Feminism; A toxic word, in a society of assumptions, and in a media landscape purposely attempting to elicit strong reactions from their readers. Heavy with connotations in the modern day, feminism seems synonymous to conservatives as words such as ‘snowflake’, ‘triggered’, and liberalism. Similarly, the left side sees feminism as something one can only be if following every ideal that they so fiercely believe.
Is there a middle? Is it possible to be a conservative-feminist?
Many say no, such as Jessica Valenti writing a piece for the New York Times called ‘The Myth of Conservative Feminism’ stating,
“In our eagerness to make feminism more friendly to the mainstream, we didn’t fully consider what it would mean if any woman could claim the label.”
Yet, more often than not, when one claims they’re not a feminist, they’re met with triggered rhetoric, questioning “Well, don’t you believe men and women are equal? Because that’s the definition of feminism!” Rejecting feminism because of its current connotations is completely valid, yet many men and women get berated because of this. Likewise, when a few decide that they want to create their own brand of feminism, while continuing to be a conservative- they are ostracized by conservatives and liberals alike. The Women’s March on Washington even went as far to kick out a pro-life feminist group from marching alongside the others.
Valenti stated in the same article,
“You cannot be a feminist and go along with the White House’s newly announced domestic gag rule, a mandate that would withhold funding from any health care center that helps patients find abortion services.”
“Now we have a different task: protecting the movement against conservative appropriation.”
With such passionate feelings about feminism on both ends of the spectrum, is there a place for a conservative feminist? Some conservative groups exist, defining their brand of feminism. An article written by a contributor of the organization ‘Future Female Leaders’ said,
“Every day, there are conservative women living out to true definition of feminism, redefining it back to the meaning it originally held….It is showing women they are capable of fighting for themselves and their worth both in the workplace and in their personal life.”
As conservative-feminist ideals are becoming more prevalent, many groups exist to present and show the world the existence and the ideas. In addition to Future Female Leaders, some conservative feminist groups include Independent Women’s Forum, and Network of Enlightened Women.
Many of these groups believe passionately in women’s rights, encouraging equality, and are advocates for sexual assault survivors. Some lobby for harsher sentences for domestic abusers, or rapists. Others fight for economic equality, or pro-life ideals. They embody strong women, showing a feminist and a conservative perspective.
It’s likely that there will be a rift between liberal and conservative feminists for a long time, if not forever. For conservatives, providing a voice and space for a ‘right’ brand of feminism would help give an area for women and men across the board who disagree with some of the extreme nature of liberal-feminism, and expand the possibilities of how we look at conservative policy.