By: Molly Meisels | Opinions  | 

Sparking Conversation, Not Contempt: Dennis Prager at YU

Partisan divides in American politics grow larger by the day. The polarization separating conservatives from liberals, Republicans from Democrats, and Americans from Americans has stunted political progress in this country. The days of frequent bipartisan conversation are long behind us, and the civility between those with contradictory positions has eroded to mere nothingness. The growing tribalism of conservatism and liberalism is leading America down a dangerous path. We can no longer disagree on policy preference, because we choose to disavow our opponents’ credibility and reliability.

In a time when an imaginary wall divides us, we need cross-party dialogue more than ever. We need to begin understanding each other to promote changes nationwide, and this is especially true on college campuses. There is an increasingly threatening ‘us vs. them’ mentality that both liberals and conservatives tend to harbor. This mentality leads to cruel judgments, mistreatment, and abusive rhetoric towards those who disagree with you. Colleges need bipartisan, courteous conversation about issues of substance; we need to join forces to combat the ills that have been plaguing society; we need to spark conversations about economic growth, healthcare, gun control, and minority oppression – and these conversations do not come in the shape of Dennis Prager.

YU’s YAF (Young America’s Foundation) chapter is co-hosting a Dennis Prager speaking event with the YU College Republicans on December 4th. These are the same individuals who organized last year’s controversial Ben Shapiro event.

So, who is Dennis Prager?

Dennis Prager is an American conservative talk show host, columnist, and public speaker. He is what college students call a provocateur, a man who targets the left via flame-throwing and belligerent rhetoric. Individuals like Dennis Prager are a growing breed in the United States. They see leftism and liberalism as American ills threatening to tear apart our cherished value system. They choose to combat these perceived ills by bashing everything about the left without thoroughly initiating conversation. The statements made by personalities like Dennis Prager and Ben Shapiro are meant to spark divergence. They take America’s already prevalent polarization and wedge it further apart.

A theme throughout the articles I’ve read by Prager is the calling out of leftist “lies.” He disavows everything said by those on the left of the political spectrum as a myriad of lies – from female oppression to racial repression to climate change. Instead of responding to these leftist ideas with statistics and facts, he calls them lies right off the bat, shutting down the conversation before it even begins. Because if you renounce something, you don’t have to take the time to combat it. This leads Prager fans to mistrust and abhor the media and academia, as well as their liberal peers, causing many college students, some of whom are on the YU campuses, to completely ignore the opinions of their liberal friends. If everything the left says is a lie, then a conversation is pointless. Therefore, anything that begins as a harmless political debate will end in shouting matches, because both sides refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of the other.

Besides for calling out the “leftist media,” Prager seems to have an infatuation with attacking feminism. While I have attempted to shy away from my Democratic and liberal connections in this article, I cannot shy away from my feminist ones. As the co-president of the YU Feminists Club, I am thoroughly concerned and dismayed by Prager’s opinions of women and female equality. Prager has said that women who identify as feminists today are “dummies” and complete fools. He bashes feminist theory and thought throughout his articles and his videos, while refusing to have open conversation on the matter. His opinions of women are as follows:

(a)   On breastfeeding in public: “[T]he sole purpose of women’s breasts is not for nursing babies. It is also to attract and arouse men.”

(b)   On women as sex objects: “It is completely normal for heterosexual men to see women they are sexually attracted to as sex objects… Lucky is a couple if the man can sexually objectify his partner.”

(c)   On when a woman isn’t in the mood: Even when a woman isn’t in the mood for relations, she should have sex with her husband. He says that while men don’t always want to go to work, they are obligated to do so. So too, women need to fulfill marital obligations if they want a happy and successful marriage. He claims that wives can’t expect men not to cheat on them if they say no to sex too often.

(d)   On female depression rates: He believes that females are depressed at higher rates than men because of feminism. He says that, “Feminism raised a woman’s expectations beyond what life can deliver to the vast majority of them.” He states that women delaying their marriage for their self-fulfilling careers depresses them, because careers don’t fulfill women as much as relationships do. Prager believes that depression rates in women arise from their abandonment of marriage and family values.

Prager’s opinions on women and feminism are misconceived, uninformed, and distasteful. Not only does Prager regard women as sex objects who can derive happiness only from the home, but he also unfairly regards men as animalistic creatures unable to control themselves from adultery and inappropriate sexual behaviors. This can render men unaccountable for the actions they commit. Additionally, by using fictitious biological “facts,” Prager states that feminism is the reason behind female depression rates. However, the real reason that females experience depression at higher rates than males is due to hormonal changes during pregnancy, post-partum depression, depression stemming from puberty, and PMS. It is interesting to note, that according to many psychologists, the stresses caused by sexism add to the female depression rates, opposing Prager’s initial assumption that feminism is the cause.

In addition to his aggressive feminist attacks, Prager denies climate change and global warming vehemently, believes that assimilation into American society and abandoning diverse cultures is the only way to decrease crime rates, and, via dog whistle tactics, makes it seem that if we practice ethnic/racial separatism we’d have peace.

I believe it is a student right to bring people like Dennis Prager to the YU campus. I believe that everyone at this school deserves a chance to voice their opinions. However, the Prager event will only tear the conservative and liberal factions of our campus further apart. It will further fuel the flames of ‘us vs them.’ This has already been evident by the Prager event advertising on the Facebook group YU Marketplace. The student advertising the event posted, “SNOWFLAKES BEWARE: White Male coming to campus!” The post sparked a frenzy in the comments, leading to threads of individuals quarrelling, only indicative of what is to come.

How can we spark real conversation if all we have is unnecessary hate and provocative individuals like Dennis Prager and Ben Shapiro speaking to our student body?

If conservative students on campus truly want to talk about policy and social issues, we need to have civil and open discussion. The last thing this college needs is a flame-thrower who’ll bash everyone who disagrees with him by writing off their reliability and sensibility. Instead of interacting in manners of insults and degradation, how about we sit down and talk? We all need to set aside our differences to spark positive change in YU and around the country.

My plea to all of those attending the event is to keep an open mind. Listen to what Prager has to say. Hear his words, but don’t internalize them. Don’t laugh when he offends an entire minority population or calls all leftists lunatics. Know that what we need right now – more than anything – is unity, and Dennis Prager will not give us that. When you leave the event, instead of concocting ways of bringing down the leftist machine, think of ways to bring both sides of the political spectrum together, because divided we fall, together we prosper.