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Conservatives Need to Reclaim Feminism or Pick a New Word

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Unread 04.12.19, 09:37 PM
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Conservatives Need to Reclaim Feminism or Pick a New Word

On 04.12.19 10:59 AM posted by Kara Bell

Are you a feminist?

For many conservative women, responding to that question becomes a backbreaking feat—expressing your viewpoint while attempting to dodge the left’s pro-abortion, anti-male infested word trap. For some women, it’s easier to just quickly say no and then endure the oncoming judgement.

But a weightier question remains. Should conservatives reclaim the word “feminism,” or finally toss it to the left?

That question took center stage last month whenThe Heritage Foundation and the Clare Boothe Luce Center for Conservative Womenhosted their monthly luncheon for conservative women. The two speakers—Kelsey Bolarfrom The Daily Signal and Inez Stepman from Independent Women’s Forum—tookopposing positions on the question, and both women took a historical approachto explain her argument.

“Modern-day radical feminists have attempted torevise the history of the feminist movement in order to use it as a politicalweapon to advocate for things like abortion,” Bolar told the audience. “As conservatives,we need to take it back. This means re-educating women about who feminists wereand what they fought for throughout history, and redefining what the movementmeans today.

“I fear if we don’t,” she continued, “youngergenerations will ultimately be brainwashed into thinking that conservativewomen didn’t fight for them back then—and that we aren’t fighting for themnow.”

While much of the audience seemed to resonatewith Bolar’s view, Stepman offered a different outlook, one uncovering theoriginal intent of feminism.

“The deeper underlying idea of feminism was onethat separates sex from gender and argues that whatever biological differencesexist between men and women, those differences are or should be irrelevant tothe way we construct society, policy, and culture,” said Stepman. “I don’t seethe point of taking back a word that only 16 to 33% of American women actuallyidentify with.”

Despite their clashing views, both Stepman and Bolaragreed that it’s important to have this debate, especially as manyconservatives jump into the ring of culture wars with the left.

The BackStory on Feminism

Stepping back to the 19th and early 20th centuries,across the Western world, the term “feminism” came to be associated with voiceswho fought to reform democracy in accord with equalitarian: to grant women the samepolitical rights enjoyed by men. This Lockean-liberal stage of feminism sought toconstitutionally endow women with the right to life, liberty, and property.

According to Stepman, the ratification of the 19thAmendment in 1920, which gave women the right to vote, concluded this fundamentalpush for women’s equality.

From that point, Stepman added, the feminist movement went beyond legal equality to push for a more radical vision of equality that disregarded biological differences. The feminist movement became divided as the new radical wing pushed to undo previous protections for women that were predicated on biological differences—for instance, limits on how much weight a woman could be required to carry on the job.

After 1920, women’s labor movements rejected theseideas—not because they didn’t want women to achieve a new level of equality,but because they recognized that true equality for women had to recognizebiological reality. They feared legislation like the Equal Rights Amendmentwould reverse many of the victories that protected women workers.

Nonetheless, these more radical ideas gainedground in the National Women’s Party and opened the gates for more radicalfeminists in the 1960s, like Betty Friedan, to start the National Organizationfor Women, which pushed an agenda quickly mutating into second-wave feminism. Issuesof sexuality, “reproductive rights,” and biologicalinequalities that became the basis of the sexual revolution of the 1960s, wherethe celebration of single life and sexual exploration replaced the celebrationof marriage and family.

The sexual revolution produced much of thecultural wreckage we’re witnessing today, like hookup culture, Stepman added.

A study by L.E. Napper titled “Assessing the Personal Negative Impacts of Hooking Up Experienced by College Students: Gender Differences and Mental Health” concluded that casual sex is strongly correlated to “psychological distress, including anxiety and depression, as well as low self-esteem and reduced life satisfaction.” In fact, the link between hooking up and psychological distress appears to be stronger for females.

“Men and women are inherently different,” saidStepman. The premise that both sexes can equally benefit from casual sex withminor consequences totally rejects the fundamental truth of our biologicaldifferences.

In fact, the American Economic Journal published a 2009 study titled “The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness” that showed women’s happiness declining over years, despite advances in their career and education. The study noted that many of the effects of the sexual revolution could be to blame, like increased divorce rates, more children born out of wedlock, and less time with family.

It could also be argued that the desensitizedact of abortion, and its steadily increasing numbers, could also contribute towomen’s unhappiness.

Moreover, as the hookup culture continues topermeate college campuses and leftist feminists fight to blur sex differencesand attack the family, women’s happiness is bound to continue its downwardtrend.

“The problems of the feminist movement gofurther back than the [National Organization of Women’s] 1967 meeting,” addedStepman. “I would argue that from the 1940s, the deeper underlying idea offeminism was one that separates sex from gender and attempts to blur thebiological differences between men and women.”

Bolar, however, still held firm. She emphasized that the original feminist movement wasn’t started as a radical vice to infect American culture the way it does now. Prior to the 1960s, the majority of feminists rejected abortion, though that is the dominant feminist issue today.

Indeed, the feminist movement focused on equalopportunity, deduction of child tax expenses from their tax returns, the rightto sit on a jury, and the right to remain employed as a pregnant woman.

Bolar’s argument was seconded when an olderwoman in the audience explained her own experience of navigating a career andmotherhood, and how she was fired for being pregnant.

She turned to the younger women, who wereshocked, and noted that the feminist movement, before abortion became their toppriority, helped women like her fight to stay employed as a mother.

WhenAbortion Hijacked Feminism

Contrary to popular belief, abortion messaging didn’t originally start with radical feminists like Friedan. It was started by men.

Dr. Bernard Nathanson, co-founder of theNational Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws, later renamed theNational Abortion Rights Action League, conned leaders of the feminist movementto push a pro-abortion agenda.

Nathanson directed the world’s largest abortionclinic and became personally responsible for an estimated 75,000 abortions. He personallyfed the public fabricated statistics to destigmatize the act of abortion. Yetin a major turn of events, Nathanson later joined the Catholic Church where herepented of his sins, authored pro-life books, and produced documentaries thathave been used to expose the abortion industry.

But back then, Nathanson made it his goal topromote and even urge abortion. And he wasn’t alone. Larry Lader, a disciple ofPlanned Parenthood’s founder Margaret Sanger, wrote a book titled “BreedingOurselves to Death,” in which he advocated population control. He also made thecase for on-demand abortion.

Famously known for calling pregnancy the“ultimate punishment of sex,” Lader convinced Friedan to include abortion onthe agenda of the National Organization for Women and to market abortion as amethod to set women free.

The women’s liberation movement was duped intopromoting abortion when Friedan orchestrated a vote to include the issue on theNational Organization for Women’s platform at their 1967 conference. The votepassed 57-14. But notably, 105 vote-eligible members attended, meaning 34 ofthem did not vote. Those 34 women, outraged that the group was consideringabortion, stormed out, thus giving birth to the pro-choice vs. pro-life feudamong feminists.

“There were feminists who walked out of thatmeeting who believed the same things I do,” said Bolar. “[These women] haveenabled women like me to not face the types of barriers that they have faced intheir home and career. Calling myself a feminist is acknowledging what these womendid before me.”

Some pro-life activists Bolar mentioned includeDr. Elizabeth Blackwell, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Mary Wollstonecraft, and AlicePaul, who called abortion the “ultimate exploitation of women.”

Feminismor Not?

As Stepman and Bolar reflected on the audience’squestions and comments, they stressed how important it is for conservatives,especially young women, to decide whether or not to reclaim feminism.

“Feminists are still creating this script foryoung women to follow,” said Stepman. “To them, women need to focus on theircareers before they even consider getting married or becoming a mother, when infact, it’s actually been studied that many, if not most, women are happierpursuing more traditional ends, and finding those personal relationships to bemuch more meaningful in their lives than any career could ever be.”

While debating a term like “feminism” may seem somewhat irrelevant, the fact is that calling oneself a feminist invokes decades of historical and intellectual baggage, and many of those “feminist” principles no longer blend nicely with conservatism. That is, of course, unless you modify your answer with an exhaustive explanation that no one cares to hear.

Modern “conservative feminism” encourages women to make their own decisions without dependency on the government. This makes it truly the most moral approach to women’s liberation and equality.

Yet because only a small percentage of women actually consider themselves feminists due to the term’s negative connotation, conservatives face a choice: either phase out the word feminism and choose another, or try to reclaim it despite ongoing political and cultural obstacles.

Regardless of the choice conservatives make, Bolarand Stepman agreed on something fundamental: The first step we can all take isto become more proactive in this cultural war with the left, rather than justreacting to the left’s ever-radical standards.

The post Conservatives Need to Reclaim Feminism or Pick a New Word appeared first on The Daily Signal.

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