In May of last year, Sarah Palin told an audience of more than 500 pro-life women at a Susan B. Anthony breakfast that they represented an “emerging, conservative, feminist identity” with a growing ability to influence policy.
But according to the mother of the conservative women’s movement, Phyllis Schlafly, Palin and her kind are not and never could be feminists.
“Palin is not a feminist because she doesn’t adopt the victimology notion of the feminists,” Schlafly told The Daily Caller. “Jessica Valenti defined feminism in the Washington Post a few weeks ago as people who believe the patriarchy oppresses women and women can never succeed.”
Schlafly says that while the new breed of conservative women are strong and empowered they are the opposite of what it means to be a feminist.
“A litmus test for feminists is to agree with abortion and Obamacare and so I think there is really no such thing as a conservative feminist. They are the women of the left,” Schlafly said. “[The feminists] are really spooked by Palin because she’s done everything and she is a success. Besides she is pretty and they cannot stand her.”
Conservative women this election cycle made a concerted effort to take the word “feminist” from the left. Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, was part of that effort.
“Moving up to the primary endorsement process, we intentionally started a conversation about women’s rights and what is at the center of it, what shouldn’t be at the center,” Dannenfelser told TheDC. “The women’s movement in its current form has abortion at the core and that is why we have started a dialogue about what true feminism is. It is not because I have ever labeled myself a feminist, but we really felt we needed to take them on on their own ground.”
With conservative women who deny any connection to the word feminist, such as Schlafly, on one side and conservatives like Dannenfelser on the other, it is apparent that even within their own ranks there is no “safe” way to categorize the “mamma grizzlies” who have garnered so much power of late.
“This word [feminist] is like a Rorschach test. I feel like if somebody wants to call themselves a feminist and they believe in women’s equality and think that women should have equal opportunities, then I think that is their right. If Sarah Palin wants to self-identify as a feminist then she should be able to do so,” Carrie Lukas, executive director of the Independent Women’s Forum, told TheDC. “I always hesitate to answer when somebody asks me if I am a feminist. You won’t get a yes or no answer from me, but you will get a long hemming and hawing from me about what the term means.”
While women try to figure out whether they can or will fit the feminist mold, Penny Nance, CEO of Concerned Women for America, says it makes sense to reinvigorate and popularize an entirely different identity, that of the traditionalist.
“We have been grappling with what feminists have said traditional women are and what they really are,” Nance told TheDC. “Traditional women were strong and are strong, all the way back to Biblical times, Roman days, the suffragists, and today. Strong, conservative, traditional women are the norm. [Feminists] have tried to paint traditional women as subjugated, down-trodden and uneducated. And what I am saying is that is not the case.”
Nance says that she has no problem with women such as Palin embracing the word feminist. For Nance, however, it makes a lot of sense to revive and herald the label traditionalist.