List of conservative feminisms

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Some variants of feminism are considered more conservative than others.[1][2][3] Historically feminist scholars tend to not have much interest in conservative women but in recent years there have been efforts at greater scholarly analysis of these women and their views.[4][5][6]

Because almost any variant of feminism can have a conservative element, this list does not attempt to list variants of feminism simply with conservative elements. Instead, this list is of feminism variants that are primarily conservative.


This list may include organizations or individuals where a conservative feminism is more readily identified that way, but is primarily a list of feminisms per se. Generally, organizations and people related to a feminism should not be in this list but should be found by following links to articles about various feminisms with which such organizations and people are associated.

  • backlash feminism: see new conservative feminism in this list
  • balanced feminism: see right-wing feminism in this list
  • conservative feminism (in addition to various feminisms in this list and that are conservative):
    • Katherine Kersten objects "that in many of their endeavors women continue to face greater obstacles to their success than men do",[7] thus acknowledging that sexism exists,[8] and does not reject feminism entirely but draws on a classical feminist tradition, for example Margaret Fuller.[9] Kersten advocates for conservative feminism based on equality and justice defined alike for women and men and acknowledgment of historical and present injustice suffered by women.[10] She also advocates building on Western ideals and institutions, with reform pursued slowly and cautiously and accepting that human failings mean that perfection is unattainable.[10] Her concerns include crime and violence against women, cultural popular media's degradation of women, noncommittal sex, and poverty's feminization,[10] but opposing affirmative action and class action litigation.[11]
    • Sarah Palin "made her case for conservative feminism" in 2010, at a meeting of the Susan B. Anthony List.[12]
    • Richard A. Posner "suggest[s]" "'conservative feminism' .... is ... the idea that women are entitled to political, legal, social, and economic equality to men, in the framework of a lightly regulated market economy."[13] Posner tentatively argues for taxing housewives' at-home unpaid work to reduce a barrier to paid outside work[14] (argued by D. Kelly Weisberg to be rooted in a Marxist feminist argument for waged housework)[15] and argues for sex being a factor in setting wages and benefits in accordance with productivity, health costs with pregnancy, on-the-job safety, and longevity for pensions.[16] Posner is against comparable worth among private employers,[17] against no-fault divorce,[18] in favour of surrogate motherhood by binding contract,[19] against rape even in the form of nonviolent sex,[20] and for a possibility that pornography may either incite rape or substitute for it.[21] Posner does not argue for or against an abortion right, arguing instead for a possibility but not a certainty that the fetus is "a member of society"[22] because libertarianism and economics do not say one way or the other.[23][a][b][c][d] Posner argues that the differences between the genders on average include women's lesser aggressiveness and greater child-centeredness[24] and has "no quarrel" with law being empathetic to "all marginal groups".[25]
  • domestic feminism: see old conservative feminism in this list
  • Anti-pornography feminism seek to outlaw pornography because it degrades women. They are also labelled as SWERFs, Sex Worker exclusionary radical feminists.
  • equity feminism
  • individualist feminism was cast to appeal to "younger women ... of a more conservative generation"[26] and includes concepts from Rene Denfeld and Naomi Wolf, essentially that "feminism should no longer be about communal solutions to communal problems but individual solutions to individual problems",[26] and concepts from Wendy McElroy
  • Evangelical Protestant Christian profeminism ("Karen .... articulates the Evangelical [Protestant] profeminist position particularly well. Like profeminist Catholics and Jews, she feels that the women's liberation movement was a necessary response to the oppression of women. She praises the achievements of feminism in society as well as in Evangelical communities and insists that sexism persists and that further changes are necessary. Yet Karen, too, criticizes the movement for seeking to eliminate gender differences, devaluing motherhood and homemaking, and being led by extremists who do not represent ordinary American women, particularly with respect to the issues of homosexuality and abortion. Her comments on the latter two issues ... resemble ... closely the statements made by antifeminist Evangelicals.")[27]
  • National Woman's Party, in the U.S., was led by Alice Paul, described as "[articulating a] narrow and conservative version of feminism".[28]
  • new Catholic feminism, embraced by conservative Catholic women as a form of reconciling their struggle for equality with the Church's official teachings on women. Influenced by Personalism and Phenomenology, as well as Pope John Paul II's Mulieris dignitatem, this school is represented by historian Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, theologians Alice Von Hildebrand, Prudence Allen and Robert Stackpole, journalist Colleen Carroll Campbell, among others.
  • new conservative feminism,[29] or backlash feminism,[e] is arguably antifeminist[30] and is represented by Betty Friedan in The Second Stage and Jean Bethke Elshtain in Public Man, Private Woman and anticipated by Alice Rossi, A Biosocial Perspective on Parenting.[31] These authors do not necessarily agree with each other on all major points.[32] According to Judith Stacey, new conservative feminism rejects the politicization of sexuality, supports families, gender differentiation, femininity, and mothering, and deprioritizes opposition to male domination.[33]
  • old conservative feminism or domestic feminism, from the 19th century[34]
  • postfeminism
  • right-wing feminism,[35] or balanced feminism,[36] includes the work of Independent Women's Forum, Feminists for Life of America, and headed by Wendy McElroy. It generally draws on principles of first-wave feminism[37] and against both postfeminism and academic or radical feminism,[38] the latter being defined to include left and progressive politics, not only feminism based on gender oppression.[39] Right-wing feminism supports both motherhood and women having careers[40] and both individuality and biological determinism;[41] it accepts gender equality in careers while believing that numerical equality will naturally not occur in all occupations.[42]
  • state feminism
  • Womansurge: see Women's Equity Action League in this list
  • Women's Equity Action League (WEAL) was formed originally by some of the more conservative members of the National Organization for Women (NOW), when NOW was viewed as radical.[43][44] The members who founded WEAL focused on employment and education, and shunned issues of contraception and abortion.[45] Its founders called it a "'conservative NOW'".[44] Its methods were "conventional", especially lobbying and lawsuits.[44] The departures from NOW left NOW freer to pursue reproductive freedom and the Equal Rights Amendment.[44] "[T]he fragmentation process, as organizations broke up and reformed, .... retained women within the movement who might otherwise have left it. This is what happened in the case of NOW, when it split up over internal divisions, and new feminism was nevertheless able to retain the most conservative elements through the formation of WEAL. At first, in fact, WEAL called itself the 'right wing of the women's movement.' Another NOW spinoff, Womansurge, tended to attract older women, who felt more comfortable in it than in NOW, which was becoming more politically radical under the influence of a new younger generation of militants."[46]
  • In the United Kingdom, it is now common for prominent women in the Conservative Party to declare that they are feminists; this trend began with Theresa May wearing a t-shirt by the Fawcett Society emblazoned with the words 'This is What a Feminist Looks Like'. Today, British female Conservative Parliamentarians claim that they are feminists, and claim feminist justification, while advocating a range of policies, from equal career opportunities for women to, in the case of Anna Soubry and others, opposing pornography. The Conservative MP Nadine Dorries has even put forward a feminist argument for restricting abortion.[47]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Adam Smith, pioneer of political economy and philosopher in the 18th century
  2. ^ John Stuart Mill, philosopher and political economist in the 19th century
  3. ^ Herbert Spencer, political theorist and philosopher in the Victorian era
  4. ^ Milton Friedman, economist in the 20th century
  5. ^ This is apparently not entirely the backlash written about by feminist author Susan Faludi.


  1. ^ Kersten, Katherine (Spring 1991). "What do women want? A conservative feminist manifesto". Policy Review. The Heritage Foundation (56): 4–15. If the conservative feminist becomes a mother, she accepts the need to make a host of sacrifices - personal, professional, and financial - for her children's sake. She expects her spouse to sacrifice as well, and decides together with him how each can best contribute to the family welfare. She believes that family roles are flexible: men can become primary caregivers, for example, while women can pursue full-time careers. But as she and her spouse make choices about family responsibilities, they take one thing as a given: their primary duty is to ensure their children's physical and emotional well-being, to promote their intellectual development, and to shape their moral characters.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  2. ^ Young, Cathy (9 June 2010). "Right to be feminist: a left-wing litmus test risks losing valuable allies for the women's movement". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 20 February 2011. Yet the audience for a different kind of feminism – one that seeks individualistic and market-oriented solutions, rather than big-government-driven ones, and focuses on women's empowerment rather than oppression – is clearly there. The women who embrace it are likely to transform both feminism and conservatism. The feminist movement ignores them at its peril.
  3. ^ Bradley, Allan (27 June 2010). "Conservative feminism: oxymoron?". HPRgument Blog. Harvard Political Review. Retrieved 20 February 2011. Internal contradictions aside, conservative feminism is not particularly new, and it is a mistake to call it an oxymoron. It is deeply religious, of course, and it views the anti-abortion fight as one of female empowerment. The argument is simply that as women – as the motherly and feminine forces guiding our nation's ethical compass – it is a feminine duty to defend life at its earliest stages. Women are empowered by the defense itself. This cultural theory may be out of date in Cambridge, Massachusetts, but it is at the heart of Palin's sizeable and passionate following. And it is, in its own way, a feminist argument.
    My point is that the logic of conservative feminism is plain and obvious for anyone who cares to try to comprehend. It's not new or complicated, and it shouldn't be baffling. Therefore, it is a colossal mistake for Bennett to simply dismiss the self-described pro-life feminists as an oxymoron, because that's no way for her to argue her liberal position. Conservative feminism cannot be dismissively defined away.
  4. ^ Power, Margaret. "More than mere pawns: Right-wing women in Chile." Journal of Women's History 16, no. 3 (2004): 138-151.
  5. ^ Guy-Meakin, Amelia. "Augusto Pinochet and the Support of Chilean Right-Wing Women." E-International Relations Students (2012).
  6. ^ Nielsen, Kim E. "Doing the" right" right." Journal of Women's History 16, no. 3 (2004): 168-172.
  7. ^ Dillard 2005, p. 25 citing Kersten, Katherine, What Do Women Want?: A Conservative Feminists Manifesto. [sic], in Policy Review (1991).
  8. ^ Dillard 2005, pp. 25–26.
  9. ^ Dillard 2005, pp. 26–27.
  10. ^ a b c Dillard 2005, p. 26.
  11. ^ Dillard 2005, p. 27.
  12. ^ Feldmann 2010.
  13. ^ Posner 1989, pp. 191–192 cited in Weisberg 1993, p. 7
  14. ^ Posner 1989, pp. 192–194 and Weisberg 1993, p. 7 (without the rationale about reducing a barrier).
  15. ^ Weisberg 1993, p. 7.
  16. ^ Posner 1989, pp. 195–197.
  17. ^ Posner 1989, pp. 202–203.
  18. ^ Posner 1989, p. 204 n.22.
  19. ^ Posner 1989, pp. 205–206.
  20. ^ Posner 1989, pp. 206–207; also see p. 203 (date and marital rape).
  21. ^ Posner 1989, pp. 207.
  22. ^ Posner 1989, pp. 207–209.
  23. ^ Posner 1989, p. 208 (libertarians being "conservatives in the classical liberal tradition of Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill ..., Herbert Spencer ... and Milton Friedman", per id., p. 191.
  24. ^ Posner 1989, p. 215.
  25. ^ Posner 1989, p. 217.
  26. ^ a b Siegel 2007, pp. 122–124, nn.32–34.
  27. ^ Manning 1999, p. 190.
  28. ^ Echols 1989, p. 12.
  29. ^ Stacey 1983, p. 559.
  30. ^ Stacey 1983, p. 574.
  31. ^ Rossi, Alice, A Biosocial Perspective on Parenting, in Daedalus 106 (special issue on the family, Spring, 1977), as cited in Stacey 1983, p. [559] n.3.
  32. ^ Stacey 1983, pp. 562, 567–568.
  33. ^ Stacey 1983, pp. 561–562.
  34. ^ Stacey 1983, pp. 575, n.53 citing, e.g., Epstein, Barbara Leslie, The Politics of Domesticity: Women, Evangelism, and Temperance in Nineteenth-Century America (Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan Univ. Press, 1981), Sklar, Kathryn Kish, Catharine Beecher: A Study in American Domesticity (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1973), & DuBois, Ellen Carol, Feminism and Suffrage: The Emergence of an Independent Women's Movement in America, 1848–1869 (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1978).
  35. ^ Bailey 2006, p. 173.
  36. ^ Bailey 2006, p. 175.
  37. ^ Bailey 2006, p. 177.
  38. ^ Bailey 2006, p. 176.
  39. ^ Bailey 2006, p. 174.
  40. ^ Bailey 2006, pp. 180–181.
  41. ^ Bailey 2006, pp. 181–182.
  42. ^ Bailey 2006, p. 182.
  43. ^ Castro 1990, pp. 62, 216-218.
  44. ^ a b c d Siegel 2007, p. 83.
  45. ^ Castro 1990, pp. 62, 216–218.
  46. ^ Siegel 2007, p. 176 "new feminism" is probably the author's term not referring to the new feminism related to Roman Catholicism but perhaps to second-wave feminism generally) (fragmentation prob. referring to late 1960s–early 1970s in U.S.).
  47. ^ Swift 2018.


Further reading[edit]


  • Dworkin, Andrea, Right-Wing Women: The Politics of Domesticated Females (N.Y.: Coward-McCann (also Wideview/Perigee Book), 1983)
  • Young, Cathy, Ceasefire!: Why Women and Men Must Join Forces to Achieve True Equality (N.Y.: Free Press, 1999 (ISBN 0-684-83442-1)); she argues for a "philosophy" (id., p. 10 (Introduction: The Gender Wars)) and "do[es]n't know if this philosophy should be called feminism or something else" (id., p. 11 (Introduction))



  1. ^ As cited in Dillard, Angela D., Adventures in Conservative Feminism, op. cit., p. 26.
  2. ^ Burfitt-Dons, Louise. "The Successes and failures of feminism". Conservative Home. Retrieved 21 February 2014.