Female Democratic lawmakers in Congress are now awakening to a truth that conservative women have been vigorously defending since the 2016 election: women should not support female candidates simply because of their gender.

Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, female journalists, and commentators have railed against conservative women for the past two years because they voted for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright even doomed conservative women to a “special place in hell” for not standing with “her.”

Now, as Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi seeks to be Majority Leader in the next Congress, female Democrats who want new leadership are pushing back on the idea that they have to fall in line behind Pelosi because she’s a woman.

Pelosi allies are framing her leadership bid as an issue of gender and women’s empowerment according to New York’s Rep. Kathleen Rice, who opposes Pelosi’s leadership. She explained that newly-elected female members are being targeted:

“They should not be made to feel that they are ‘anti-women’ if they don’t want to vote for Nancy Pelosi.

“I don’t think that’s fair to put all the incoming women in that position, where you’re telling them if you’re not going to support her, you’re basically betraying your gender. That’s just not true. … They should be treated with more respect.”

Rice is right. Women don’t think the same and do not have to vote lock in step or feel compelled to vote for a woman simply because of her gender.

American woman overwhelmingly agree. According to polling by the McLaughlin Group and Independent Women’s Voice, our sister organization, a majority of women (84 percent) felt that gender is NOT a determining factor in deciding who to vote for in the midterm elections.

Yet, conservative women have been bashed by female leaders and accused of not voting in their best interest but led to vote along with the men in their lives including their husbands, fathers, and even sons.

Just as congressional newbies want to exercise their right to oppose Pelosi’s bid for Speaker of the House because they want fresh leadership, conservative and independent women should be free to oppose Hillary Clinton’s presidency because they wanted fresh ideas in Washington, rather than a continuation of Obama’s legacy.

Also, read:

Michelle Obama's myopic view of women is what's wrong with feminism

Hillary: No Absolution for Women Who Didn't Vote for Me

Madeleine Albright: Special Place in Hell for Women Who Don't Help Hillary