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Independent Women's Forum

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Independent Women's Forum
Independent Women's Forum.png
FounderRosalie Silberman, Barbara Olson, Anita K. Blair
FocusWomen's rights, equity feminism, property rights, free markets, democracy, foreign policy,[1] domestic violence, campus issues, health care, labor policy[2]
Coordinates38°54′06″N 77°02′34″W / 38.9018°N 77.0428°W / 38.9018; -77.0428Coordinates: 38°54′06″N 77°02′34″W / 38.9018°N 77.0428°W / 38.9018; -77.0428
Area served
United States, Iraq, Afghanistan
MethodEducational programs, awards, grants, political commentary
Key people
Sabrina Schaeffer, Carrie Lukas, Heather Higgins, Christina Hoff Sommers, Lynne V. Cheney, Wendy Lee Gramm, Midge Decter, Kate O'Beirne
Revenue (2013)

The Independent Women's Forum (IWF) is a conservative American non-profit organization focused on economic policy issues of concern to women.[4][5] IWF was founded by activist Rosalie Silberman to promote a "conservative alternative to feminist tenets" following the controversial Supreme Court nomination of Clarence Thomas in 1992.[6] IWF's sister organization is the Independent Women's Voice (IWV), a 501(c)(4) organization.

The group advocates "equity feminism," a term first used by IWF author Christina Hoff Sommers to distinguish "traditional, classically liberal, humanistic feminism" from "gender feminism", which she claims opposes gender roles as well as patriarchy.[7] According to Sommers, the gender feminist view is "the prevailing ideology among contemporary feminist philosophers and leaders"[7] and "thrives on the myth that American women are the oppressed 'second sex.'"[8] Sommers' equity feminism has been described as anti-feminist by critics.[9]

Origin and history[edit]

Founded in 1992 by Rosalie Silberman, Anita K. Blair, and Barbara Olson,[6][10] the IWF grew out of the ad hoc group "Women for Judge Thomas," created to defend Clarence Thomas against allegations of sexual harassment and other improprieties.[11] By 1996 the organization had some 700 dues-paying members who met regularly at luncheons to network and share ideas.[12] Silberman was the IWF's first president; subsequent leaders have included Nancy Pfotenhauer and Anita Blair. The current president of the organization is Carrie Lukas.[13] The IWF has been described as "a virtual 'Who's Who' of Washington's Republican establishment."[12][14] In 2006, the organization had 20,337 members and a budget of $1.05 million.[4]

Opposition to other feminist ideas[edit]

The IWF opposes many mainstream feminist positions, describing them as "radical feminism". IWF-affiliated writers have argued that the gender gap in income exists because of women's greater demand for flexibility, fewer hours, and less travel in their careers, rather than because of sexism. In an article for the Dallas Morning News, IWF Vice-President Carrie Lukas attributed gender disparities in income to "women's own choices", writing that women "tend to place a higher priority on flexibility and personal fulfillment than do men, who focus more on pay. Women tend to avoid jobs that require travel or relocation, and they take more time off and spend fewer hours in the office than men do. Men disproportionately take on the most dirty, dangerous and depressing jobs."[15]

The IWF also argues that feminists manufacture domestic violence legislation that "is misleading because it is premised on and mean to advance feminist ideology."[16] This falls under their larger belief that "feminists ... lie about data, are opportunistic, construct men as the enemy, and cast women as helpless victims."[16]

Conservative commentators have praised the IWF; Linda Chavez credited Women's Figures: An Illustrated Guide to the Economic Progress of Women in America, a 1999 book published in part by the IWF, with "debunk[ing] much of the feminists' voodoo economics."[17] Writing in Capitalist Magazine, John Stossel cited Michelle Bernard's 2007 book Women's Progress as evidence that "American women have never enjoyed more options or such a high quality of life."[18]

Some writers have asserted that feminist rhetoric is used by the IWF for anti-feminist ends.[19][20] A New York Times editorial described the IWF as "a right-wing public policy group that provides pseudofeminist support for extreme positions that are in fact dangerous to women."[21]

Domestic policy and programs[edit]

United States healthcare policy[edit]

In 2009, IWF produced a political advertisement run on YouTube and in eight states arguing that "300,000 American women with breast cancer might have died" if U.S. healthcare included a government-funded option.[22][23] labeled the IWF ad false and manipulative of women's fears, finding that the IWF ad relied on "old statistics, faulty logic and false insinuations."[24]

Title IX enforcement[edit]

Since shortly after the organization's inception, the IWF has joined with groups like the National Wrestling Coaches Association in opposing the manner in which the United States Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights has enforced Title IX gender equality legislation. The 1972 Title IX law that states: "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance."[25][26][27]

Campus programs[edit]

The organization emphasizes traditional family roles and cultural norms as essential for civil society. In particular, IWF encourages young women to embrace what it presents as a healthy attitude towards dating, courtship, and marriage.[28] This emphasis is reflected by high-profile, sometimes controversial[29] work on college campuses where IWF sponsors advertising campaigns and literature distribution to promote its views. One such effort included the running of advertisements with provocative headings such as "The Ten Most Common Feminist Myths."[30] IWF also offers internships and sponsors an annual essay contest open to full-time female undergraduate students.[31]

As a reaction to reports of growing promiscuity on college campuses[32] and the V-Day movement founded by Eve Ensler, IWF created its "Take Back the Date" campus program to "reclaim Valentine's Day from radical feminists on campus who use a day of love and romance to promote vulgar and promiscuous behavior through activities like The Vagina Monologues."[33] Specifically addressing the controversial play, IWF's "Take Back the Date" release states that, "although the play raises money for a good cause, the hyper-sexualized play counteracts the positive contributions of the feminist movement and degrades women."

In an article in The Guardian, Jessica Valenti wrote that the program was merely "[r]evamping outdated notions of femininity and positioning them as cutting edge."[34]

International programs[edit]

Condoleezza Rice speaking to an IWF audience in 2006 after receiving the organization's "Woman of Valor" award.

Since its founding, IWF has sponsored numerous conferences, panels, and other programs designed to promote its message to an international audience. These primarily include activities and events discussing or taking place in the countries of Iraq[35] and Afghanistan, and focus on promoting female participation in democracy.[36]

The IWF has also had a hand in international women's programs and initiatives. For example, "in the spring of 2002, the IWF's President, Nancy Pfotenhauer, was appointed by U.S. President George W. Bush to be a delegate to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women."[37]

In October 2004, the Feminist Majority Foundation objected to the U.S. Department of State's decision to award part of a grant to IWF.[38] IWF's work in Iraq is in concert with that of the American Islamic Conference and the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a neo-conservative think tank.[citation needed]


Donors to IWF have included Donors Trust, the John William Pope Foundation, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Scaife Foundations, the Randolph Foundation, and the John M. Olin Foundation.[39][40][41]

Board members[edit]

IWF Chairman Heather Higgins appearing on Real Time with Bill Maher.

The board is chaired by businesswoman Heather Higgins with other members Yvonne Boice, Kellyanne Conway (temporary leave of absence), Giovanna Cugnasca, Nan Hayworth, Larry Kudlow, and Adele Malpass.[42] Directors emeritae of the organization include former Second Lady of the United States Lynne V. Cheney, writer Midge Decter, Kimberly O. Dennis, economist Wendy Lee Gramm, Elizabeth Lurie, journalist Kate O'Beirne, Nancy Pfotenhauer, Sally Pipes, Michaelon Wright, Randy Silberman, and Louise V. Oliver.[42]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Members Give: Independent Women's Forum (GivingExpress Program)". GuideStar.
  2. ^ Staff writer. "The Voices of the Independent Women's Forum". Independent Women's Forum. Archived from the original on October 8, 2007.
  3. ^ "Organizational Profile: Independent Women's Forum". National Center for Charitable Statistics (Urban Institute). Archived from the original on February 12, 2015.
  4. ^ a b Schreiber, Ronnee (2008). Righting Feminism: Conservative Women and American Politics. Oxford New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195331813. Publisher's details. Archived September 14, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ See also:
    • Holley, Joe (February 21, 2007). "Rosalie Silberman; Created Independent Women's Forum". The Washington Times. "The idea for the IWF was to provide a conservative alternative to feminist tenets."
    • Tabor, Nathan (January 23, 2007). "WF in the News: Strong Women for a Strong America". Independent Women's Forum. "However, our visitor from another planet would be surprised to discover there are many groups out there that represent conservative women who believe in equality but shun socialism and big government. One of those organizations is the Independent Women's Forum."
    • Schreiber, Ronnee (October 2002). "Injecting a woman's voice: Conservative women's organizations, gender consciousness, and the expression of women's policy preferences". Sex Roles. 47 (7): 331–342. doi:10.1023/A:1021479030885. "In this article I examine two national conservative women's organizations—the Concerned Women for America (CWA) and the Independent Women's Forum (IWF)—to show how conservative women leaders link gender identity and policy preferences. I describe these organizations below. Like feminists, these women, through their organizations, not only act collectively as women, but also bring a "woman's perspective" to policy issues. Although some scholars have not denied the impact of right-wing movements on feminist goals and activities (Conover & Gray, 1983; Klatch, 1987; Marshall, 1995), others have characterized conservative women as victims of false consciousness, pawns of conservative men or right-wing funders (Dworkin, 1983; Hammer, 2002), or women's auxillar[ies] of the conservative elite" (Kaminer, 1996), thus diminishing the attention and serious consideration appropriate to such a political force."
  6. ^ a b Holley, Joe (February 21, 2007). "Rosalie Silberman; Created Independent Women's Forum". Washington Post. Retrieved February 4, 2013.
  7. ^ a b Hoff Sommers, Christina (1995), "Women Under Siege", in Hoff Sommers, Christina (ed.), Who Stole Feminism?, New York: Touchstone/Simon & Schuster, p. 22, ISBN 9780671794248.
  8. ^ Chapin, Bernard (February 7, 2007). "Post Super Bowl Feminism". The American Spectator. Retrieved May 9, 2015.
  9. ^ Pozner, Jennifer (1997), "Female Anti-Feminism for Fame and Profit", in Cowan, Rich (ed.), Uncovering the Right on Campus: a Guide to Resisting Conservative Attacks on Equality and Social Justice, Houston, TX Cambridge, MA: Center for Campus Organizing, ISBN 9780945210078. Excerpt.
  10. ^ "IWF Celebration Dinner and Woman of Valor Award". Independent Women's Forum. May 27, 2005. Archived from the original on August 28, 2008.
  11. ^ Spindel, Barbara (2003). "Conservatism as the "Sensible Middle": The Independent Women's Forum, Politics, and the Media". Social Text. 21: 99.
  12. ^ a b "Independent Women; Independent Women's Forum Members speak out on their views of feminism vs. the traditional". 60 Minutes. August 11, 1996.
  13. ^ McVeigh, Karen (January 10, 2012). "Does the GOP have a problem with women?". The Guardian.
  14. ^ Schreiber, Ronnee (2011), "Pro-Women, Pro-Palin, Antifeminist: Conservative Women and Conservative Movement Politics", in Peele, Gillian; Aberbach, Joel D. (eds.), Crisis of Conservatism? The Republican Party, the Conservative Movement, & American Politics After Bush, Oxford New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 134–135, ISBN 9780199764020.
  15. ^ Lukas, Carrie (April 15, 2007). "Women's own choices may be behind wage gap". Dallas Morning News. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007.
  16. ^ a b Schreiber, Ronnee (2008). Righting Feminism: Conservative Women & American Politics. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 67.
  17. ^ Chavez, Linda (April 6, 1999). "How to spend Equal Pay Day". Jewish World Review.
  18. ^ Stossel, John (December 5, 2006). "Women's Progress: Damsels in Distress?". Capitalism Magazine.
  19. ^ "Sarah Palin: New Face Of Feminism?". All Things Considered. NPR. September 7, 2008.
  20. ^ Schreiber, Ronnee (2008). Righting Feminism: Conservative Women and American Politics. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195331813. Archived from the original on September 14, 2008.
  21. ^ Editorial (February 2, 2013). "Dangerous Gun Myths". New York Times. Retrieved February 4, 2013.
  22. ^ Rachel Maddow Show. MSNBC (Microsoft and NBC Universal). Archived from the original on August 6, 2009. Retrieved September 17, 2009.
  23. ^ Kurokawa, Nicole (August 20, 2009). "IWF in the News: Battling Cancer Under Obamacare". Independent Women's Forum. Archived from the original on September 17, 2009. Retrieved September 17, 2009.
  24. ^ "A False Appeal to Women's Fears". September 4, 2009. Retrieved February 4, 2013.
  25. ^ 20 U.S.C. § 1681
  26. ^ Fredricka Whitfield (host), Scott Palmer former deputy assistant secretary of the United States Department of Education (guest), and Christine Stolba, Independent Women's Forum (guest) (June 30, 2002). Interview With Scott Palmer, Christine Stolba (Television (transcript)). Sunday Morning. CNN.
  27. ^ Schaeffer, Sabrina (January 18, 2012). "Title IX and the Trouble With Quotas". The Huffington Post.
  28. ^ Glenn, Norval; Marquardt, Elizabeth (2001). Hooking up, hanging out, and hoping for Mr. Right: college women on mating and dating today. Institute for American Values. Pdf.
  29. ^ Morse, Anne (September 1, 1999). "A little beige controversy". Boundless. Focus on the Family. Archived from the original on December 19, 2011.
  30. ^ Young, Cathy (May 31, 2001). "Ad anger". Reason.
  31. ^ "Mrs. Cheney honors IWF essay contest winners". Independent Women's Forum. May 23, 2006.
  32. ^ Denizet-Lewis, Benoit (May 30, 2004). "Friends, friends with benefits and the benefits of the local mall". The New York Times.
  33. ^ Harris, Lynn (February 7, 2007). ""Take back the date" have radical feminists ruined romance?".
  34. ^ Valenti, Jessica (July 28, 2006). "Chastity is chic". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group.
  35. ^ "Project: Women in Iraq: The War in Iraq, The War Against Terrorism, and The Fight for Democratic Freedom". Independent Women's Forum. Archived from the original on June 21, 2007.
  36. ^ Lukas, Carrie; Noory, Lida (February 9, 2006). "Afghan Optimism". National Review Online. Archived from the original on January 10, 2008.
  37. ^ Schreiber, Ronnee (2002). "Injecting a Woman's Voice: Conservative Women's Organizations, Gender Consciousness, and the Expression of Women's Policy Preferences". Sex Roles. 47 (7–8): 331–342. doi:10.1023/A:1021479030885. ISSN 0360-0025.
  38. ^ Staff writer (October 5, 2004). "State Department Funds Anti-Women's Rights Group To Train Iraqi Women". Feminist Majority Foundation. Archived from the original on February 6, 2005.
  39. ^ Greenberg, Zoe (January 20, 2015). "Major Conservative Women's Group Hides Anti-Choice Connections". RH Reality Check. Retrieved May 8, 2015.
  40. ^ Shipps, Joan (November 25, 2014). "Look Who's Funding This Top Conservative Women's Group". Inside Philanthropy. Retrieved May 8, 2015.
  41. ^ "John M. Olin Foundation". SourceWatch. Retrieved April 11, 2017.
  42. ^ a b "About Us". Independent Women's Forum. Retrieved May 9, 2015.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]