What It Means To Be A Conservative Female Today
So you don’t support a woman’s right to choose… but you’re a woman? You must really like Sarah Palin then. Does that mean you aren’t concerned about the wage gap between men and women? How could you not support someone like Hillary Clinton? She empowers women! These are all things that conservative women hear on a regular basis. They may also hear that it would be anti-feminist if they quit their jobs to be a stay-at-home mom, and that they really shouldn’t have a gun in the house since there’s no need for it in their nice, suburban neighborhoods.
These are not ideas that all liberals hold, by any means. But in largely liberal places like New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC, conservatives are subjected to an array of liberal perspectives like those above. Either way, it’s remarkable how quickly liberals react with concern to conservatives as a whole, and women even more so.
People seem to be baffled by conservatives in big, diverse, East and West coast cities. It doesn’t help that many media outlets are liberal. From The Los Angeles Times to NBC News, it’s hard to escape headlines like: “State by state, abortion laws control women in the guise of protecting them.” It’s hard not to stumble upon entire sections of a news website devoted to articles that paint Republican candidates in an unflattering light.
This kind of coverage doesn’t make it easier on right-wingers; Democrats love to use sound bites from New York Times op-eds criticizing either Fox News or the latest abortion ban as ammunition to argue their points. The abundance of left-wing information online, on TV screens, and in your favorite newspaper makes it easy.
Conservative & Female… An Oxymoron In The Making?
Meanwhile, conservative women are left grabbing at straws to justify their beliefs. Well-versed in political issues or not, a conservative woman simply can’t explain her political sentiments to anyone. They won’t make sense.
The prevailing idea is that women should be Democrats. According to a Gallup poll, “women are more likely to be Democrats, regardless of age.” Forty-one percent of women identify as Democrats, compared to 32 percent of men. Twenty-five percent of women, meanwhile, identified as Republican in the Gallup poll. A March 2012 poll by the Pew Research Center may provide some clue as to why: Because women favor big government. Women favor more direct government action on behalf of the poor, children, and elderly; they want the government to regulate food and the environment, and according to another 2012 poll, about 50 percent of female voters are pro-choice.
Here’s the thing. Conservative females are pro-choice too, but in a different way. They believe that women should have the choice to hold whatever political views they desire, without comments from the peanut gallery. When conservative women share pro-life beliefs, they are called “unsupportive of women.” But isn’t it “unsupportive of women” to expect all women to hold a uniform set of political ideas?
Just because you’re a woman and a conservative, doesn’t mean you’re anti-feminist. In some ways, conservative women are actually more supportive of other women. They focus less on gender, because at the end of the day, they all want the same thing: a better and safer nation. They see a woman’s right to choose as the most important thing of all, because women have the right to choose to be conservative without judgment, to choose to bear arms, and to choose the car they want to drive. They retain those beliefs in spite of the vitriol from other women who say, “How could you?”
There’s an idea that conservatives are traditionalists. They have launched a war on women’s sexuality, and they fear empowering women, who supposedly belong in the home. Perhaps the Republican Party does need to do a better job appealing to women, and acknowledging the role of gender politics in the larger political process.
But people also need to re-think what it means to be a modern woman. What if being an empowered female means choosing not to criticize other women because of their political beliefs? What if empowering women isn’t just about abortion and the corporate glass ceiling? Maybe it’s also about helping them have the confidence to negotiate salary to close the wage gap, and reminding them that abortion is not the only option available to them.
In much the same way as people ponder how racial minorities can be conservative, so too do they express confusion over the anomalous female conservative. This level of ignorance only offsets the push for women’s rights. Instead of looking at labels, let’s look more at the issues that concern us as individuals. If women focused less on attacking one another’s levels of “feminism,” perhaps they could find more qualified liberal and conservative women to represent them at the state level, in Congress, and one day, in the White House.