On November 8th, 2016, women across America waited in line at Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester New York to place an “I VOTED” sticker on Susan B. Anthony’s gravestone. Susan B. Anthony, a pioneer and leader of the women’s rights movement, died before she was actually able to see women across America cast legal votes, but nonetheless, she herself voted, albeit illegally. Not only did many of these women who paid tribute to Susan B. Anthony vote, many of them cast their ballot for Hillary Rodham Clinton—the first American woman to win a major party’s nomination for president, and the closest female there has ever been to the presidency. Though in many ways Clinton’s accomplishment is something for women to celebrate, there is something that we must mourn as well.
The Clinton campaign was run on platforms typical of a party pandering to minority voters—racial, religious, and gender alike. Though, yes, a woman running for president is a triumph signaling how far both one gender and one nation have come over the course of a century, the bully pulpit of the Democratic Party has attempted to leave women with as little political choice as they had before suffrage.
The pop-culture infused politics of the left attempt to present young women with few political options. To point out one example of many, Cosmopolitan creates special magazine issues during election seasons telling girls what candidate they should vote for and which candidates are acceptably “pro-woman.”
Ironically, nearly half of the candidates listed in Cosmopolitan’s pro-woman lists, are not even females. This is because, in Cosmopolitan’s worldview, being “pro-woman” does not mean being the first Indian-American woman to hold a governorship, as conservative Nikki Haley of South Carolina became in 2011. Being “pro-woman” does not mean being the first African-American woman elected to serve as a representative of your state, as Republican Mia Love became in 2012 for Utah. Being “pro-woman” does not even mean being the youngest woman ever elected to congress, as another conservative, Elise Stefanik, has been since 2014.
To Cosmopolitan and popular outlets like it, being “pro-woman” has very little to do with actually being pro-woman. Rather, to Cosmopolitan and a mainstream culture obsessed with non-proven liberal policy, being “pro-woman” means being ‘progressive.’ It means being pro-choice regarding abortion. It means being pro-Planned Parenthood. It means being anti-bathroom laws and anti-gun, pro-Affordable Healthcare Act and pro-Keynesian economics; even when these policies are not necessarily good for women they fit the left’s definition of feminism. It means believing there is a discriminatory wage gap despite economic proof that this issue is, in fact, wildly exaggerated. According to Cosmopolitan and similar media outlets, being “pro-woman” means, quite frankly, being liberal.
According to Cosmopolitan and similar media outlets, being “pro-woman” means, quite frankly, being liberal.
Feminism used in today’s context is not the feminism of the Susan B. Anthony generation. Rather, feminism today is radical leftism disguised as a martyr’s movement.
Anthony repeatedly promoted women’s independence, suggested that women take an equal role to men, and was an anti-abortion advocate. Today’s feminists instead promote policy that creates a nanny-state for women, suggest that women should be paid equally regardless of the quality or amount of work completed, and are vehemently pro-abortion.
Most disappointingly, and as aforementioned, feminism today values a woman’s vote only when the vote is an affirmation of these liberal policies. Not only is this a departure from the suffragettes’ hope for American women, it is the actual antithesis of those values.
But some women and organizations are challenging the left’s narrow view of what it means to be pro-woman. Karin Agness is a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law, a Forbes contributor, a Harvard Fellow, and was featured on a list of Twitter’s 55 most influential women. If Agness were liberal, she would certainly be hailed in a heartbeat as a beacon of light for women everywhere to imitate. But alas, Agness does not subscribe to the left-wing identity politics as so-called feminists would hope.
In 2004, Agness created the Network of Enlightened Women (NeW), a book club intended to promote conservatism as an ideology that is equally worthy of women’s votes and political attention.
Since 2004, NeW has grown to include chapters across the nation that seeks to allow young college women to “read about ideas and people often left off of college syllabi and forgotten on college campuses.” Furthermore, the organization started a well-received social media campaign last year called “#ShesConservative.” The #ShesConservative campaign brings attention to the stories of conservative women on college campuses, and the backlash and demoralization they have faced from “feminists” on their own college campuses.
Though the NeW and the #ShesConservative campaigns are not the only organizations and movements geared at promoting conservatism to young women, they have thus far been some of the most impactful.
Hopefully, in the future, organizations such as NeW can change the dialogue about females in politics so that “feminism” and “pro-woman” are words and ideas to be owned and defined by left-leaning politics no longer.
This piece has been adapted from the article of the same name in the Winter 2016 edition of THE ARCH CONSERVATIVE Magazine
— Sydney North is Managing Editor at THE ARCH CONSERVATIVE