Julie Gunlock joins the podcast this week to discuss the new nationwide network for women—Independent Women’s Network. This subscription-based, members-only platform is a community of strong, smart, and independent women who care deeply about our country and want the opportunity to freely discuss the most pressing issues facing our country.
Julie Gunlock directs IWF’s Center for Progress and Innovation and is the author of the book From Cupcakes to Chemicals: How the Culture of Alarmism Makes Us Afraid of Everything and How to Fight Back. Julie also hosts the Bespoke Parenting Hour, a podcast that explores parenting issues and encourages parents to custom tailor their parenting to best fit them, their families, and their kids! Before joining IWF, Julie served as a Professional Staff Member on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and on the House Homeland Security Committee.
And welcome to She Thinks, a podcast where you’re allowed to think for yourself. I’m your host, Beverly Hallberg. On today’s episode, Julie Gunlock joins us to discuss the new nationwide network for women, it is called the Independent Women’s Network. This subscription-based, members-only platform is a community of strong, smart, and independent women who care deeply about our country and want the opportunity to freely discuss the most pressing issues facing our country.
Joining us to talk more about that, of course, is Julie Gunlock. Julie Gunlock directs IWF’s Center For Progress and Innovation and is the author of the book From Cupcakes to Chemicals: How the Culture of Alarmism Makes Us Afraid of Everything and How to Fight Back. Julie also hosts the Bespoke Parenting Hour, a podcast that explores parenting issues and encourages parents to custom tailor their parenting that bests them, their families, and their kids.
Julie, always a pleasure to have you on She Thinks.
Hey Beverly, I always love talking to you.
I am thrilled that there is this new network, this new platform that women across the country can be part of. Again, it’s called the Independent Women’s Network. Tell us a little bit about what it is and how it came about.
Yeah. Like you, when I heard about this internally, that we were working on this, I got so excited because I think that there is the feeling in the country, among a lot of women, that suddenly they need to be careful about how they talk. Or maybe, they can’t talk, they can’t say how they actually feel. They can’t really share information or even ask questions. This is certainly true for me, I live in a very, very deep blue city, where you are really harassed and made to feel very bad if you for instance say, I don’t know, “I’m a Republican.” Or, “I voted for Trump.” Or I don’t know, “I appreciate the free market.” Or, any of these traditional conservative views, you are really made to feel bad. I do find myself being careful of what I say.
I’m lucky though, that I work at the Independent Women’s Forum and my colleagues are also my friends. You’re my friend, and other women that I work with are friends of mine, so I always have this group of women that I can be honest with and grapple with issues. But the thing is, a lot of women don’t have that network of support. So I think the reason IWF, I should say IW, the Independent Women’s Network or group started this is because we want to give women that support. We want to provide them a resource so that they can come and grapple with these issues and talk about these issues honestly, and really be able to carry on civil conversations and not feel like they’re going to be shut down, or shamed or harassed. Or, for goodness’ sake, canceled.
That’s the idea behind this network is women, there’s a small fee associated with it because it is a members-only group. You come in and there’s chat rooms, very 1990s retro chat rooms. There’s posts by some of the IWF staff and some contributors that we have. But, we also have some other really great features. I really do encourage people to come in and poke around, and think a look and join.
I think you brought up a great point and that is, I know you and I, we have Independent Women’s Forum and this ability for us to be able to share with the other women that we work with, our thoughts and our ideas. And, they’re encouraged. We’re not at all fearful that we will lose our job because we’re speaking freely.
I think about the women out there who may lose their job if they speak up.
May face harassment by neighbors if they speak up. What do you say to those women who want to know about the security of the site? Say maybe they’re listening to it and they’re saying, “Okay, you say that this is a safe place. How do I know that it is?”
We have people monitoring who comes in, monitoring the chats, and monitoring what’s posted at all times so we can get a sense. Of course, look this is the real world, there are trolls. We’re not going to block someone when they apply to be a member of the Network so there is the chance that we’ll get someone in there who is there to troll or harass. But, we have mechanisms to get people out if they do do that. We do require people to put a checkmark, we ask certain questions and there are rules within the Network. Just because there’s rules, though, doesn’t mean there can’t be pretty rigorous debate and disagreements.
I think that’s what is so interesting about this concept. At IWF, there are a number of policy women. As we examine issues as they come up, we sometimes have these staff conversations. Obviously, these are through email. We talk about these issues and we often do disagree, strongly disagree, among each other, and yet we are able to have these disagreements and these conversations which are really intellectually interesting to be a part of. They really help us ultimately form what is going to be IWF’s policy or IWV’s policy on these issues. It’s really important that in the wider world that women be able to talk about things that are affecting their children, affecting their families, their professional life, their finances, their healthcare arrangements. These are issues that deserve scrutiny and deserve really serious conversations.
I’ll give you an example. In my own town, again it’s a very dark blue city, there is no questioning of what government officials, the policies that government officials pursue. If you do question them, you are often seen as this bad person. This happened a lot during COVID, where you had schools shut down. At least in my town of Alexandria, Virginia, you had a superintendent and a school board that were in absolute lockstep and would not open the schools for any part of the school population. Not for special needs kids, not for ELS, those are English language learner kids, not for even homeless kids, really desperately vulnerable children.
When you raise those objections, when you said, “Look, I really think that the school has got to work harder to accommodate these vulnerable children,” people would say things. “Look, our school officials know best. Why are you questioning them? They have the interests of the …” The reason we were questioning them is because children were suffering unnecessarily. The women who did speak up were shut down and it was very clear that this conversation was not going to be tolerated.
Now for me, I work for IWF, I’m paid to do this, to ask tough questions and nobody’s going to get me fired for asking these very serious questions. But, if you run a real estate agency, or if you are an insurance salesman, or if you run a small business, a restaurant or something like that, and you’re deemed a troublesome person or a troublemaker, it could really affect your business. There is this quashing, I think, of conversation in a lot of these deep blue cities so we want to provide women this network where they can talk to other women. You have conversations and figure these issues out, because it really helps when you’re not alone.
I keep talking about conversations, this isn’t the only reason that the Network has been set up. There’s another reason and that is we want to support women who want to get more active in their communities. One of the features that we have on the Network is called the resource center. Beverly, I know I’m going on long here but I think this is one of the most important parts of the Network. It provides women the resources that they need to stand up at a school board meeting, to write an op-ed, there’s a whole bunch of different things that we can talk further about. But, I do think it’s important that women know this isn’t just about fellowship, which is a big part of it, it’s also about giving women the resources to get active in their communities.
For people who are interested, if you want to sign up and become a member of Independent Women’s Network, you can go to iwnetwork.com. That’s iwnetwork.com. There are three different membership options that you can sign up for. When you’re hearing Julie talk about not just the fellowship that you have with other women but also the resources available, go to iwnetwork.com. Be a part of this team, but a part of this network of women across the country.
Julie, I was wondering if one of the reasons why the Network was formed and came about is because so many women have been speaking up across the country. You mentioned COVID, especially when it comes to education.
The parents, including mothers, who went to these school board meetings and threw caution to the wind, as far as what this could mean for them personally, and they spoke up for their children, on behalf of their children. Saying, “I don’t want my child masked,” or, “I want them back in school. This is enough virtual learning.” Or, even having parents speak out against CRT, the list goes on, and on, and on when it comes to education.
Did this network come back IWF and IWV saw what was out there? I’m sure that’s part of it. Or, were people asking for this? Did you find women speak up and say, “Do you have anything for us?”
100%. I will say that it’s interesting, because I feel like 2020 was this year where these pretty shocking things happened. Whether it’s COVID, the death of George Floyd, there were these moments where we saw a cultural shift. We saw, on all sides of the political aisle, we saw this interest in suddenly speaking up and rallying. And sadly, we also saw violence, and rioting and looting, and that was an unfortunate part of these last two years as well. But, I do think that all of this has made everyone wake up and say, “You know what, I’m not going to be silenced anymore.” Particularly when it came to the school shutdowns, you have people who …
The viral footage from the Loudoun County School Board, which is just about 20 miles from where I live, is just astonishing. Parents getting arrested for getting up and speaking. And then, other parents getting up and being so eloquent in their speeches about how some of these school policies are harming kids. And then, there are other people who you can tell are much more insecure, they sound a little bit more meek but gosh, bless them, they got up and they let their voice be heard.
But what we want to do is support you in that. If you want to get up and speak, support you in that. What we have as part of our resource center is how to write an op-ed. I’m in this business, I write op-eds all the time. It’s my job to write op-eds, I know how to write an op-ed. But, there is a formula editors want to see. They don’t just print anything and there’s a way to do it that can make it easier to get published. How to write a letter to the editor, there are rules about letters. You can’t just submit a 1700 word letter and expect it to be printed as a letter to the editor, there are rules so we spell that out for you. We also have resources on alternatives to public school, how to start homeschooling, the administrative structure of the public school. These are all things that, as you’re wanting to get active, you might find yourself going, “I don’t understand how this works.”
One of our documents is how to FOIA. That’s something, even though I’m in this, I need help on things like how to FOIA. Who do you submit the paperwork to? We have these very easy to read, simple … these are not four-page documents, they’re about a page. We also have accompanying videos because sometimes it’s better to listen to the advice than read it. We’re trying to create a system where you’ll be able to find the help that you need in multiple ways on this site. I really encourage everyone, again …
We also have, and I think this is really great, every week we post debate preps. It’s basically talking points so that, if you do want to go to our city council, if you want to go to your school board, if you want to know some talking points on the latest issues. These are the same talking points that, for instance, Beverly, I know you’re on various television shows every day it seems like, and other IWF spokeswomen, myself included, I use these talking points. If I’m going to go onto Fox News, for instance, I use these talking points to help me prepare for the segment and I know you do as well. We are now sharing these talking points that we prepare as a staff every week for you. That, to me, is worth the $5 a month to be a part of this network. If I didn’t have this job, I would love to have prepared talking points so that I could learn how to communicate about the issues.
That’s the other thing, the last thing I’ll say about this network. IWF does a lot of research in the best way to communicate to women. There are ways in which women shut down. I think a lot of women don’t like a lot of yelling, or don’t like people to be mean to each other. I think in general, women are very civil. I think that we are trying, in some of our resources, we try to convey that to women. To be polite, to be civil, to be kind and compassionate, and to bring civility back to the public discourse.
These are all great resources. I really think women out there, conservative women, patriotic women, women who really care about the future of the country and the health of the educational system in this country, will really get a lot out of this network.
Just so listeners know, there are three different tiers to the membership. You mentioned one of them, Julie, which is $5. Only $5 a month, you become a member and you get access to those chat rooms, you get exclusive content, and I think what you mentioned is such an important part, that resource center. If you are looking to have resources to figure out how to get active, you have that with $5 a month. You also have the ability to fellowship with other women who are concerned.
Now, the next level up, the next tier is the Member PLUS, that’s $12 a month. It has additional resources. And then, Member PREMIUM is $25. The reason I want to mention this is because on this one, in addition to the extras that you get, you get a complimentary ticket to the Annual Awards Gala that Independent Women’s Forum puts on. It’s my favorite event of the year. Last year, we couldn’t hold it in-person because of COVID; it was virtual. This year, it is going to be in-person—correct, Julie?—in November.
As of today, unless there’s some sort of crazy new policy coming down the pipe. But as of today, it is. You never know with Biden.
If there’s a crazy new policy, we can talk about it in the Network so that’s something that we can do.
Before we close out, one of the things I wanted to ask you is if there’s a woman listening right now and she’s saying, “This sounds great, but I don’t agree with IWF on all of their policy positions. Is this really going to be a home for me if I’m really only here because I care about my child going back to school full-time and in-person?” What do you say to somebody who says, “I’m not really politically motivated, or I don’t agree with IWF on every issue,” what do you say to that person?
Well I will tell you, you are welcome there. In fact, we really hope that women that are heterodox about things, that’s why we’re the Independent Women’s Forum. We believe that we talk about things in a way that is very relatable. We think there are a lot of reasonable women out there, they want their … I’ll just take CRT for instance.
Nobody objects to children learning history, bruises and all, shameful things and all about our country. Especially when it comes to the African American community, we want children to learn about slavery, about Jim Crow, about the other things in our country and our racist past, that is really critical. But, what we don’t want, when it comes to CRT and some of this anti-racist training, which they lie. The teachers’ unions are lying. This has been deployed in my own school district where I live, the teachers have been receiving this training. This is going to be integrated into the schools. What I don’t want is certain children told that their quality is based on immutable qualities like the color of their skin, and I also don’t other children told they’re part of a victim class because of the color of their skin. It’s a very dangerous message to send to young kids.
I think, by and large, most women would agree with me. They want their children to learn all about American history, bruises and all, but they don’t want this pitting one group of kids against another. This is what I’m saying about this new network, come and talk to us about that. We’d love to have rigorous conversation and debate. We have policy staffers who are immersed in this and can answer questions, and really help you come to a decision on these issues without feeling bad for asking questions. This stuff is complicated. That’s another thing. CRT, it is really complicated.
I think what we want to do is help women figure out what conclusions they want to come to with these issues. We don’t want to tell you, “You have to believe this way, and if you don’t, it’s wrongthink.” That’s the opposite.
But I will also tell you, one last thing I will tell you. We are having a lot of fun on this network. I mean, I put up my mom’s banana bread recipe, which is kind of a family secret. I’ve put up a recipe for my favorite cream of tomato soup. There’s a lot of really funny videos that people are doing. Look, there is a serious side to it. The resource center is very serious. But I think, like any women, when I get together with my girlfriends, half of them are on the left and half of them are on the right. We’re not always talking about politics. We often talk about the latest thing, accomplishments our kids are making, or the headaches with scheduling. We talk about food an awful lot, and home décor and other things. We want women to talk about things beyond politics as well, if they wish to. If they don’t, if they’re there for the resources, that is there for them. They can engage as much as they want, or just use the Network for those resources.
Everyone’s welcome. There is no test, political test to take before you join, to test how far you are on one side. Everyone’s welcome and we really do, we really do appreciate diversity of thought on the Network.
Julie, you and I were talking before we started recording this podcast. You said your son was cooking something in the kitchen. If the recipe goes well, maybe you should add that to the Independent Women’s Network as well, your son’s latest recipe I think would be great.
I’m not sure I’m ready to add the experiments of a 12 year old boy, but we will see. I will tell the listeners before I went on I did say, before we started rolling I told my son, “If you set something on fire, I cannot help you. I am on a podcast.” So far, so good, no fire alarms have gone off.
No, I haven’t heard any screams in the background so I think we’re good. I would also like to point out, even before I officially became part of Independent Women’s Forum, gosh, probably about two and a half years ago, IWF was a great resource for me over the years. I probably was attending events for probably 15 years, even before I became part of it. I can attest to the wonderful network that IWF is and how it helped me so much in resources.
The Independent Women’s Network is something I highly recommend, $5 a month is very reasonable. You get support from other women. Just go to iwnetwork.com, that’s iwnetwork.com to sign up. Hopefully, we’ll see you on the Network. But for now, Julie Gunlock, thank you so much for joining us.
Thanks for having me, Beverly. Always great chatting.
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