Women in conservatism in the United States

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Women in conservatism in the United States have advocated for social, political, economic, and cultural conservative policies since Anti-suffragism.[1] Leading conservative women such as Phyllis Schlafly have expressed that women should embrace their privileged essential nature.[2] This thread of belief can be traced through the Anti-Suffrage movement, the Red Scare, and the Reagan Era, and is still very much present today, especially in several notable conservative women's organizations such as Concerned Women for America and the Independent Women's Forum.[3]

History[edit]

Phyllis Schlafly

Anti-suffragism[edit]

Women first began to oppose suffrage in Massachusetts in 1868. They succeeded in blocking the proposal, and this caused the movement to gain momentum.[4] The National Association Opposed to Women Suffrage (NAOWS) was thus formed by Josephine Dodge in 1911 with approximately 350,000 members. This organization mostly consisted of wealthy women who were often wives of politicians.[1] These women helped defeat nearly 40 suffrage proposals, and published the Women's Protest in order to voice their agenda nationwide.[1] Dodge and the organization argued that women should stay out of politics in order to be more efficient and diligent in "work for which her nature and her training fit her."[5] These anti-feminist beliefs are what shaped the anti-suffrage crusade.[1]

The Goldwater campaign[edit]

A major source of conservative women's activism was in Southern California in the 1950s and 1960s, particularly in Orange County, California. These women mainly consisted of "suburban warriors," or middle class housewives who feared that their Christian nation was under attack. Increasing Cold War tensions and fears of Communism allowed for these women to mobilize groups such as the John Birch Society and the American Civil Liberties Union to pursue their political agendas.[3] They eventually backed politician Barry Goldwater and successfully campaigned for him to become the presidential candidate for the Republican Party in 1964. However, Goldwater lost the national election to Lyndon Johnson in a landslide.[3] Still, his nomination illustrated the shift from moderation to more hardline stances in many members of the Republican Party. His campaign also showcased the success of conservative grassroots organizations and mobilization.[6]

The Reagan Era[edit]

After Goldwater's defeat, grassroots conservatives had to rethink their strategy. Thus, conservative women soon turned to Ronald Reagan. He won over the support of the women of Orange County and successfully unified the party when he was elected Governor of California in the 1966 election. However, there were some women that opposed him due to his more mainstream views. Cyril Stevenson, a prominent leader of the California Republican Assembly, sought to undermine his candidacy. These attempts failed, nevertheless, as Reagan was elected.[3] However, a significantly lower amount of women than men voted for Reagan when he was eventually elected President of the United States. Reagan gained the support of more conservative women by attempting to close this "gender gap." He enacted equal rights policies attempting to end discrimination laws.[7] Still, Reagan's election showed that the new Republican majority, although still coined "mainstream," was now built on anti-liberalism and contained more conservative views, and conservative women activists like the women of Orange County played a very important role in that shift.[3]

In politics today[edit]

Sarah Palin[edit]

In 2010, Sarah Palin, whose nomination to run for Vice President with Republican presidential candidate John McCain was a visible ascent of a conservative woman in 2008, declared a new voice for those women and supported many women for Congress whom she labeled "Mama Grizzlies."[8] Although many conservative women believe women should stay out of politics and in the home, those women still supported Palin because of her stances against abortion and other issues that defy feminists; her "soccer mom" persona also was very appealing.[9] Although women's perception of started favorably, it steadily declined, especially after her arguably disastrous interview with Katie Couric. Thus, she was only able to rally the Republican base, failing to do so with women voters, and Palin and McCain lost the general election.[10]

Michele Bachmann[edit]

Michele Bachmann unsuccessfully ran for the Republican nomination for president in the 2012 election. Although Bachmann attempted to utilize conservative views that appeal to the Tea Party movement, the conservative media's coverage of her was very different from her male candidates. The media instead focused on her migraines, her marriage, and her hair and makeup style choices.[11] However, her campaign started strongly, as she performed well in the first presidential debate and soon led in the primary polls. Bachmann was forced to drop out of the race after her poor performance in the Iowa caucuses.[12] Still, many conservative women continue to support her, and this support along with that of Sarah Palin in 2008 shows that conservatives now seriously consider women for major political roles.[9][13] Bachmann's run also sparked the debate of women's role in politics and public policy, and whether or not gender roles should be reexamined.[13]

Carly Fiorina[edit]

Carly Fiorina began as a successful businesswoman, becoming the CEO of Hewlett-Packard in 1999. However, Fiorina was fired from her position in 2005 due to a number of factors such as economic conditions, operational failures, gender bias, and questionable ethics.[14] Fiorina turned to politics and won the Republican nomination for senator of California in 2010, but lost to incumbent democrat Barbara Boxer. She quickly gathered acclaim from the Republican base, and was appointed chair of the American Conservative Union Foundation in 2013.[15] In 2015, she announced her candidacy for President of the United States. Although she was the only viable female candidate in the Republican primary, she was reluctant to indulge in gender politics, due to both her conservative and corporate personas.[16] Fiorina dropped out of the race in February 2016 to endorse Ted Cruz, and soon became his running mate.[15]

Ann Coulter

Notable figures[edit]

Ann Coulter[edit]

Ann Coulter is an extremely controversial figure. Coulter's views are very conservative and she continually advocates for those views. As a political commentator, Coulter helped lead the conservative media's attack on Barack Obama's birth simultaneously accusing Obama of "playing the race card."[17] Since Coulter has written numerous books and columns, and often appears as a political commentator on conservative television, she is one of the most recognizable and influential voices for conservative women today, as she has started many conservative political trends such as the continual critique of mainstream liberalism.[18]

Phyllis Schlafly[edit]

Sarah Palin

Phyllis Schlafly's views have also been extremely controversial, even to conservatives. Schlafly argues that the female gender is actually privileged, and that women have "the most rights and rewards, and the fewest duties."[2] She advocates for women to embrace their, according to her, biological nature, and to stay out of politics and the workplace. She continually argues against feminists and claims that they actually take away rights from women.[2] She thus led the opposition against the Equal Rights Amendment, and successfully stopped it from becoming law.[19] Schlafly opposed the amendment not only because it stripped women of their special privilege in her eyes, but it was also anti-Christian because it promoted anti-Christian policies such as abortion, sex education, and LGTBQ rights. She also disliked the power it would give to federal courts and take away from the states.[20]

Other Figures[edit]

Organizations[edit]

Concerned Women for America[edit]

Concerned Women for America is a religious organization that seeks to promote Christian values. The ideology falls under that of Social conservatism. Their agenda includes stopping the "decline in moral values of our nation,"[21] restricting access to pornography, defunding the United Nations, defining the definition of family as heterosexually led, opposing abortion, and advocating for prayer in schools. The CWA promotes anti-feminist ideologies, such as a woman's primary role is that of a mother and homemaker, while simultaneously engaging in identity politics in order to attempt to prove this.[1]

Independent Women's Forum[edit]

The Independent Women's Forum is a organization based more in Economic Conservatism. Unlike the CWA, their agenda includes opposition to the Violence Against Women Act, supporting the war in Iraq and women's rights there, challenging feminist professors on college campuses, opposing affirmative action, and other economic conservative policies. However, IWF is more based in Libertarianism than the Republican Party, since they strive for economic freedom.[1] Similarly to CWA, IWF also engages in identity politics in order to attract career women to their organization; they advocate, ironically, against the very principles that allowed for them to succeed. IWF is relatively small at 1,600 members, but is constantly growing and thriving.[22]

Other organizations[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f Schreiber, Ronnee (2008). Righting Feminism: Conservative Women & American Politics. New York: Oxford University Press. 
  2. ^ a b c Schlafly, Phyllis (2003). Feminist Fantasies. Spence Publishing Company. 
  3. ^ a b c d e McGirr, Lisa (2001). Suburban Warriors: The Origins of the New American Right. Oxfordshire: Princeton University Press. 
  4. ^ Jablonsky, Thomas (2002). "Female Opposition: The Anti-Suffrage Campaign". Votes for Women. Oxford University Press: 118–129. 
  5. ^ Dodge, Arthur (1914). "Woman Suffrage Opposed to Women's Rights". American Academy of Political and Social Science. 56: 104. 
  6. ^ Mulloy, D (2014). The World of the John Birch Society : Conspiracy, Conservatism, and the Cold War. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press. 
  7. ^ Chappell, Marissa (2012). "Reagan's "Gender Gap" Strategy and the Limitations of Free-Market Feminism". Journal of Policy History. Cambridge University Press. 24: 115–134. 
  8. ^ "What Does 'Mama Grizzly' Really Mean?". Newsweek. 2010-09-27. Retrieved 2016-12-17. 
  9. ^ a b Sharrow, Elizabeth A.; Strolovitch, Dara Z.; Heaney, Michael T.; Masket, Seth E.; Miller, Joanne M. (2016). "Gender Attitudes, Gendered Partisanship: Feminism and Support for Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton among Party Activists". Journal of Women, Politics & Policy. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group. 37: 394–416. 
  10. ^ Brox, Brian J.; Cassels, Madison L. (2009). "The Contemporary Effects of Vice-Presidential Nominees: Sarah Palin and the 2008 Presidential Campaign". Journal of Political Marketing. Taylor & Francis Group. 8: 349. 
  11. ^ Bystrom, Dianne; Dimitrova, Daniela V. "Migraines, Marriage, and Mascara: Media Coverage of Michele Bachmann in the 2012 Republican Presidential Campaign". American Behavioral Scientist. SAGE Publications. 58: 1169–1182. 
  12. ^ Greenwood, Molly M.; Coker, Calvin R. (2016). "The political is personal: analyzing the presidential primary debate performances of Hillary Clinton and Michele Bachmann". Argumentation and Advocacy. American Forensic Association. 52: 165. 
  13. ^ a b Schreiber, Ronnee (2016). "Gender Roles, Motherhood, and Politics: Conservative Women's Organizations Frame Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann". Journal of Women, Politics, & Policy. Routledge. 27: 1–23. 
  14. ^ Johnson, Craig (2008). "The Rise and Fall of Carly Fiorina: An Ethical Case Study". Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies. SAGE Publications. 15: 188–196. 
  15. ^ a b Stewart, Alan (2016). "Fiorina, Carly". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc. 
  16. ^ Caughell, Leslie (2016). "When Playing the Woman Card is Playing Trump: Assessing the Efficacy of Framing Campaigns as Historic". PS, Political Science & Politics. 49. 
  17. ^ Hughey, Matthew W.; Parks, Gregory S. (2014). The Wrongs of the Right: Language, Race, and the Republican Party in the Age of Obama. New York University Press. 
  18. ^ Chambers, Samuel; Finlayson, Alan (2008). "Ann Coulter and the Problem of Pluralism: From Values to Politics". The American Historical Review. Borderlands. 7. 
  19. ^ Osgood, Kenneth (2009). "Phyllis Schlafly and Grassroots Conservativism". American Communist History. Routledge. 8: 127–129. 
  20. ^ Critchlow, Donald T. (2005). Phyllis Schlafly and Grassroots Conservatism: A Woman's Crusade. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 
  21. ^ "Concerned Women for America". concernedwomen.org. Retrieved 2016-12-17. 
  22. ^ Spindel, Barbara (2003). "Conservatism as the "Sensible Middle": The Independent Women's Forum, Politics, and the Media". Social Text. Duke University Press. 21: 99–125. 

External links[edit]