(Excerpted from The Young Hipublicans by John Colapinto
New York Times Magazine – May 25, 2003)
If the interest groups have worked hard to retrofit the college conservative movement as a right-wing version of the leftist Berkeley Free Speech Movement of the 1960’s, they have worked equally hard to frame the conservative women’s movement on campuses as a new brand of empowering feminism. A number of well-financed and highly organized conservative women’s groups in Washington have been instrumental in leading the charge, among them the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute and the Independent Women’s Forum. The latter has started a “Take Back the Campus” crusade, in which an array of well-known right-wing women are brought to colleges by the activist conservative clubs to explore such questions (as the Independent Women’s Forum Web site puts it) as “whether women’s-studies programs actually harm women with misleading feminist myths of women as victims.” (The answer, according to the I.W.F., would be an emphatic yes.) Regular speakers on campus include Phyllis Schlafly, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Ann Coulter, Katherine Harris and Christina Hoff Sommers, author of “Who Stole Feminism?” and “The War Against Boys.” These women preach that the preponderance of women’s-studies classes and the proliferation on campuses of Take Back the Night marches, sex and dating rules and rape-awareness lectures all of which are aimed at making women feel empowered on campus in fact do precisely the opposite: they infantilize.
One Bucknell conservatives club member, Allison Kasic, buys it. She’s a 19-year-old who just finished her sophomore year, and she writes a regular column in The Counterweight and has her own rock-music show each Monday on the college radio station. Raised in Littleton, Col., the daughter of an administrative judge, she is a confident, tough young woman who wears little makeup and favors jeans and T-shirts. As a management major concentrating in marketing, she sees the importance of selling a new brand of conservatism to female students. There’s the old stereotype of the WASP-y country-club wife or the Bible-study mom from the Midwest,” Kasic says. “But that’s not what conservative women are anymore. Kasic, instead, points to ‘stiletto conservatives’ like Hoff Sommers and Coulter. “We have role models now,” she says. “Hip, strong women who exude the message: “I don’t need hand-holding just because I’m a woman.” Kasic herself plans to be a working woman when she graduates (“I’m no soccer mom,” she laughs; “I don’t even like kids”), but she respects women who choose a different path to be homemakers, like her own mother. “Conservatives are inclusive in a way that liberals are not,” she says, voicing a central theme of the Independent Women’s Forum ethos. “We say that women can be executives or stay-at-home mothers.” Kasic extends this notion to the abortion debate. Herself an anti-abortion Catholic, she says that the Republican Party today nevertheless supports candidates who espouse the right to abortion. “But the National Organization for Women has never supported a pro-life candidate,” she says, as proof of the left’s narrowness and the right’s ‘diversity’ (a term the conservative movement has deliberately co-opted from the left).
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