Pegged to Megyn Kelly's recent on-air confrontations with Donald Trump and Newt Gingrich, The Week posits a new kind of conservative woman in an article headlined "Megyn Kelly and the Ascendance of Conservative Women."
Unfortunately, you'd have to buy into an erroneous stereotype of conservative women as shrinking violets not to be annoyed by the article. But here's the gist of it:
Megyn Kelly's confrontation with Gingrich is a distillation of this looming battle between Republican men and women. While Kelly herself identifies as independent, she's long been recognized as the conservative network's rising star. The Kelly File gets the second-highest ratings overall for Fox News (after The O'Reilly Factor) and it's the most-watched show in its time slot. As Ailes said himself in a profile of Kelly in The New York Times Magazine last year, "we've been on the air for 18 years. She shows up, and in one year goes to No. 2 and close to No. 1. That is an astounding accomplishment. Before this is over, she may be bigger than anybody."
Kelly's willingness to confront Trump on his treatment of women early in the election cycle provoked the candidate to remark that she had "blood coming out of her whatever" and call for a boycott of her show. Asked about this in April, Kelly called the boycott ineffective, laughed at Trump's claims that she owed her ratings to him, and threw in a veiled reference to her own hostile work environment, which would three months later result in Ailes' ouster.
. . .
What's made Kelly an asset to any network is her ability to remain an unflappable and even scornful authority when confronted with increasingly hysterical Republican men. Kelly watched as Karl Rove babbled that that his data somehow trumped the 2012 election results and asked, "Is this just math that you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better, or is this real?"
. . .
But Kelly's ability to stay cool and sardonic in the face of attacks like these is only part of her appeal. We are in a moment in which Republican men, forced to defend the indefensible, are electing to minimize issues that are currently of immense importance to conservative women.
But the article never mentions any issues that are of immense importance to conservative women–you know, like the economy, jobs, religious liberty, and family issues.
The author of the article is Lili Loofbourow, culture critic at TheWeek.com. Intriguingly, she is also a editor of a Bloomsbury Academic series "dedicated to formally experimental criticism." She is a veteran contributor to such publications as The Guardian, Salon, The New York Times Magazine, The New Republic, and Slate.
She seems to believe that the essence of the new conservative woman is standing up to bullying conservative men. Donald Trump's ugly remarks about women give some unfortunate credence to the liberal critique of conservative men (and he has, alas, probably brought back the gender gap, which seemed at long last about to face–but that is a topic for another post). But by and large it is a phony stereotype and conservative women who speak their minds are by no means a new phenomenon.
It's not taking anything away from Megyn Kelly, who is a smart, tough interviewer, to say that the women of IWF have been speaking our minds for years, always willing to take on difficult issues, and woe unto anyhbody who dares to try to bully us.