summit are one vehicle used to accomplish this goal.

    TPUSA’s website invites “young, conservative women” to apply to attend the summit, and it promises to deliver “professional development and leadership training,” as well as opportunities to network with fellow young conservatives. While at first glance, the event seems to be about women's empowerment, the slate of speakers scheduled to present says otherwise. The roster includes people who publicly support misogynistic policies, routinely dismiss the importance of issues that advance gender equality, and use dangerously sexist rhetoric. Here is a breakdown of 10 of those speakers and their histories of anti-women messaging:

    Charlie Kirk

    Jeanine Pirro 

    Dana Loesch 

    Kimberly Guilfoyle

    Katie Pavlich

    Kayleigh McEnany

    Tomi Lahren

    Ben Shapiro

    Candace Owens

    Jordan Peterson

    Charlie Kirk

    The founder, chief fundraiser, and public face of TPUSA, “boy wonder” Charlie Kirk has a long history of attacking feminism and a tendency to dismiss and mischaracterize the problems women face. He is also ever-ready to complain about girls intruding on sacred male spaces like the Boy Scouts.

    Jeanine Pirro

    At first glance, Fox’s Jeanine Pirro seems an obvious choice for the summit. As the first woman elected to serve as the district attorney in New York’s Westchester County, Pirro spent years working on behalf of abuse survivors, often women and children. Since her years as DA, however, Pirro has seemingly turned her back on abuse victims, using her Fox show, Justice with Judge Jeanine, to downplay sexual misconduct allegations.

    • When Pirro’s former Fox colleague Gretchen Carlson reported then-Fox CEO Roger Ailes’ many instances of severe sexual misconduct, Pirro aggressively defended Ailes, dismissing Carlson’s lawsuit as “absurd” and describing Ailes as a “no-nonsense guy.”

    • In October 2016, Pirro was quick to defend then-candidate Donald Trump after the release of an Access Hollywood video, which caught him bragging about sexually assaulting women. Two days after the video was released, Pirro dismissed Trump’s violent remarks as “locker room talk" and "frat house language." She also proudly announced that the video did nothing to change her vote, and that Trump was still an undoubtedly better choice than “double-talking woman” Hillary Clinton.

    • Days later, when multiple women reported that Trump had touched them inappropriately, Pirro rejected their reports as “a little too convenient” and criticized their timing.

    Dana Loesch

    NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch is a remarkably bad choice to speak at a women’s conference, considering her numerous glib comments about rape, her mischaracterization of issues that advance gender equality, and her cruel attacks against transgender women. Additionally, Loesch has openly ridiculed college-aged women, the demographic TPUSA’s summit is aiming to capture, for wanting access to contraceptives.

    • After conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh aimed misogynistic insults at Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown Law student who testified in front of Congress about access to contraceptives, Loesch launched a barrage of heinous attacks against her. She denounced Fluke as unable “to control her sexual urges” and claimed that Fluke had testified that she “simply cannot stop getting it on.”

    • Loesch then extended her attacks to seemingly include all college-aged women who want access to contraceptives, ridiculing them for acting “like they’re nymphos” and dismissing young women's call for contraceptives coverage as "insulting to the original spirit and intent of the suffrage movement."

    • Loesch has a history of making flippant remarks and ill-advised jokes about rape, including comparing the penalization of gun owners for improperly storing firearms to “shaming a rape survivor.”

    • Loesch has been quick to fearmonger about false reports of sexual assault (which researchers say make up only an estimated 2 to 8 percent of allegations), and she came immediately to the defense of former Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) after he claimed that it’s “really rare" for women subjected to "legitimate rape" to become pregnant.

    • In addition to her trivializing rhetoric on rape, Loesch has made careless and insensitive comments about gender, including claiming that some women “wouldn’t know what masculinity was if it hit them in the face."

    • According to Loesch, the gender wage gap is “an absolute myth.” And after actress Jennifer Lawrence wrote an essay describing her own experience with pay inequality, Loesch denied that “sexism” played a role in Lawrence’s experience, instead accusing Lawrence of having a “self esteem issue.”

    • Loesch has additionally aimed cruel and dangerous attacks at transgender women, going out of her way to misgender former soldier and whistleblower Chelsea Manning.

    • Loesch also claimed that Manning was given “preferential treatment” and an “unnecessary surgery” when she received hormone therapy while in prison. In reality, hormone therapy is medically necessary, and to say otherwise simply serves to dismiss the health needs of transgender women.

    Kimberly Guilfoyle

    Former Assistant District Attorney Kimberly Guilfoyle has repeatedly used her platform as a Fox News host to make misogynistic and demeaning remarks, and she has spoken out in support of street harassment.

    • In a bizarre 2014 endorsement of catcalling, Guilfoyle defended street harassment by arguing that society should “let men be men” and insisting that “men are going to be that way.”

    • Later in the same year, during a discussion about women voting, Guilfoyle asserted that “young women on juries are not a good idea” because “they don’t get it.” She went on to contend that they’d be better of going “back on Tinder or Match.com.”

    • Guilfoyle has also derided women who have abortions in the third trimester as “selfish and disgusting,” even though women who receive abortions that late in their pregnancies do so because of serious concern for the fetus or their own health and are thus often forced to make heartbreaking and terrifying medical decisions.

    Katie Pavlich

    Katie Pavlich is an editor at the conservative outlet Townhall as well as a Fox News contributor. Pavlich has a history of using insensitive rhetoric and spreading misinformation about sexual assault as well as a tendency to espouse sexist tropes. In 2015, Pavlich gave a disastrous speech on sexual assault at Iowa State University, during which she insulted sexual abuse survivors and spread misinformation about the realities of sexual assault on campuses.

    • During the Iowa event, Pavlich argued that the incidence of sexual assaults on college campuses had been exaggerated and advanced the evidence-free notion that allowing students to carry concealed guns on college campuses could reduce sexual assault (the NRA is a sponsor of TPUSA’s Young Women’s Leadership Summit). She also made the wildly insulting claim that "lots of the time" women "make a decision about whether you are going to stop a sexual assault or not" before it happens and sarcastically apologized while disagreeing with a woman who shared that she was sexually assaulted as a child. 

    • In 2016, Pavlich “guarantee[d]” that Russian President Vladimir Putin and “the Saudis” would find then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s voice “grating.”

    Kayleigh McEnany

    Many of the speakers invited to TPUSA’s summit have served as Trump apologists, but perhaps none have done so as consistently as Republican National Committee spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany. In her constant defense of Trump’s sexist and violent rhetoric, McEnany has demonstrated her own indifference toward the sexism and abuse that women often face at the hands of powerful men.

    • McEnany defended Trump in the aftermath of the release of the Access Hollywood video, which contains Trump’s claims that when he sees a “beautiful woman” he will “just kiss” them and not “even wait” to speak to them first. The video also features Trump saying that “when you’re a star… you can do anything,” including grabbing women “by the pussy.” McEnany claimed that she didn’t “think [Trump] was condoning sexual assault.”

    • Days later, after multiple women said that Trump had sexually assaulted them, McEnany argued that “Donald Trump's claim is stronger” than that of one of the accusers.

    • McEnany also excused Trump’s tone-deaf assertion that if his daughter was sexually harassed at work, she ought to find a new job. She claimed that was “the same advice I would give to my sister.”

    • Her sycophancy continued in 2017, when she contended that Trump crossed no boundaries when he made a sexist remark to an Irish reporter.  

    Tomi Lahren

    Fox’s Tomi Lahren has built a career out of making unapologetically cruel and anti-feminist rants. She has a long history of attacking women and empowerment movements, including during a speech at the 2016 TPUSA summit.

    • During her 2016 YWLS speech, Lahren attacked various groups of women and derided modern day feminism. About liberal women, she told the crowd, “You notice the difference between a conservative women’s conference and a liberal women’s conference, because y’all dress like women.” In reference to Hillary Clinton, she proclaimed, “Don’t tell Hillary, but you can wear a dress and still be a woman,” and then she called both Clinton and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) “men” based on the clothes they wear. She accused actress Lena Dunham of making false rape accusations, and she commented that Dunham was “somewhere getting undressed on HBO” and “no one wants to see that.” She described feminists as “barely women,” and she described the modern-day feminist movement as “all about “gimme -- it’s gimme this, gimme this.”

    • On another occasion, during a particularly vicious tirade, she described modern-day feminism as “the dumbest load of hypocritical crap ever masqueraded as an equality movement.”

    • In an interview with Playboy, in which she described feminism as “bad,” she implied that feminism attempts to simplify women into “wanting free abortions or free birth control, and by using a false statistic like the 77 cents on the dollar bullshit.”

    • In another instance, she slightly tweaked her previous definition of the feminist movement, arguing that feminism is in fact “about man-bashing & free birth control.”

    • Lahren once claimed female activists attending a planned “Day Without Women” protest were not “real women.” According to Lahren, “Real women don’t have to remind the world every single day that history once slighted us. Real women don’t wake up and skip work to march for abortions or paid contraceptives.” She added that she wasn’t sure about “a day without women, but I could use a day without this nasty feminist BS masqueraded as women’s rights.”

    • Lahren condemned the 2017 Women’s March as a “vulgar display of hate and bitterness” and “a giant temper tantrum clogging our streets and hurting our ears and eyes.” She condemned the protesters themselves as “actual mean girls” and opined, “If only these marchers put this much time/effort into their families & life choices. Perhaps then they wouldn't have to glorify abortion.”

    • She complained about girls being allowed into the Boy Scouts.

    • She (wrongly) denied that there is a gender-based wage gap.

    Ben Shapiro

    The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro frequently misinforms his audiences about the obstacles women face, demeans and attacks transgender women, and serves as a reliable source of misogynistic commentary on multiple issues.

    • Shapiro has repeatedly denied the existence of a gender wage gap (once again, it's real). When actor Jennifer Lawrence discussed her experience with pay inequality, Shapiro claimed she was just “whining about a bad contract.”

    • He has dismissed the impact that having children has on women’s earnings potential. 

    • Shapiro is against women serving in combat positions, tweeting: “Women SHOULD NOT register for the draft. National service is one thing. Combat? Come the hell on.”

    • He has claimed that “fewer women are interested in getting into tech because of all of the demands of work-life balance.”

    • He has repeatedly attacked and misgendered transgender women, tweeting that transgender people have “mental illness[es]” and claiming that Chelsea Manning only “think[s]” she’s a woman.

    • In response to the 2015 edition of MTV’s Video Music Awards, Shapiro tweeted: “Feminism is apparently the proposition that women are empowered by showing their breasts, but men are sexists for looking at them. #VMAs”

    • He accused “leftist women” of “redefin[ing]” rape and cautioned his followers not to believe “the lies” about “rape culture.”

    • He mocked Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke for her activism on contraceptive access and labeled her a “fascist” for wanting contraception to be more accessible to workers.

    • Shapiro has launched numerous attacks against planned Parenthood, claimed that women who seek abortions are “kill[ing] their own children,” and denied that medical care received by pregnant women is part of “women’s health.” 

    Candace Owens

    TPUSA’s communications director, Candace Owens, is a vicious critic of the #MeToo movement. She has attacked its leaders and maliciously defamed and insulted victims of abuse. Owens has also maligned feminism and she often promotes sexist and demeaning tropes.

    • Owens has been a vocal critic of the #MeToo movement, which has helped elevate the voices of people who have experienced abuse and has led to the rightful downfall of numerous abusive men. Owens, however, has accused the movement of turning “sexual assault into a trend,” contended that its premise is that “women are stupid, weak & inconsequential,” and claimed the movement is at fault for men who won’t hire women. Owens’ attacks on #MeToo were so tone deaf and clueless that even conservative women condemned them, causing at least one conservative organization to pull out of the conference, and leading TPUSA’s Kirk to beseech attendees not to attack Owens publicly.  

    • Owens also wrote that the “entire #metoo” movement was evidence of how “vicious and cunning women can be when they feel scorned.”

    • She argued that the leaders of the movement “were at one time willing to trade sex for career advancements” and accused them of leading a “political witch hunt.”

    • Owen’s has promised that her 2018 TPUSA speech will center on why she “hate[s] the #metoo movement.”

    • Owens has claimed that women “are being systematically taught to equate ‘regret’ with ‘rape,’” an old and incorrect assertion that is sometimes used to minimize the reality of sexual assault.

    • She has accused “modern feminism” of “singlehandedly (sic) deteriorating relationships and eventual motherhood” and argued that feminists “hate men” and are “miserable.” She also claimed that “if you believe in equality between men and women, you cannot be a feminist today.”

    • Owens has perpetuated sexist tropes with such statements as “Women are naturally jealous creatures. It’s not a trait they grow out of, they just get better at hiding it.”

    • She once relayed the “interesting theory” that “something bio-chemically happens to women who don’t marry and/or have children” to her Twitter followers. She offered comedians Chelsea Handler, Kathy Griffin, and Sarah Silverman as “evidentiary support.” In a similar vein, she noted that “the most vicious perpetuators of modern feminism almost never have any children.”

    Jordan Peterson

    Right-wing YouTube star and Canadian professor Jordan Peterson advances a philosophy that demonizes and demeans women, refuses to respect the needs of transgender women, and shares videos that have been described as a gateway into the “alt-right” for men suffering from depression.

    • Peterson has argued for a hierarchical system built around gender and has condescendingly claimed that those who view our culture as an “oppressive patriarchy” simply don’t want to “admit” that the “current hierarchy might be predicated on competence.”

    • During a discussion about the “incel” (short for involuntarily celibate) who murdered 10 people in Toronto, Canada, at least in part because of his antipathy toward women, Peterson suggested that the “cure” for violent men is “enforced monogamy” to ensure that lower-status men get to have sex with women.

    • Peterson has argued that “conscientious and agreeable women” are more likely to prioritize their families over their work.

    • He has questioned whether “feminists avoid criticizing Islam because they unconsciously long for masculine dominance?” and asked, “Is it possible that young women are so outraged because they are craving infant contact in a society that makes that very difficult?”

    • He warned against women trying to “usurp” men.

    • He has called Nazi sympathizer and unapologetic anti-feminist Milo Yiannopoulos “unstoppable” and “an amazing person.”

    • Peterson ardently rejects the right of transgender people to be called by their prefered pronouns and insists that calling people by the pronouns they prefer won’t “do [them] any good in the long run.” In reality, misgendering is a cruel and dangerous act.  

  • Even conservative women are shredding Candace Owens' attack on the #MeToo movement

    Owens claimed #MeToo treats women as “stupid, weak & inconsequential.” Even conservatives clapped back.

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    Candace Owens, communications director for Turning Points USA, attacked the #MeToo movement on Twitter on June 11, claiming that it treats women as “stupid, weak & inconsequential.” Owens, whose profile skyrocketed after rapper Kanye West promoted her brand of hot takes on Twitter,  also stated that #MeToo had “turned sexual assault into a trend,” an absurdity akin to claiming that fire alarms are turning fires into a trend.

    By elevating the voices of accusers, the #MeToo movement has been pivotal in spotlighting powerful figures who had gotten away with sexual misconduct and violence. Owens’ ignorant attack faced immediate criticism. Even conservative women, who typically espouse anti-feminist views, spoke out against it.

    Kimberly Corban, a rape survivor and an NRATV favorite due to her pro-gun advocacy, said she disagreed with Owens and suggested they “get together” to talk:

    Corban also pointed out why Owens’ words could be damaging to survivors and victims, while explaining that #MeToo “isn’t a problem with women” but rather a problem that stems from a culture that forces victims into silence.

    Amber Athey, a breaking news editor for The Daily Caller and a columnist for Catholic Vote, called Owens’ tweets “an ignorant take” and “ridiculously unfair”:

    According to Athey, Owens’ cluelessness on #MeToo comes from taking “the conservative idea of personal responsibility” and warping and twisting it to “unimaginable levels.” 

    Rita Panahi, who works for the Herald Sun, a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp Australia, and hosts The Friday Show at conservative network Sky News, responded to Owens that “blaming the victim for being victimised isn’t helpful”:

    Cassandra Fairbanks, who writes for The Gateway Pundit, a conspiracy theory-friendly and error-filled outlet, called out Owens for her “bad tweet”:

    Some conservative men were also shocked by the ludicrous comments. Benji Backer, founder and president of the American Conservative Coalition, shared his own experiences of being subjected to sexual misconduct and called Owens’ attacks “abhorrent” as well as “asinine & cowardly”:

    Jerry Dunleavy, an alum of Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign who works for Judicial Watch, explained why Owens’ take was “exactly wrong”:

    Caleb Hull, a senior editor at Independent Journal Review, suggested Owens “will do or say anything for the attention”:

    Hull might be onto something. Owens is slated to speak at Turning Point’s upcoming Young Women’s Leadership Summit in Dallas, TX. With her tweet, she was likely attempting to exploit a sensitive topic to draw more attention to her speech, in which she has promised to explain why she hates the #MeToo movement.

    Owens’ skyrocketing ascent to conservative fame has, after all, always rested on wildly inaccurate assertions. She has claimed that police brutality is not an issue the Black community faces, blatantly dismissed the threats that white supremacy presents, and volleyed toxic, inaccurate attacks at the immigrant community, including claiming that undocumented immigrants are voting illegally and that they are “directly harming the black community” by taking jobs.

    Kennedy Copeland, an advancement associate at Owens’ own Turning Points USA, attempted to distance the organization from Owens’ views after she tweeted about #MeToo, claiming to “respectfully disagree” with her statement. But given that TPUSA considers “grab them by the pussy” apologist Jeanine Pirro and enforced-monogamy supporter Jordan Peterson worthy ambassadors for its young women’s leadership summit, TPUSA’s views on women and victims of sexual violence and misconduct may actually be in lockstep with Owens’.

    UPDATE: Following backlash, Candace Owens took to Periscope, calling #MeToo "a witch hunt on men" and blaming it for causing the men she speaks to refusing to hire women.

    UPDATE (7:15 PM): On Twitter, Mediaite's Caleb Ecarma shared a leaked message in which TPUSA's executive director and founder Charlie Kirk asked fellow conservatives to refrain from critizising Owens or the organisation and to backchannel their disagreements to avoid hurting the group's image.

  • NY Times writer Bari Weiss’ “intellectual dark web” isn’t dark or intellectual -- it's just plain bigoted

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    In a May 8 column that lionized the members of the so-called “intellectual dark web,” New York Times opinion columnist Bari Weiss misled her audience by portraying commentators known for inflammatory rhetoric about oppressed minorities as intellectuals exiled into the “dark web,” a name for the hard-to-reach areas of the internet. The cast of characters she profiled is far from being exiled to the dark web. In fact, they profit from broadcasting bigoted ideas on platforms that reach massive audiences.

    In her column, Weiss glorified Jordan Peterson, the “alt-right’s” favorite professor who has repeatedly appeared on Fox to push anti-trans myths, and praised former Breitbart writer Ben Shapiro, without disclosing his history of bigotry. Instead, Weiss portrayed them both as martyrs for the criticism they get for voicing bigoted opinions. The term “intellectual dark web” is a useful branding ploy for bigoted commentators and far-right figures, as, according to Right Richter’s Will Sommer, “They’re appealing to this kind of forbidden nature of the knowledge they're discussing.” Weiss went on the May 8 edition of MSNBC’s Morning Joe to promote her piece, where the hosts did not push her to address any of the valid, thoughtful criticisms of her piece many journalists have shared on Twitter:

  • Tucker Carlson spent Women's History Month parroting YouTube's most extreme misogynists

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN KERR & CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    On his Fox News show, Tucker Carlson spent Women’s History Month parroting some of the grossest views of YouTube’s fringe right-wing anti-feminists in a series of segments about “Men in America,” mainstreaming their misogyny on prime-time cable news. Here’s some background on the men Carlson has been promoting:

    • Jordan B. Peterson: An “obscure Canadian academic” before he became popular on right-wing YouTube, Peterson insists “gender and class hierarchies are ordained by nature,” as The New York Review of Books put it; considers advocates for social justice “morons”; and has speculated that “feminists avoid criticizing Islam because they unconsciously long for masculine dominance.” His YouTube videos have been described as a gateway into the “alt-right” for men suffering from depression, and he has called Nazi sympathizer and infamous anti-feminist Milo Yiannopoulos “unstoppable” and “an amazing person.”

    • Stefan Molyneux: This YouTuber built his reputation by bemoaning feminism and complaining about the plight of men. He has asserted that young women should “look for security” from husbands, suggesting feminism destroyed Europe, and strongly championed James Damore, the Google employee who was fired after writing a memo contending that women’s underrepresentation in the technology field is due to biological reasons. To round out his extremism, Molyneux also traffics in white supremacist tropes like false narratives about the decline of white people, considers himself a “race realist” (euphemism for white supremacy) and has invited “‘alt-right’ extremists” on his show.

    • Gavin McInnes: Founder of the self-described “Western chauvinist” male fraternal organization Proud Boys, McInnes uses his online platforms to spew hateful vitriol. (Designated a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Proud Boys are specifically anti-women, as they embrace the belief that women’s primary role in society is to “stay home and make more babies” and explicitly ban women from their meetings.) He has called Oprah Winfrey a "slut" with a "ghetto mentality" who "was turning tricks" before becoming rich, described lesbians as “sexless, depressed old chubby dykes,” asserted that women should “probably not vote,” mocked women in the workforce, and made derisive comments about women’s looks.

    • Paul Joseph Watson: This Alex Jones lackey spends his time on the internet trolling feminists and Islam, mansplaining “things feminists need to understand,” and pushing nonsensical conceptions of masculinity -- like the idea that soy consumption drives testosterone levels down and reduces masculinity in men.​

    • Owen Shroyer: Also a Jones lackey, Shroyer hosts his own show on Infowars and has spewed the most asinine conspiracy theories, like claiming that Hitler is alive and the U.S. government is covering it up, or that London Mayor Sadiq Khan was somehow involved in the Austin, TX, bombings. As reported by Right Wing Watch, Shroyer also once asserted that former first lady Michelle Obama was a transgender woman with intentions of establishing a mainstream “demonic” culture in America.