No One Who Values Liberty Can Be Called a Feminist
Can a conservative be a feminist in America today? Liberal feminists cited in a USA Today article say no, either because conservatives are pro-life or they don’t support structural and institutional changes that are necessary to stop the oppression of women and their overlapping identities of race, sexual orientation, and religion.
As a conservative who deeply values individual liberty, I agree with them. This puts me at odds with many “conservative feminists” who insist on keeping the term. Some are pro-life feminists who tell liberals they don’t need “permission” to be called feminists, because they support the rights of all women — even those in the womb.
Others focus on individual rights. Kellyanne Conway, who admitted that it’s difficult to be a feminist today because it’s pro-abortion and anti-male, defined feminism her own way:
There's an individual feminism, if you will, that you make your own choices. ... I look at myself as a product of my choices, not a victim of my circumstances. That's really to me what conservative feminism, if you will, is all about.
Feminists descended on her in droves pointing to the definition in Merriam-Webster as the standard: Feminism is defined as “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.” In other words, if you say you’re not a feminist in the “classical sense,” as Conway did, then you don’t care about women’s equal rights or opportunities.
Other conservative feminists call themselves “opportunity feminists” to answer this challenge. This feminism, as reported in USA Today, “prioritizes equality of opportunity over equality of outcome, meaning that so long as women have the same opportunities as men in education, the workplace and politics, it doesn’t matter if they are represented in equal numbers.”
Many conservative or libertarian feminists say they retain the label because we always have to be on guard against creeping threats to our rights. To that, I say “Amen.” But this is true for all Americans, not just women. Our efforts to be ever vigilant should include our brothers, not just our sisters, in the never-ending fight against evil.
Intersectional feminists — those that believe women’s intersecting identities, such as race and sexual orientation, etc., “impact the way they experience oppression and discrimination” -- reject all these definitions because they’re not part of the great political struggle against “the system.”
“For them [conservatives], there’s a very narrow view of what feminism is and also a very ahistorical view,” said Ronnee Schreiber, author of the book Righting Feminism: Conservative Women and American Politics. “Feminism isn't just about a personal identification. It’s a political and historical movement.”
This is what feminism has become in the West, which means it’s not really about women at all.