Progressive writer Jessica Valenti recently penned a piece for the New York Times accusing conservatives, and conservative women, of “appropriating” feminism.
Sound very feminist to you? Me either.
It should be noted that I’ve long since shied away from the term "feminism." I'm a Millennial woman, a conservative, a supporter of women’s equal rights and a strong advocate for the unique and irreplaceable position women hold in society. And yet I’m slow to label myself a “feminist” due to the term’s most commonly understood definition.
For many conservative women like myself, the term “feminist” bears a modern subtext that makes us cringe with distaste. We don’t grow out our armpit hair, we don’t stomp through the streets with cardboard cutouts in the shape of vulvas, we don't scream ourselves hoarse bashing "The Patriarchy," and we don’t want to.
But perhaps its this shrinking back from the mantle of feminism and all its positive associations that’s given progressives like Valenti the impression that the left holds a monopoly on this movement – a movement on which, historically, they hold no overwhelming claim.
And perhaps that's been a mistake.
In that vein, perhaps a more appropriate position for a conservative freethinker like myself should be this: yes, I am a conservative woman. Yes, I am a feminist. And no, I don’t need your permission.
Here’s a snippet of Valenti’s argument, with which I take serious issue:
“Now, we have a different task: protecting the movement against conservative appropriation. We’ve come too far to allow the right to water down a well-defined movement for its own cynical gains. Because if feminism means applauding 'anything a woman does' — even hurting other women — then it means nothing."
“You cannot be a feminist and support an immigration policy of taking children away from undocumented immigrant mothers. 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,” she argues.
Firstly, no one – and I repeat, no one – is a fan of ripping children from their mothers’ arms. That’s a common leftist scare tactic they peddle to accuse the right of inhumane treatment of immigrants, and it's not true.
As for Valenti’s second point regarding abortion, here’s a quick question: who says?
Who says that you can’t be a “feminist” and support anti-abortion policies? Who says that “feminists” can’t vehemently oppose a practice that murders millions of infants including roughly 500,000 pre-born girls, destroys families, and leaves thousands of hurting, broken women in its wake? Who says “feminists” can’t fight against a practice that leaves women at staggeringly higher risks of mental health issues, substance abuse, PTSD and suicide?
And on that note, who says so-called “feminists” like Valenti are the sole deciders of what is and isn’t feminism in the first place?
See, “feminism” ultimately falls into two camps: what it is, and what the left wants it to be.
True feminism fights for equal rights. Progressive feminism fights for superiority.
True feminism recognizes the distinct and unique qualities inherent to women. Progressive feminism seeks to erase them.
True feminism celebrates women. Progressive feminism says men can co-opt womanhood.
True feminism fought for women’s right to vote. Progressive feminism mandates all women vote a certain way.
True feminism exists to build up women. Progressive feminism exists to tear down men.
Progressive feminism says any woman who does not conform to lock-step leftist thought is immediately barred from the ranks of the feminist.
True feminism does not.
In fact, one could rightly argue that any “feminist” movement that ousts female freethinkers is, by definition, un-feminist.
How terribly un-feminist is it to argue that a woman must subscribe to a certain preset checklist of opinions to achieve one’s “pro-woman” credential? And how definitively un-feminist is to assume that only progressive feminists get to set that standard in the first place? Valenti argues the feminist movement is historically "well-defined," and it is - just not how she defines it. In fact, many of the very first “feminists” of our time would take serious issue with the modern-day progressive "feminist" line.
Susan B. Anthony, an original suffragist and one of the most famous pioneers of feminism in U.S. history, was pro-life. As was Norma McCorvey, better know as Jane Roe, who became a staunch advocate for the unborn following the historic court case that granted her – and millions of women nationwide – legal access to abortion.
Alice Paul, a women’s suffragist who served three jail terms fighting for women’s rights and was a key figure in getting protection for women added to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, was ardently conservative. In fact, many of those who coined the term “feminism” were right-leaning women.
So no, Ms. Valenti – you are not the arbiter of “feminism.” You are not the gatekeeper of women’s rights, nor are you the determiner of how women should or should not think, speak, or vote.
And any “feminist” movement that accuses millions of non-conforming conservative women of “appropriation” is not feminist at all.
(Cover Photo: Matt Zimmerman)